With a little less than five weeks to go in the NBA regular season, no team has officially been eliminated from championship consideration and there surprisingly remain quite a few genuine title contenders with nice futures odds listed at DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, and PointsBet.
Oddsmakers have witnessed an upside-down sort of season as far as favorites go, with BetMGM’s preseason favorites Brooklyn (+225) and the Los Angeles Lakers (+450) mired in ninth place in their conferences.
Live Longshots Loom Big Again This Season
Remember when NBA finalist Phoenix (+10000) and Eastern Conference finalist Atlanta (+15000) went off at high odds at various sites and caused gray hairs at sportsbooks last year? Memphis, Cleveland, and Chicago are major threats to do damage to their bottom lines this season.
The Ja Morant-led Grizzlies (44-22), tied for the second-best record in the league as of Tuesday, opened at +15000 at BetMGM. They’ve dropped all the way to +2800 this week.
The Cavaliers (37-27), a year after going 22-50, tied for the highest opening line on the MGM board at 500-1. The Cavs are now +5000 with a three-game grip on the sixth seed in the East.
Then there are the Bulls (39-26), who started at +12500 and were bet down to +2500 while jostling for the top spot in the East. But Chicago’s number moved to +3500 amid a losing streak that reached five games Monday night in Philadelphia.
Those odds look fantastic compared with the Nets at only +650 despite their 32-33 record. They also face the prospect of playing two elimination games in the play-in round.
Current Betting Favorites
Phoenix and Golden State are +450 co-favorites to win the NBA championship at BetMGM. The Suns have an 8.5-game edge over Golden State in the Pacific standings, and the Warriors have lost nine of their past 11 games. Golden State’s futures odds remain low because the Warriors would cause BetMGM the most pain if they won.
“No. 1, it would be the Warriors,” said MGM Resorts Director of Trading Jeff Stoneback regarding the greatest liability his site faces. “And I’d clump them with the Pelicans and Bulls.”
Golden State, which opened at +1200, likely will return to form when standout defender Draymond Green (back injury) returns to the lineup in the next week or so, which is why Stoneback said he would be reluctant to boost their odds.
New Orleans’ odds dropped from +75000 to +25000 at MGM sites this week. The Pelicans won four of five games and took a two-game lead for the final play-in spot. New addition CJ McCollum has averaged a team-high 26.1 points in 10 games since being acquired from Portland. And it surely didn’t come as a surprise to Stoneback that fans flocked to bet on the Bulls.
“They have been one of the most popular teams since opening lines came out,” he said. “Actually, all the Chicago teams (Cubs, Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls) are pretty popular every year, good or bad.”
Best Value Play In The East
The single-digit favorites in the East are defending league champ Milwaukee (+600), Brooklyn and Philadelphia (+650), and current top seed Miami (+900).
No fun there. Plus, with the 76ers, newly acquired James Harden can’t be counted on to spend as much time on the court as in the whirlpool with his injured hamstrings.
Resurgent Boston (39-27) is tempting at +1600, but the Celtics would face a grueling playoff schedule as a five seed and potentially not have home court advantage in any round.
On the surface the fourth-seeded and skidding Bulls would warrant a pick, but they are listed as having the fourth toughest remaining schedule according to Tankathon.com and could still drop a couple notches.
The pick is the Cavaliers, the best defensive team in the league (103.2 points a game), which always is important in tight playoff clashes. Cleveland is also outscoring foes by 5.5 points a game (tops in the East).
Cleveland is worth a bet at +6000 (DraftKings) or +5000 (BetMGM).
Best Value Play In The West
Well, it certainly isn’t the Los Angeles Lakers at +5000. They have the hardest remaining schedule in the league. The Lakers have a three-game lead over Portland for the last play-in berth, and wouldn’t you know it, the Trail Blazers (+75000) have the easiest remaining schedule.
LeBron James is now dealing with a “significant” knee injury on top of all the team’s other ills, so L.A.’s immediate future appears dim. Stoneback said he had to keep the Lakers’ odds conservative because L.A. fans flock to Vegas on a weekly basis.
“No matter what, even when they’re terrible, with the influx of visitors from SoCal every week, and 95 percent of them Lakers fans, we always get action on them,” he said. “And it only magnified when LeBron came over.”
The best futures values on this side of the bracket appear to be Dallas and Luca Doncic (+4000), Denver and defending MVP Nikola Jokic (+3000) and of course Memphis.
The choice is Memphis (+3000 at FanDuel).
If the Grizzlies wind up playing Golden State in the conference semifinals, they’ve had success against them in the recent past, going 2-1 this season and beating the Warriors on the road in last year’s play-in round.
And with those odds, hedging your bets is an option for both the conference finals and NBA Finals.