NBA Betting: Celtics and Thunder Offer Value in Futures Market
With All-Star festivities having concluded in Chicago, the league has a three-day break before getting into the second half on Thursday. Now is a good time to take a look at some remaining futures, and take stock of what we have seen so far, so as to determine if there’s value to be had in any of these markets. Let’s take a look at the current NBA Championship odds, and highlight two teams that may be worth taking a shot on.
A three-team cluster at the top of the market includes Milwaukee (+275), the Lakers (+275), and the Clippers (+333) to win it all this year. It’s hard to see much value in any of these numbers, given that they are not that much larger than one would anticipate them being if the Lakers faced the Clippers in the Western Conference Finals and went on to face the Bucks. However, they do illustrate a clear top tier. The next team on the board is Philadelphia, who come in at +1400. Given this dynamic, bettors may be better off moving further down the list, finding longer prices, with which hedge opportunities may present themselves as the season and postseason moves on.
Eastern Conference: Boston Celtics +2000
This number is very, very intriguing. The Celtics have had an excellent first half of the season, going 38-16 SU. This has come about despite the team navigating through a series of injuries during the first 54 games. All of the team’s major contributors have missed time, and key rotation pieces as well. Most importantly, when looking at some of the key statistical areas that project possible NBA Champions, the Celtics grade out better than this price would suggest.
To begin with, the Celtics have the third best net rating in all of basketball, at +6.8. While the Bucks dominate this category at +11.5, the Lakers are barely ahead of the Celtics by this metric, at +7.2. The disparity between Boston and Los Angeles’ price here certainly jumps out at first glance. Beyond net rating, the Celtics have the sort of balance on both ends of the floor that is often indicative of postseason success. Since 2013, no NBA team has won a title without being in both the top six in offensive rating and top 11 in defensive rating. Here, the Celtics profile is strong. Boston ranks fifth and third in these ratings, respectively. Some of the more basic statistics also bode well. Boston is above the championship threshold in scoring differential (+6.0 is the lowest from a champion since 2011), Boston comes into the break at +6.9, the third-best mark in the league, and only 0.5 points lower than the aforementioned Lakers. The team’s home/road splits meet the requirements as well. Boston is an excellent 23-5 at home and a decent 15-11 on the road.
Two areas of concern are regular season wins and top-level talent. The team is on pace to win 57.7 games this season, and no team has won the championship after winning 56 games or less since 2006. The biggest issue is that the team lacks true superstars. Since 2005, all NBA Champions have had at least one All-NBA performer, and 9 of 14 have had two. While they may get some consideration, it’s hard to see either Kemba Walker or Jayson Tatum ultimately making the cut (although if Tatum continues his recent level of play, he will be more difficult to ignore). The fact remains that this Boston team will most likely face two of those three favorites if it is to win the title, and the Celtics cannot match the star power of Giannis, Lebron, AD, and Kawhi Leonard.
However, one reason for optimism is how the team has fared against these teams this season. Boston is 3-2 in five games against the cream of the crop. The two losses came on the road against Milwaukee and the Clippers, by a combined eight points.
Boston is particularly appealing at this number because, despite not having a true MVP-level player, one could argue that it has the most balance of any team in the NBA. A top five of Kemba, Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, and Marcus Smart is arguably as talented as any. Head Coach Brad Stevens is one of the best in the world, and players like Tatum, Brown, and Smart have valuable playoff experience. 18/1 would provide value for bettors. If the Celtics get through even the first round of them postseason, there should be opportunities to jump off the bet if ones confidence wanes. A clear underdog to the Bucks to make it to the Finals, some of these key numbers illustrate that a trip to the Conference Finals is hardly unlikely.
Western Conference: Oklahoma City Thunder +15000
To be sure, the Oklahoma City Thunder will almost certainly not win the NBA title this season. However, this line is just too good to ignore. The Thunder are only 33-22 SU, but that record substantially undervalues the team’s trajectory. Oklahoma City made as many changes to its team as any in the offseason. Russell Westbrook and Paul George left, and Head Coach Billy Donovan had to make sense of a somewhat bizarrely-constructed roster. The team started 7-11, but as the rotation solidified, and Donovan gained more trust in his unorthodox three-guard lineup featuring Chris Paul, Shia Gilgeous-Alexander, and Dennis Schroder, the Thunder took off. The team is 26-11 since December 1, and a remarkable 15-3 in its last 18 road games.
The Thunder are mentally tough and fundamentally sound. The team features five double-digit scorers, and four players who are averaging at least 17 PPG. While some of the metrics are at a less-than-championship level, some of that is mitigated when taking into account the bad start. In January, for example, the Thunder ranked in fifth net rating, seventh in offensive rating, and eighth in defensive rating. If you believe that this is the version of the Thunder we will see in the second half, this is a fantastic betting opportunity.
Even just a peak at the other prices given to some other playoff-bound teams reveals this number is surely out of whack. Houston is one and half games ahead of the Thunder, and are listed at +1600. The Sixers are 34-21, and only 9-19 on the road, but are listed at +1400. The Mavericks have an identical record to the Thunder, and are priced at +3300. It’s hard to understand how the Thunder can have the same odds as the Spurs, who are currently 23-31, but here we are.
Oklahoma City are very likely to finish somewhere in the five-to-seven seed range, thus probably avoiding the Lakers in round one. Against Denver, the Clippers, Utah, and Houston, the team is 4-4 on the season. However, two of the losses came way back in October. Since December 1, Oklahoma City is 4-1 SU against the group of teams from which its first-round opponent is most likely to come from.
If the Thunder really are what they look like they are, this could be a very fun ride for bettors. As the season goes on, this number will almost certainly drop, so if you are at all intrigued, the time is probably now to take a flyer on the Thunder.