Jason’s 2018-19 NBA picks record through May 13: 30-29-1 ATS, 0-6 ML (minus-12.63 units), 38-25-1 Totals
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the Toronto Raptors are the best NBA pick on the championship futures market. It seems like they’ve been that way for years now, and of course, they’ve never cashed in on that promise – the Raptors haven’t even been to the NBA Finals yet. But if you’re looking to make a sharp title pick, there’s only one choice remaining out of the four teams still in the playoffs, and Toronto is that choice.
Golden State Warriors –165
Milwaukee Bucks +230
Toronto Raptors +750
Portland Trail Blazers +1700
And here are the chances of winning the title for each team, according to the projections at FiveThirtyEight:
Golden State 62 percent
Can you tell which team is not like the others by the time I finish my song? Here’s the third verse, where we run those percentages through the streetwise SBR Odds Converter and come up with equivalent “fair’ American odds, no vigorish included:
Golden State –163
And now our song is done. The Warriors are actually a break-even commodity at these chalky odds – by the way, their projection dipped from 64 percent right after Kevin Durant was ruled out for Tuesday’s Game 1 (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN) against Portland. The Bucks and especially the Trail Blazers are bad picks, and the Raptors are an absolute bargain at +750.
They The North
We’ve already looked at the two most immediate reasons behind Toronto’s value in our Eastern Conference Finals preview: the elevation of Kawhi Leonard’s game in these playoffs, and the late-season arrival of Marc Gasol. But there are more fundamental forces at work here. The Raptors don’t have very many fans south of the 49th Parallel, so they don’t attract much public money, even during the postseason. They’ve also got a pretty miserable playoff history, one that weighs heavily on the minds of Toronto fans – and maybe some of their holdover players.
Leonard doesn’t give a hoot. Neither does Gasol. This is a very different team under head coach Nick Nurse, with a stacked starting five and just enough talent left on the bench to get them through the tough times. Toronto’s chances will improve slightly if OG Anunoby returns from his emergency appendectomy in time to make an impact, but let’s not split hairs here: The Raptors are heavily undervalued in their series against the Bucks, and could certainly give the Warriors a run for their money.