After what amounted to a glorified 82-game exhibition slate…where records counted but all the best teams paced themselves for the postseason…the NBA playoffs FINALLY get under way this weekend.
The two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors are the consensus global favorite by a large margin. Most sports books have them around -225 on the futures board…which is expensive for a one-game baseball favorite, let alone an NBA team that has to win 16 games against four different quality opponents.
That price means you have to risk $225 to win $100 to bet the Warriors to win it all, or anything in that ratio ($22.50 to win $10, $2,250 to win a thousand, etc…). It’s virtually automatic that Golden State will win the Western Conference half of the brackets in terms of market expectations. If the eventual Eastern champ impresses along the way, Golden State may not be much higher than -225 if you wait until the finals to bet them.
There are four legitimate threats from the East. They’ll divide up the overall odds amongst themselves until an entry for the Finals is settled. Here’s a look at this week’s composite global odds for the most serious championship contenders (with percentage win equivalent in parenthesis)…
Golden State -225 (69%), Milwaukee 8/1 (11%), Toronto 10/1 (9%), Houston 10/1 (9%), Philadelphia 14/1 (7%), Boston 16/1 (6%), and Denver 20/1 (5%).
If you’re good at math, you’ve noticed that those numbers in parenthesis already add up to more than 100. Sports books build a universe larger than 100 percent to create a house edge. We’re at 116 percent before we even get to longshots like Oklahoma City, Utah, Portland or the bottom half of the Eastern brackets. (Time for VSiN’s standard disclaimer that you’ll usually be better off betting your choice at series prices round-by-round in a “rollover parlay” rather than betting them on the futures board).
What are the keys to handicapping the NBA Playoffs? Standard basketball matchup analysis still applies. Defense and rebounding are important. Three-pointers are more important than ever since Golden State revolutionized the sport (or further propelled a revolution that had already started). Any team weakness will be pounded hard by smart opponents.
One relatively recent analytics-based trend you should be aware of. Superior teams now focus on getting their early series out of the way as quickly as possible. More rest! It’s better to go hard for 4-5 games before taking a week off rather than coasting through a longer hike. This could hurt any bettor planning on using variations of the “zig-zag” theory that involves betting the prior game’s loser to bounce back. That strategy is still worth considering in competitive series with evenly matched opponents.
We’ll talk more about NBA playoff handicapping as the postseason progresses. Too bad the New Orleans Pelicans didn’t qualify this year. Fans and bettors will still be treated to great entertainment when serious contenders start squaring off in the second round.
▪ Shockers continue through the early stages of the 2019 Major League Baseball season. Perennially popular betting teams like the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs came out of the gate very slowly. Who would have thought Tampa Bay and Seattle would lead their divisions two weeks into the new campaign?
Always remember to bet baseball based on the strengths, weaknesses, and healthy of current rosters, not what you remember from the peaks or valleys of the prior season
This weekend’s national TV options for wagerers: Colorado at San Francisco (Saturday, FS1, 3 p.m.), the New York Mets at Atlanta (Saturday, FS1, 6 p.m. and Sunday, ESPN, 6 p.m.)
▪ A new tradition unlike any other, betting legally on the Masters in Mississippi continues this weekend at your favorite sports book. Odds to win the event are typically updated daily, particularly if operators sense a lot of local betting interest. New matchups are commonly offered daily too…either based on tee time pairings or possibilities presented by a slew of big name contenders.
It may not be a jacket, but you’ll have a chance to win some green.