Sunday, February 19, 2012

Trifone: A Look at the NBA Odds (Futures)

A little over a week ago, I was reviewing some of the odds to win the Western Conference, and saw the Spurs at 12-1. At the time, I think they had won six in a row, and were right in the mix with the Clippers for the No. 2 seed. I thought it was a fantastic bet.

Since then, the Spurs have won another four in a row, including a road win at the aforementioned Clippers. Tony Parker is quietly, or maybe not so quietly, having an MVP season, putting up another 30-point game to go along with 10 assists, while Chris Paul had 21 points and 6 assists. Many, including myself, had written off the Spurs going into the season, as a team that was just too old to be a factor in the shortened season.

It also appeared as though their window to win another title had passed.

The last time the Spurs won the Championship was 2007, and Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili haven't gotten any younger. The Lakers and the Celtics had once again become the class of the league, and then when Lebron went to Miami and Durant and Westbrook started to emerge as the most athletic team in the league, the Spurs seemed to be falling out of contention. And yet, it would seem that they are poised to prove everyone wrong.

They are currently on a 10-game winning streak, with Tony Parker playing as well as he ever has. The Spurs will be able to limit the minutes of their aging players down the stretch, and their experience, combined with their infusion of youth (with guys like DeJuan Blair and Gary Neal making an impact), make San Antonio a dangerous team.

If the Lakers fail to acquire Dwight Howard by the trade deadline, I think this year's Western Conference Finals will come down to the Spurs and Thunder. The West is certainly more wide open than the East, which seems destined to come down to the Bulls and Heat, but the Spurs are showing they may have one more championship run in them.

Win the streak aside, they are playing better ball this year than anticipated, and they have put themselves in a great position. They can certainly lock up home court against all but the Thunder, but even if they fail to do so, they have shown that they have the experience to win on the road in the past. Even this year, they are above .500 away from home, and have some impressive road wins against the likes of Memphis, Philadelphia, and the Clippers.

Current odds on the Spurs to win the West are 5-1 (on, which I feel is a decent bet. I loved them at 12-1; I think 5-1 is a more accurate number, but still a solid bet on a team that's playing great basketball. San Antonio is 15-1 to win the title, but truth be told, I don't think any of the listed odds for the NBA Championship are great. The Heat are going to be huge favorites, and justifiably so, as I see LeBron getting his first ring at season's end.

I think the real money to be made here is being able to pick the Western Conference Champ, and the Spurs at 5-1 look to have the most attractive odds.

(FYI: the Thunder are 1.6-1 or +160, and with a league as deep as it is, I don't like the bet on a team that hasn't been there before. While the Thunder may be the most likely to go, the odds to bet it just aren't good enough. I'd take a flyer on the Lakers or Clippers at 4.5-1 before putting money on OKC to win the West.)

As far as the Eastern Conference goes, I really don't see a lot of good value. The Heat are 1-2 to win the conference (-200), meaning you have to give odds if you want to take them to make the Finals. After Miami, the Bulls are 2-1 to get there, and Chicago really seems to be the only other realistic option. The next closest team is 12-1. The Heat and Bulls are such heavy favorites that it makes taking one of those long shots a pretty foolish bet, and given that the odds reflect this, I don't really care for the bet on Miami or Chicago either. I could see a team like the Knicks or Sixers potentially upsetting Chicago, but I can't see them beating the Heat as well. Because of this, I'm not a fan of any of the bets in the Eastern Conference.

For my thoughts on the futures' bets in college basketball, click here.

[Editor's note: This post is by John Trifone (@JohnnyT0122), who also contributes at our NFL site: Eat, Drink and Sleep Football (see John's archives).]

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