The best non-Cavs, non-Warriors bets to make right now

We covered yesterday how the Warriors and Cavaliers are both vulnerable as we head into the last few weeks of the season and into the playoffs. These two teams are still the favorites for good reason, but they aren’t as sure things as they once were. That means that potential value is being created here.

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We here at NBA Futures are all about value so here’s a few bets that you should consider placing right now. These aren’t sure things, but the odds more than make up for the lesser probability. These are long shots, but the good kind of long shot. Think 2004 Pistons-Lakers, not 2016 Warriors-Blazers.

San Antonio Spurs +600 to win the NBA championship

The Spurs are tied with the Cavaliers for the best record in the Western Conference and they have a really good chance of getting the top seed in the conference when all is said and done. This team doesn’t get a lot of press, but led by Kawhi Leonard they are really, really good. They are a deep team and the good news they got about LaMarcus Aldridge today makes me feel a lot safer about them than I did yesterday. There are always going to be match-up questions when they play a team like the Warriors, but this team is good and getting the top seed in the West could be huge.

The top seed means that round two will be Warriors vs Rockets and Spurs vs Clippers/Jazz. That is a huge difference and a much more difficult path for the Warriors. The Spurs would likely play 9-10 games in the first two rounds combined while the Warriors/Rockets will likely have just come off a seven-game blood bath. That makes a difference.

Houston Rockets +800 to win the Western Conference

This doesn’t really fit with the pick above, but I think it’s a great value. Consider that if the Spurs end up with the top seed in the West that means that the Rockets would play the Warriors in the second round. While they would be the away team in the series, that might actually work out for them.

No team in the West can outscore the Warriors at 100% with the possible exception of this Rockets team. Led by James Harden, they are a three-point shooting killer and highly efficient. Their bench is deeper than the Warriors with Eric Gordon and Lou Williams scoring in bunches. Patrick Beverley could drive Curry crazy and I think Clint Capela could make Green look small. These are ifs, but the value is there.

Getting the Warriors in round two could benefit them in that Kevin Durant is less likely to be close to 100% from his injury. We’ve seen how Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green have done as of late without Durant. An MCL injury is no joke and not something that is easy to come back from. Golden State could be most vulnerable in the second round and that is when the Rockets could strike.

As for Houston vs. San Antonio, well, you just have to hope that it this one is like last year’s Thunder vs Spurs series where the Thunder made the Spurs look old. Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Pau Gasol and Aldridge are old. Can the Rockets make them look that way? I’d love to find out.

Washington Wizards +800 to win the Eastern Conference

This is a tough one given the Wizards history, but I find it really enticing. If you take away the first two months of the season (when the Wizards were just figuring things out under their new coach Scott Brooks), the best teams in the Eastern Conference are:

1. Washington Wizards 35-14
2. Boston Celtics 32-17
3. Cleveland Cavaliers 31-19
4. Toronto Raptors 27-22

Recent play is more predictive of the future than games in October/November and the Wizards are one of the top teams in the league over the past three months. The only teams with better records than them over this period are the Warriors and Spurs with the Rockets having the same record. Do I think they could win it all? No, I don’t.

Assuming the Celtics take the top seed and the Cavs/Wizards finish 2 and 3, could they upset the Cavs in round two? I think that is possible. The starting five is one of the best around and Bradley Beal is a big time playoff performer. I like the way John Wall matches up on Kyrie Irving, Otto Porter could be in for big things and Markieff Morris could cause trouble for Kevin Love. LeBron James is still the best player in the league and capable of swinging any series, but the Cavs defense hasn’t been there and the Wizards has. It’s not a perfect match-up, but it’s the best we have.

I just can’t see Boston succeeding too much in the playoffs. They are a great team, but we’ve seen their troubles scoring over the past two years and Isaiah Thomas can be stopped in a playoff series. Al Horford isn’t swinging the series and neither is Jae Crowder. If the Wiz could somehow get past Lebron, they could absolutely make the Finals.

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