NBA futures watch: Where are the best values heading into the playoffs?
We’ve waited all season for the 2023 NBA playoffs to arrive, and finally the wait is over.
It’s playoff time!
So what are the best future bets to make? Here’s André Snellings with some strong values heading into the playoffs.
The Grizzlies (+650) and Lakers (+650) are tied for the fourth- and fifth-longest odds to win the Western Conference. But according to our Basketball Power Index (BPI), they have the second- and third-highest scores in the West.
According to our BPI-based odds, the Grizzlies enter the playoffs with a 29% chance to win the West. The Lakers, meanwhile, still have championship experience in their (currently) healthy nucleus, and the team is so much more effective now that the supporting cast has been balanced by shooting and defense. Both teams have added value to the odds you can get versus our projections for what their odds should be.
Stepping away from analytics to the product on the court, the Western Conference is much flatter than the East in terms of team quality. The East has three teams that have clearly separated themselves as favorites to win the conference.
In the West, though, the Suns (+190) are the betting favorites but have only eight games with Kevin Durant on roster; the Warriors (+300) are second favorites but are 11-30 on the road this season; and the Nuggets (+350) are the top seed but have historically had trouble with teams featuring dynamic centers who can challenge Nikola Jokic at both ends 1-on-1.
The Grizzlies and Lakers both have teams built for the postseason, with strong half-court offense and defense units and playmakers at both ends of the court. Whoever wins this series has as good a chance as any to come out of the West. That makes either/both teams solid value at +650, the fourth/fifth best odds, entering the postseason.
Championship Winning Division: Atlantic Division (+200)
This is a sneaky bet. I have the Bucks as the best team in the NBA and most likely to win the championship, but I’ve got the Celtics and 76ers as the second- and third-best teams in the league. According to BPI, the Celtics and 76ers are actually the first- and second-highest-ranked team in the NBA this season.
So, getting this division as the potential championship winner has value; it essentially lets me hedge my bet against the two teams matching up in the second round because in theory one should at least be in the conference finals.
The other sneaky element is that both the Knicks and Nets are also in the playoffs, giving the Atlantic Division four of the eight playoffs squads in the East. The Knicks also measure well according to the BPI, the seventh-highest BPI in the league, and the Nets have been tough since all of their moves at the trade deadline.
I don’t expect either to challenge for the conference, but stranger things have happened, and both of these are just in support of the two goliath teams, the Celtics and 76ers, that have legit chances to win the championship.
The Suns are 8-0 in the eight games Kevin Durant has played with the team. This is an impressive mark, but it’s a small sample. The Clippers are a deep, competitive team even when either/both of Kawhi Leonard and/or Paul George are out. George is currently out to start the series but hasn’t been ruled out for its entirety yet. Regardless, the Clippers ended the season 6-3 in the past nine games George was out.
In addition to Leonard, they now feature Russell Westbrook (19.2 PPG, 7.8 APG, 4.1 RPG, 52.0 FG% in his past nine games) and Norman Powell (20.0 PPG, 51.3 FG% in his past six games after returning from injury) as high-level secondary offensive producers. According to the BPI, even with George out, the Clippers project to challenge the Suns in this series.
The odds, however, suggest the Suns should win a blowout. I don’t expect a blowout; I believe the Clippers can win at least two games in this series, so Clippers +2.5 games at near even money represents solid value.
In the Donovan Mitchell series, the Knicks will be motivated to prove they came out ahead of the team that Mitchell chose over them. Mitchell has engaged with some shootouts with the Knicks this season, including combining for 90 points with Jalen Brunson in their last matchup and combining for 60 points with Julius Randle in the matchup before. The Knicks won both of those matchups and went 3-1 against the Cavs this season, including winning three straight.
The Cavaliers have home-court advantage and the more talented team top to bottom, and the Knicks’ Julius Randle has not yet returned to game action after his late-season injury. Nevertheless, the Knicks have played the Cavs tough all season, and I think they continue to do so in the playoffs. Both teams are among the top seven in the NBA according to the BPI, and I expect a close series that goes down to the wire.
The Kings had the third-best record in the Western Conference. They have home-court advantage in the series against a Warriors squad that went 11-30 on the road in the regular season, the fourth-worst road record in the NBA, and the three worse road teams all had overall win percentages under 27%.
The only way it makes sense for the Warriors to be prohibitive favorites to win this series is to expect the 2021-22 version of the team that won the championship to suddenly show up for the first round of the playoffs after not resembling that unit for the entire regular season.
While I’ll admit my gut does expect the Warriors to find a way to pull out the series, (A) nothing in what I saw this season suggests that’s the most likely outcome and (B) the odds are so long against the Kings that I can get them +1.5 games at plus money. I think there’s value there.
The Warriors (ninth-highest BPI) and Kings (11th-highest BPI) measure out very similarly according to the BPI, the Kings are led by young players who have some experience under their belts, and they quietly had the best road record in the Western Conference (25-16). There is value in them to potentially win this series, but even if you’re not willing to be that aggressive against the defending champion Warriors, getting plus money on the higher seed +1.5 games is solid value.