Best NBA Futures Plays: November

We are roughly 1/8th through the season and there is a lot of basketball left to be played. There are a lot of stories yet to play out and it is way too early to predict anything. Well, except maybe the Warriors winning another title. That said, there is a good enough sample size out there now that we think we know a little something about this league and we think there are some great value plays still on the board. Let’s take a look at our favorites for November. Continue Reading…

Warriors keep winning, but not for bettors

The Warriors won game two against the Jazz handily last night. It was a classic Warriors win. Kevin Durant scored 25 points with 11 rebounds and seven assists. Stephen Curry had 23 points and seven assists. Draymond Green was maybe the player of the game with 21 points, seven rebounds, six assists, four steals and a block. The Warriors won easily and they improved to 6-0 in the playoffs.

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However, as people who bet on them can tell you: it was another losing night. The spread on the game was -12.5 and the Warriors won by 11. In game one, the Warriors won by 12 when the spread was -13.5. They have easily won the first two games of the series, but not by enough to cover the spread. Against the spread, the Warriors are a mere 3-3 thus far. (Interestingly, the Jazz are 7-2 ATS.) The sportsbooks have had the Warriors perfectly pegged thus far and this is not a new trend.

During the Warriors first run to the title in 2014-15 this happened over and over. They finished that playoff run at 11-10, exactly even. If you bet the same amount on every single game of the Warriors run, you would’ve broken even. What fun is that? That team was relatively new to high level playoff basketball and it showed at times. The Grizzlies series especially sticks out and the brief window when the Cavaliers were up 2-1 despite being without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving (aka when it was the LeBron James show) also qualify. That team was great, historically great, but they were not a very profitable NBA champion.

They did slightly better in 2015-16 when they finished 14-10 against the spread (despite losing the NBA Finals). That is aided by going 7-3 against Houston and Portland in the first two rounds of the playoffs. A 7-7 finish against the Thunder and Cavaliers is honestly not that bad considering they blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals.

A list of recent NBA champions and their against the spread records in the playoffs:

2011 Dallas Mavericks: 15-4-2
2012 Miami Heat: 15-8
2013 Miami Heat: 12-11
2014 San Antonio Spurs: 13-10
2015 Golden State Warriors: 11-10
2016 Cleveland Cavaliers: 13-8

The thing to learn from this is simple: betting on the NBA is really hard. The bookmakers are good at what they do and they always save their very best lines for the very best teams in the most important games. The best way to make hay is to be on a surprise team like the Mavericks in 2011, be on a team that just blows everyone else away like the 2012 Miami Heat or a combination of the two like the 2016 Cavs who blew through the East and then upset the Warriors in the Finals.

If you liked the Warriors before the playoffs in 2015 you could have bet the Warriors future at 3/1 which ended up being three times as profitable as betting on every game. If you liked Cavaliers in 2016 you could’ve bet them +505 which would’ve been even more profitable than betting on them to go 13-8. A good NBA futures bet is often more profitable than betting game to game.

The current futures as of May 5th, midway through the second round are:

NBA Championship Futures
Fri 5/5  7:00PM
Golden State Warriors-212
Cleveland Cavaliers+335
San Antonio Spurs+1800
Houston Rockets+2200
Boston Celtics+4000
Washington Wizards+10000
Toronto Raptors+20000
Utah Jazz+50000

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Markieff Morris is not happy and the Wizards are going to win

In the first quarter of Sunday’s game one between the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards, Markieff Morris went straight up in the air and when he came down he landed on Al Horford‘s foot. Morris then missed the rest of the game and the Celtics rolled. Coincidence?

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Morris isn’t quite so sure. In a post-game interview he said “He stepped right under my foot. Not sure if it was intentional or not; probably not, but that’s what happened. Rolled it on his foot.” He also said that after the incident Horford said “my fault” which seems like an admission of guilt. Morris plans to get to the bottom of it by asking Horford about it.

Make no mistake about it though, Morris’ injury is huge for the Wizards. One of the things that we liked about the Wizards in this series when we picked them to win in our series preview was the dominating rebounding of Morris and Marcin Gortat. We saw the kind of problems that this caused the Celtics in round one when Robin Lopez went crazy for two games and it seemed like it would be an even bigger problem in this one. Morris got hurt and then the Celtics hit a team-record tying amount of three-pointers and game one wasn’t that close.

Morris plans to play in tonight’s game and you have to think that he’ll be playing with an edge. I think the team itself will be pretty upset about Morris and how that first game went in general and come out playing a bit harder, maybe even a bit dirtier. These are two teams that didn’t like each other all season and this is just another thing to add to the list of things they don’t like about each other. Things are going to get chippy.

If that is the case, it tremendously favors the Wizards. The Celtics win by playing games like game one. They did a great job stopping the transition offense of John Wall and they made a lot of three-pointers. That was a good win for them, but I seriously doubt they will shoot nearly 50% from three again in this series. Jae Crowder had the game of his life and that won’t happen again. Isaiah Thomas had his way and I think things will be mucked up a lot more tonight.

I like the Wizards to even this series tonight. They should dominate the boards and I’m expecting a huge game out of Bradley Beal. He is the key to this team on offense and he should know now that his team can’t win without him. Getting Morris back should open up the offense quite a bit as well. We know what he can do down low, but he can also nail a three and take advantage of a switch.

Tonight’s line is Celtics -5 and is a great betting opportunity. This is going to be a long series and the Wizards should even things up tonight. Washington +5 is a great bet.

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Can Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets overcome Greg Popovich’s Spurs?

I am a strong believer that the best team with the best player wins in a playoff series. There are always exceptions, but more often than not the team with the best players win a playoff series. Coaching matters, but not as much as talent. This is why in our series preview that I picked the Rockets over the Spurs in the second round. Not because I think James Harden is better than Kawhi Leonard, but because the rest of the team is better than the Spurs. There is a good chance, however, that I am wrong.

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This will be the fifth time that Mike D’Antoni and Greg Popovich have coached against each other in a playoff series. Poppovich’s Spurs are 16-4 against D’Antoni’s teams. We’ll throw out the four game sweep when D’Antoni coached the Lakers because that team was a mess and it wasn’t really a D’Antoni system team. Still, 12-4 is not a good look and doesn’t bode well for this series. Why? Well, these two teams are both system teams. James Harden is the evolutionary Steve Nash of D’Antoni’s Suns teams and Popovich’s teams always play the same brand of defense-first team basketball. Look at how these teams compare statistically to the past match-ups.

 2005SunsSpurs
Offensive Rating: 111.9 (1st)104.9 (8th)
Defensive Rating: 103.7 (16th)95.8 (1st)
 2007SunsSpurs
Offensive Rating: 111.4 (1st)106.7 (5th)
Defensive Rating: 103.4 (13th)97.4 (2nd)
 2008SunsSpurs
Offensive Rating: 111.2 (1st)104.7 (13th)
Defensive Rating 104.9 (16th)99.5 (3rd)

An elite level offense with a middling defense against an above average offense with an elite defense. Defense beat offense in every series as the Spurs won every time.

Now, let’s take a look at the statistics for this series.

2017RocketsSpurs
Offensive Rating: 111.8 (2nd)108.8 (7th)
Defensive Rating: 106.4 (18th)100.9 (1st)

Once again, an elite level offense with a middling defense against an above average offense with an elite defense. The players have changed, the league has changed; but these two have remained the same. D’Antoni and Popovich do what they do and they are the very best at what they do.

Of course, you can say things like “well, there was that one series where Amar’e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw got suspended for leaving the bench” and that is very true. The Suns could’ve won that series if that didn’t happen, but they didn’t. The history books are written and those D’Antoni/Nash Suns teams never got past the Spurs. What makes you think that this series will be any different?

Kawhi Leonard will be guarding James Harden when it matters and that takes the Rockets offense from an elite level to an average level in a hurry. These two teams played each other three times in the regular season and the Spurs won three of those. Only once did the Rockets score more than 100 points. That is a huge win for the Spurs and a possible harbinger of things to come.

On paper, it’s easy to like the Rockets in this one. I like Clint Capela over Pau Gasol and Dewayne Dedmon. I like Patrick Beverley over Tony Parker and Patty Mills. I like Eric Gordon over Danny Green and Ryan Anderson might not be that far behind LaMarcus Aldridge based on the way he looked in round one. On paper, the Rockets just look better.

The Spurs have never been an on paper team though. They get things done and the whole is always better than the individual with this team. If the Spurs do what they’ve always done to D’Antoni teams and Kawhi takes care of Harden, it feels like we are finally going to see that Spurs-Warriors playoff match-up we have been waiting for.

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The incredible Celtics-Bulls series

The Boston Celtics were the top seed in the Eastern Conference, but a week ago we thought they were done. Everyone thought they were done. The real life trauma of Isaiah Thomas didn’t help and Rajon Rondo stepping into the rejuvenation machine to shut him down definitely didn’t help. The Bulls being a better rebounding time while the Celtics were one of the worst really didn’t help. After two games, Robin Lopez looked like an All-Star and then something switched.

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Now, the Celtics have won three straight and it seems like this series is over. These games haven’t been close and the Celtics are looking more like the team that was the best team in the Eastern Conference while the Bulls have looked more like the dysfunctional mess that had to win on the last day of the season to make the playoffs. It’s funny how these things work.

What’s really crazy is just how extreme the books reacted to this. Check this out:

Before the series: Celtics -525 vs. Bulls +415

Bulls up 2-0: Celtics +210 vs. Bulls -250

Celtics up 3-2: Celtics -900 vs. Bulls +600

That is amazing. If you were a true Celtics supporter and didn’t become blinded by a two-game sample, you could’ve got a really nice number on this series. A top seed at 2/1 when there has only been one top seed in the seven game era is almost too good to be true.

The funny thing is that we didn’t see it. Nobody did. After those first two games this series looked over. Al Horford was over matched by Robin Lopez, Marcus Smart was borderline unplayable and Dwayne Wade was turning back the clock. Jimmy Butler was dominant and Isaiah Thomas wasn’t. It seemed like the Bulls would do the impossible.

And then Rondo got hurt and everything switched. Isaiah Canaan and Michael Carter-Williams are just not ready for this level of basketball and Thomas has made them pay. It’s crazy to think where Rondo was just two years ago (remember the famous Mavericks game where he just quit playing?) and now he’s swinging a playoff series by not being able to play in it, but that’s playoff basketball for you. Injuries matter in a playoff series. A lot.

These two teams lock up on Friday night in Chicago and I believe that Boston will get it done. Gerald Green will do something, Isaiah will be big time once again and the Bulls will once again be the mess that we thought they were.

Boston has made the adjustments that they needed to make and the Bulls just don’t have the pieces to counter back. The line is currently set at PK so this could be a really great time to jump back on the Celtics bandwagon. All they have to do is win and they’ve already done it twice in Chicago. Why not three times? The Bulls have shown no ability to get things down there and I really doubt they will magically discover it in the next twenty four hours.

Get this series done and bring on the Wizards or Hawks.

(Please be the Wizards, please be the Wizards, please be the Wizards.)

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