The grind of the NBA regular season will come to a close on Wednesday night as all 30 teams will be in action to play their 82nd game. When the final buzzer sounds, 16 teams will shift their focus to the postseason and 14 teams will go about taking vacations and planning for the draft. Only one playoff spot remains in the Western Conference during the final three days of the regular season. All eight spots in the Eastern Conference have been locked up, so there’s not a ton of intrigue left for the regular season.
With 17 teams in play for the NBA Championship right now as Memphis and Phoenix battle for the final playoff spot in the West, it’s time to take a serious look at the NBA futures market. Here are the odds, courtesy of 5Dimes.eu.
ODDS TO WIN 2014 NBA CHAMPIONSHIP
San Antonio Spurs
Oklahoma City Thunder
Los Angeles Clippers
Portland Trail Blazers
In almost-surprising fashion, Lebron James and the Miami Heat are the big favorites at less than 2-to-1 to win yet another NBA championship. The team with the league’s best record, the San Antonio Spurs, checks in at slightly better than 4-to-1. It’s a two-team race in the Eastern Conference as the Indiana Pacers join the Miami Heat as the only teams with better than a 30-to-1 chance to win the title according to the oddsmakers at 5Dimes.
Finding futures value is going to be tough in the NBA because the top two teams in each conference are very, very strong and clearly a class above the middle seeds. However, all it would take is one series upset to give a long shot ticket plenty of hedging value, especially with the ability to play game-by-game moneylines.
Taking a look at the Eastern Conference first, the Chicago Bulls (+5000) probably hold the most value, despite a second-round matchup with either the Indiana Pacers or the Miami Heat with a series victory over the Brooklyn Nets. The Bulls draw a pretty decent matchup against the talented Nets because they hold major advantages in defense, rebounding, and coaching.
The Bulls will enter the playoffs with the league’s top defense in points-per-game and second-best defense in Basketball-Reference’s Defensive Rating metric. The Bulls rank in the top 12 in both offensive and defensive rebounding, while the Nets are among the worst teams in the league in both categories. With the Bulls defense, second chance points would go a long way in helping the Nets, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Also, the Nets have first-year head coach Jason Kidd going up against fourth-year coach Tom Thibodeau, who will have a 34-0 edge in playoff game experience over Kidd, at least in terms of games spent wearing a suit.
The Bulls were 2-2 against the Heat and 1-2 against the Pacers, so they have shown the ability to play with those two teams, since they would meet one of them in the second round.
Another East team with some value is Washington Wizards (+15000). As of writing, the Wizards were in line to take on the Toronto Raptors in the first round. The Wizards have not lost more than three games in a row since early January, so this is a team that has developed some nice bounce back ability and that should help them prolong the series.
The Raptors are pretty dependent on three-point shots to score. Their two-point-shot percentage ranks 24th in the league, while they are the eighth-best team from beyond the arc. The Wizards have the sixth-best mark at defending three-pointers, which should make scoring more difficult for the Raptors. Depending how the series is officiated, the only place the Raptors are decidedly better than the Wizards is at the free throw line.
With most future odds, just making it to the second round would make hedging difficult, but if the Wizards can get past the Raptors, holding a +15000 ticket makes it much easier to start creating profit out of your original investment.
Shifting gears to the Western Conference, the Dallas Mavericks (+8000) are interesting. This will be a series dominated by superstars with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Dirk Nowitzki taking the spotlight. The Mavericks do struggle a bit defensively, but the one strength that they do have is in generating turnovers and the Thunder turn the ball over rather frequently, while the Mavericks don’t waste their possessions.
This is a veteran Mavericks team that should hold a coaching edge with Rick Carlisle and his 103 games of playoff experience. Scott Brooks has failed to take some extremely talented Thunder teams out of the second round in the past, outside of his appearance in the Finals in 2012.
It’s sure to be another exciting NBA postseason with a lot of marquee matchups coming down the pike.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.