Updated NBA Championship Odds: Our Metrics Still Believe in the Toronto Raptors

We're nearing the end of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs. How have title odds shifted?

Over the last few years, the seeming inevitability of an NBA Finals matchup between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers (and realistically, of a title for Golden State) has sapped the fun out of chatting about championship contenders and betting on potential underdogs.

This year, things have changed. Perennial Finals contenders like the Warriors and Cavaliers have lost a step, the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors had such good regular seasons that you can’t help but at least consider them, and teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz finished the year so hot that you can’t quite count them out, either.

Either way, nothing is a given these days, and betting the eventual NBA champion is once again an interesting venture.

When it comes to Vegas’ betting odds, they typically correlate with the opinions of pundits and fans, paying attention to things like experience, past playoff failures, and so on. Our metrics, on the other hand, strip out that bias and deal with the facts using cold, hard numbers.

Here’s a look at how Vegas’ current title odds (via Bovada) differ from what our algorithms have as the title odds for each playoff team.

TeamBovada Implied Title OddsnF Title OddsDifference
Golden State Warriors46.51%20.49%26.02%
Houston Rockets40.00%27.91%12.09%
Cleveland Cavaliers11.11%11.05%0.06%
Philadelphia 76ers10.53%9.00%1.53%
Toronto Raptors10.00%19.50%-9.50%
Utah Jazz2.94%4.34%-1.40%
New Orleans Pelicans2.17%2.12%0.05%
Boston Celtics1.96%3.04%-1.08%
Oklahoma City Thunder1.41%1.31%0.10%
Indiana Pacers0.66%0.59%0.07%
Milwaukee Bucks0.66%0.34%0.32%
Washington Wizards0.66%0.31%0.35%

The most interesting thing here is the difference between how our models and Vegas differ when it comes to the Warriors-Rockets debate.

Vegas -- like most pundits and fans -- seems to believe that the defending champion Warriors are the team to beat until proven otherwise. They have had a down year by their own standards and are still waiting on the return of two-time MVP Stephen Curry, but the Dubs are still an all-time great dynasty who are deserving of the benefit of the doubt.

Our numbers, however, are devoid of any bias over past championships and records and are based solely on how the teams have performed this year. For that reason, our algorithm is in favor of Houston, who was the top team in the NBA this season in basically every number that counts (wins, margin of victory, net rating, etc.).

Meanwhile, in the Eastern Conference, Vegas is basically calling it a three-sided coin flip between the Cavaliers, Raptors, and 76ers for the most likely team to come out of the East and win it all (with the Cavs still leading the way, ever so slightly). Our algorithm, however, still likes the Raptors quite a bit more.

Years of playoff shortcomings make it hard for most people to trust Toronto as a true championship contender, but our metrics look at the team that finished with 59 wins this season and was the only squad in the Association to finish top-five in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Per our numbers, the Raptors are a contender comparable to the Warriors (19.50% title odds for Toronto versus 20.49% for Golden State).