10 Betting Values for the 2018-19 NBA Season
Believe it or not, the NBA season is fast approaching. Training camps have started, media day is in the rearview and preseason games start Friday. Even more mind-boggling, there's now less than three weeks until opening night (cue the Sheldon Cooper gif).
But it's okay; there's no need to panic. Whatever you do, don't panic.
There's plenty of time to prep yourself by catching up on offseason moves, researching on- and off-court storylines and checking in on League Pass rankings. And for those of you in search of an added financial benefit, the good folks over at FanDuel Sportsbook have you covered. Not only do they offer player futures, but they also have odds on championship, conference and division winners, as well as team win totals and playoff specials.
It's good to know where to go and what the lines are, but how do you know which, of all the potential bets, to target?
I'm here to help you do just that. Backed by numberFire's proprietary algorithms, preseason rankings and much more, I'll break down 10 of the best betting values available, starting with the lowest return and ending with the highest.
1. Spurs Make the Playoffs (-145)
In case you've been sleeping under a rock, you should know that the usually steady San Antonio Spurs had quite the roster shakeup this offseason. Not only did they ship Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors in a blockbuster trade, they allowed Tony Parker and Kyle Anderson to go elsewhere in free agency while Manu Ginobili called it quits after 16 seasons. Four other players headed elsewhere, but the Spurs brought in some talent, as well.
DeMar DeRozan was the biggest piece in the Leonard deal and was accompanied by talented big Jakob Poeltl. The team also brought back one-time Spur Marco Belinelli and drafted first-rounder Lonnie Walker out of Miami.
The Spurs have their work cut out for them, but despite some postseason struggles, DeRozan's played in five straight playoffs, and there's something to say for a guy who averaged 23 points and finished 8th in MVP voting a year ago. Add that to a now-experienced Dejounte Murray and the returning cast of veterans, all under a great coach, and you have a playoff team for the 22nd straight season in San Antonio.
FanDuel Sportsbook's odds put the Spurs at an implied probability of 59.18% to make the playoffs. Our models are much higher at 90.30%, which means that they should be closer to -900, making them a good value even at negative odds.
2. Mavericks Over 33.5 Wins (-124)
The Dallas Mavericks ended a disappointing 2017-18 season with a 24-58 record -- good enough for just 13th in the Western Conference and better than only than two other teams. It was a second straight season with 33 or fewer wins, but rookie point guard Dennis Smith showed a lot of promise as he ran a team devoid of young firepower anywhere else. However, that's changed with the addition of Luka Doncic in the draft.
Doncic will serve as another playmaker on the wing, as his passing skills should allow Smith (15.2 points per game) to focus more on scoring and help to improve on the team's 24th-ranked offensive rating in 2017. Elsewhere, Dirk Nowitzki is back for his 21st season, and DeAndre Jordan, who joins the Mavs from free agency, will be out to prove himself as the elite big man he's wanted to be recognized as. Harrison Barnes is the team's leading scorer (18.9 points per game), and Dwight Powell returns after posting a team-best 6.6 win shares a year ago.
Heading into the year, we have Dallas ranked 19th with a 48.9 nERD (a team ranking on a scale of 0 to 100 that is predictive of a team's ultimate winning percentage). We project them for 40.3 wins -- nearly seven clear of their over/under.
3. Celtics Under 58.5 Wins (-108)
In a completely different situation from that of the Mavs, the Boston Celtics are coming off a 55-win season in which they finished with a 59.4 nERD (second in the East and fourth in the league). And that's after getting just five minutes out of their big free-agent signee, Gordon Hayward. The Celtics got to to the Eastern Conference Finals despite Kyrie Irving missing the entire postseason with a knee injury.
To say the sky's the limit for the Celtics isn't a stretch. Irving himself has the utmost confidence in his team's ability to take down the Golden State Warriors in a seven-game series. And why wouldn't he? Boston pushed through injury after injury to lead the NBA in defensive rating (103.9) last year, and they don't lose anything of note. But Irving's injury history is lengthy, and competing in the Atlantic division will be no walk in the park. While the C's come in third in our rankings (63.4 nERD), the Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers are fifth and sixth, respectively, and both are projected to finished with at least 47 wins of their own.
We still expect coach Brad Stevens and company to tally enough wins to take the division and the top seed in the East, but their odds of reaching 59-plus wins aren't as great. We like them to tally 51.1 wins, which represents some nice value with a return of over $92 for every $100 bet.
4. Knicks Over 29.5 Wins (+110)
Now, we get to the more profitable bets, starting with the New York Knicks and their over/under. You might be saying to yourself, "No way!" -- but hear me out. The Knicks won 29 games last year with Kristaps Porzingis' season shortened to 48 games by an injury and rookie Frank Ntilikina struggling to find how he fits into the NBA game. And no more Jeff Hornacek in the Big Apple (Knicks fans cheer).
David Fizdale takes over as head coach, and he'll be looking to improve last year's 23rd-ranked defense (110.7 defensive rating). In his only full season in Memphis, Fizdale helped lead the team to a 107.1 defensive rating (seventh) and a 43-39 record en route to the Western Conference playoffs. His presence should be big for Ntilikina and young developing players like lottery pick Kevin Knox and third-year guard Emmanuel Mudiay.
Porzingis has yet to be cleared for sprints and remains without a timetable. The Knicks are going to exercise caution with their prized player, and that level of caution could go a long way in them either falling short or exceeding the sportsbook's number.
We rate the Knicks 25th and project them to miss the playoffs, but we nonetheless expect them to bypass 30 win and hit 33.1 wins. The margin isn't that great, but the odds on the over provide a much higher return than the -128 odds on the under.
5. Thunder to Win Northwest Division (+240)
There's no ifs, ands or buts about it, the Northwest Division is going to be one of the most competitive divisions throughout the 2018-19 campaign. The Utah Jazz -- with an over/under of 49.5 wins -- sit at +200 to win the division on FanDuel Sportsbook while the Oklahoma City Thunder -- also a 49.5-win over/under -- come in at +240, ahead of the Denver Nuggets, who own +350 odds and a 47.5 over/under. Even the Portland Trail Blazers and Minnesota Timberwolves share respectable +700 odds.
A lot of people are on the longer odds with the young, up-and-coming Nuggets, but don't sleep on Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. In 2017-18, OKC won 48 games, which helped them to fourth- and second-place finishes in the Western Conference and Northwest Division, respectively. They wrapped up the year with the league's seventh-best offense and ninth-best defense on a per-100 basis, and they were second in their division by only a game.
Carmelo Anthony is no longer in town, but the Thunder re-tooled with what could be valuable contributors in Dennis Schroder, Nerlens Noel and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. Oh -- and they still have a guy named Brodie as well as Paul George and Steven Adams, who between the three of them totaled 28.7 win shares last year.
Like the oddsmakers, our models expect this division to be a bloodbath, with all five teams projected for at least 40.8 wins. We have Utah at the top (46.2 wins), but the Thunder are hot on their heels at 45.4 projected victories. With not even a single win between the two, it's wise to take the more valuable odds and side with OKC.
6. 76ers to Win Atlantic Division (+375)
From top to bottom, the Atlantic might not be as great as the Northwest, but it is without a doubt the best division in the East, particularly at the top. The aforementioned Celtics are the odds-on favorites (-145), followed by the Kawhi Leonard-led Toronto Raptors -- 55.5-win over/under -- at +250 odds. But third are the Philadelphia 76ers -- 53.5 over/under -- at +375, or $375 for every $100 laid in the event they take down the two teams in front of them.
With the talent of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, what's not to like about that? In the offseason, the Sixers retained their core and, via trade, added to their bench with Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala. It remains to be seen if rookie Zhaire Smith will play much of a role in year one, but Philly should get a rookie-like boost from Markelle Fultz, who seems to have figured out his shot this offseason.
In 2017-18, the Sixers won 52 games -- good enough for third in the conference yet third in their own division. They were just 2-6 against the Celtics and Raptors, compared to 7-1 against the basement-dwelling Knicks and Nets inside the division. So, if they're going to take the Atlantic, they'll have to improve their record against the big boys, and we wouldn't count them out.
Our models have the Sixers ranked sixth (61.4 nERD) and projected for a step back with 47.9 wins. That's just a win shy of the Raptors' projected win total and a hair over three short of the Celtics. However, the value is what we're targeting as the gap in projected wins is much shorter than the odds would suggest.
As a bonus play, doubling down on the Sixers to win the conference could pay off. They are +320 to do so, and if they can overtake the Celtics for the division, they would in all likelihood head into the postseason as the top seed in East.
7. Nuggets to Miss Playoffs (+380)
We already touched on the carnage that could ensue out in the Northwest (and the West as a whole), so the Nuggets missing out on the playoffs is certainly in the cards. But many expect their young trio of studs -- Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Nikola Jokic -- to step up and do better than last year's ninth-place finish (46 wins). Their -480 odds to make the playoffs are fourth-best among Western Conference teams and amount to an 82.76% implied probability. Their odds to miss come to 20.83%.
As much as the oddsmakers and fans like them, though, the Nuggets are not good value, according to our numbers. Ranked 16th by nERD, Denver carries a 37.5% chance of making the playoffs. When we take that into account, their 62.5% chance of missing is over 40% higher than what the sportsbook implies.
The Blazers and New Orleans Pelicans are ahead of them, and with our numbers high on the Mavs, they're also right behind the Nuggets with a 32.7% probability of missing the postseason. Their 40.8 projected wins are 10th in the West. At +380, that's a nice return for a team we'd have at -167 by our calculations.
8. Mavericks to Make Playoffs (+850)
In case you haven't noticed by now, we're high on the re-built Mavericks. Not only do we expect them to go past their win total, but we give them an outside chance at cracking the top eight in the West.
Their projected win total would put them below .500 and 3.6 wins short of what would be our eighth-place Pelicans, but we're still accounting for Jimmy Butler being in Minnesota by the start of the season. With the team now actively looking to trade the four-time All-Star -- and most of the potential suitors hailing from the East -- there could some wins and a place in the playoffs up for grabs. The Mavs face the T'Wolves three times this season (twice at home), and Minnesota is currently projected above them with 44.8 wins.
If the Timberwolves are on the outside looking in, the Mavericks' primary competition will be the Blazers and Nuggets, who are both within 1.1 wins of Dallas, according to our algorithm. The Mavericks' +850 odds come to an implied probability of just 10.53%, whereas our models spit out a 32.70% chance of them making it into the postseason.
In the right scenario, putting $100 on the Mavs to make the playoffs and another $100 on the Nuggets to miss them would return a combined $1,230 at their current odds.
9. Hornets to Win Southeast Division (+1200)
In recent years, there's really been no flash or flair about the Charlotte Hornets. Other than Kemba Walker's outstanding play, they've dealt with injury upon injury and have failed to win a playoff series since returning to the "Hornets" name. They're coming off back-to-back 36-46 seasons, having finished 3rd in the Southeast and 10th in the conference in 2017-18, and they are going into their first season under new head coach James Borrego.
Last year, Charlotte was 13th in offensive rating and 16th in defensive rating. They were a middle-of-the-road squad -- plain and simple. This offseason, they dealt away Dwight Howard and, for the most part, got younger outside of signing Tony Parker. Malik Monk is set to take on a large role, and 12th overall pick Miles Bridges has a chance to be a factor in the rotation.
Howard's new squad, the Washington Wizards (-185), are the favorites to win the division with the Miami Heat (+175) coming in second. Charlotte is far behind in the odds department, but their 49.0 nERD (18th) has them breathing down the Heat's (49.1 nERD; 17th) neck. And the Wizards, at 50.7 (15th), aren't so far ahead.
According to our models, a mere 1.4 projected wins separate the three teams, so why not take the major odds discount and opt for the Hornets as the sleeper pick.
10. Raptors/Sixers to Win NBA Championship (+1800)
Ahead of the 2018-19 season, the Golden State Warriors (-190), Boston Celtics (+600) and Houston Rockets (+800) are the top three favorites to take the coveted Larry O'Brien trophy. At their odds, the defending-champion Warriors have a 65.52% probability of making it three straight. Our numbers agree with the top three (albeit in a different order), but we aren't as super-high on the Warriors, nor the Celtics to a lesser extent.
Where we really see betting value is in the teams ranked fourth through sixth by our models. The Spurs, at +6000, possess an implied probability of just 1.64%, but we side with their winning history and give them a 5.20% shot -- sixth among all teams. The issue there is that they have to come out of the tougher West, where not one but two teams are ahead of them in our projections.
The East is a different story. The Celtics are the only team with more than double-digit chances at the title, per our numbers, and two teams -- the Raptors and Sixers -- share the same probability, at 7.10%. Fittingly so, FanDuel Sportsbook values them both at +1800 -- an implied probability of 5.26%.
Both Toronto and Philly are values. If you're deciding between one or the other, the Raptors get the slight edge. They're a hair higher in nERD, projected wins and playoff probability. And naturally, if they finish second in the East, their chances of facing an inferior opponent in the first round and beyond are much greater. Playing the odds is just as much about the path as it is about the ultimate goal, and for you, the ultimate payout