Where Can We Find Value in the Current NBA Championship Odds?

How do our NBA championship projections match up with those of oddsmakers?

To this point, nine teams have punched their tickets to this year's NBA Playoffs.

In the East, the Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards, Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers are all set to compete for an NBA title.

As for the NBA's Western Conference, the Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors are ready to make a run as well.

In looking at our algorithms, two more teams out west -- the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder -- are virtual locks to join the five already in, while the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks are near certainties (at 90.8%) to crack the top eight in the East.

If you're a betting man or woman, making some future picks for NBA champions could open up some value. After all, right now, there are many factors to consider. Who is in? Who will be the 8 seed out West? Who will be the 1 seed in the East? Will Kevin Durant return before the playoffs? What about Kyle Lowry?

If you think that's all too much, don't worry. Our algorithms take all these things into consideration and spit out updated championship chances for each team. But, in terms of finding value in the current NBA title odds (courtesy of Bovada), how can we use them to make smart bets?

Comparing Odds

As you probably know, bookmakers have their own set of odds for each team's NBA championship probability if we convert their moneyline or fractional odds. Comparing those odds to our algorithms uncovers discrepancies and value.

By looking at the top 10 teams in our own championship odds, you can see for yourself.

Team Bovada
San Antonio Spurs 13/2 13.33% 21.6% 8.27%
Toronto Raptors 50/1 1.96% 10.0% 8.04%
Los Angeles Clippers 50/1 1.96% 3.6% 1.64%
Utah Jazz 50/1 1.96% 3.3% 1.34%
Milwaukee Bucks 200/1 0.50% 1.2% 0.70%
Washington Wizards 40/1 2.44% 2.8% 0.36%
Boston Celtics 18/1 5.26% 4.3% -0.96%
Houston Rockets 12/1 7.69% 5.8% -1.89%
Golden State Warriors 4/5 55.56% 36.8% -18.76%
Cleveland Cavaliers 13/5 27.78% 6.6% -21.18%

The Takeaways

If you're someone who's been putting money on the Cavs, and you're feeling uneasy about their play as of late, you're probably not wrong to have doubts. As a whole, our numbers are down on Cleveland. They're 3rd in the league in offensive efficiency, but their defensive rating of 110.4 points allowed per 100 possessions is 22nd in the league -- and that's what could prevent them from repeating as NBA champions.

Like the Eastern Conference favorites, we're not as high on the Warriors. With or without Durant (fully healthy or not), a probability of over 50% is just not worth your investment. Owning the league's 2nd-most efficient offense and 2nd-most efficient defense, they are still the most likely team to win it all, but their 36.8% probability is equivalent to roughly 16-to-9 odds, not 4-to-5.

Also among the top teams oddsmakers like are the Rockets and Celtics, who are both slightly overrated by our measures. Both are top 10 offenses by efficiency standards. However, Houston and Boston are also outside the top 15 in defensive efficiency, with ratings of 108.4 and 108.3, respectively.

The Wizards trail the Celtics by 1.5% in our latest championship percentages, but oddsmakers have them even lower. We would argue that the Wizards, with a record of 29-18 in conference, are much more of a threat in the East than what the posted lines make them out to be.

Only one of the above teams has yet to clinch a berth in the playoffs: the Bucks. Understandably so, at 200-to-1 odds, the Bucks are longshots in Vegas. They're the only team here higher than 50-to-1 and trail the Grizzlies, Thunder, and Hawks. They shouldn't, though. Our probability of 1.2% is double that of the Bucks' implied probability, which is only 0.5% at this time.

If you're taking a shot in the dark, the Bucks might be the play, but the Raptors, Clippers, and Jazz are the smarter picks. They're all at 50-to-1 odds, or an implied championship probability of 1.96%, yet they're also undervalued. The Clippers and Jazz are seventh and eighth with probabilities of 3.6% and 3.3%, respectively, but the Raptors are where big value is to be had.

At their current implied probability, they are behind six teams and three Eastern Conference foes. If you ask us, they're much better than that. With the league's fifth-best offense and a record of 7-3 in their last 10, we give them a 10% chance of taking the title. That could all depend on Kyle Lowry's return -- either way, that's where Vegas is sleeping on the team up north.

They aren't the sexy pick, but surprise, surprise, the Spurs are once again going overlooked in NBA circles. At 13-to-2 odds, they are the third most-likely team to take it all this year. It's still not good enough, though.

We have the Spurs second behind the Warriors in our current title chances, and that figure provides a difference of more than eight percentage points from their implied value. Along with the Warriors, they are the only other team in the Association to rank in the top six in both offensive and defensive efficiency. If Durant doesn't return at full health or the Warriors stumble early, look for that value to skyrocket quickly.