Updated NBA Division Odds: Finding Value in Competitive Division Races

Which teams should you be betting on as they battle through tightly contest divisional races?

Another week of NBA action is in the books. The Raptors and Bucks are undefeated, Stephen Curry has started off scorching hot to lead Golden State to 6-1, and the Rockets -- with an injured James Harden -- have struggled to a 1-4 start.

Last week, we looked at the best odds to win the NBA Finals -- a tough task with the juiced-up Warriors in play. Sometimes the best places to look for betting value are in the more competitive conference and divisional races. This week, we’ll look at some divisional odds from the FanDuel Sportsbook to shed some light on some values with the help of our model.

Southeast Division

Let’s start off in the Eastern Conference, with a division that doesn’t have a clear favorite. Miami and Washington both have the lowest odds to win the Southeast, but our model projects Charlotte to win about as many games as both favorites.

Team Odds Projected Wins
Miami Heat +105 41.8
Washington Wizards +160 40.6
Charlotte Hornets +440 41.4
Orlando Magic +6500 33.8
Atlanta Hawks +12000 28.6

Although the model projects Miami, Washington, and Charlotte to win around 40 to 42 games, the Hornets are 10th in our power rankings, while the Heat and Wizards rank in the bottom half. The Hornets are 3-4 this season but lost three of those games by two points or less.

Charlotte ranks fifth in offensive efficiency, which can be attributed to the second-lowest turnover percentage in the league, only behind San Antonio. By trading Dwight Howard during the offseason, Charlotte improved their offense by subtraction, as Howard had a 15.1% turnover rate and a 24.2% usage rate (second-highest on the Hornets amongst players with over one thousand minutes played), according to Basketball Reference.

Howard’s departure allows the Hornets to run their offense through Kemba Walker more often -- Walker's usage rate is up to 35.4% this year. The team's All-Star point man has been more efficient in his increased role through seven games, as his assist percentage is up to 30.6% from 27.4% last season and his turnover percentage is down to 7.2% from 10.4%. He’s also made 79 three-pointers, only 10 behind Steph Curry for the league lead. No one else has more than 55 made. The sample size is still small, but it’s safe to say that the Hornets are better off without Dwight and with the ball in Kemba’s hands more often.

Pick: Charlotte Hornets +440

Atlantic Division

Toronto is undefeated, second in our power rankings, and projected to win the most games in the Atlantic, according to our model. The Raptors possess the shortest odds, just ahead of the Boston Celtics, who’ve started out 4-2, behind their best defensive rating in the league.

Team Odds Projected Wins
Toronto Raptors +100 51.8
Boston Celtics +125 50.3
Philadelphia 76ers +500 47.7
New York Knicks +5000 32.7
Brooklyn Nets +6000 33.6

Kawhi Leonard
has started off the season right where he left off, scoring 26.6 points per game and shooting with an effective field goal percentage (eFG%) of 55%. In fact, every player in Toronto’s most used lineup (Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Pascal Siakam, and Serge Ibaka) has an eFG% of at least 52%.

The efficient shooting of the Raptors offense has led them to an offensive rating that ranks fourth in the NBA, and while Lowry’s eFG% of 70.5% is probably unsustainable (his career average is 50.6%), the additions of Leonard and Green seem to make Toronto’s offense much more efficient than last year's version with DeMar DeRozan.

Leonard and Green have also improved the Raptors’ defense -- they’re ninth in defensive rating this year so far. Kawhi has won the Defensive Player of the Year award twice, while Green made the all-defensive team in 2017 and ranked sixth in defensive real plus/minus among shooting guards last season. Toronto has held opponents to an eFG% of just 47.5%, good for fourth in the league.

While the Celtics were the favorite at the beginning of the season, they’ve proved to be lackluster offensively. Boston is 28th in offensive rating, and every player in their most used lineup (Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, and Jaylen Brown) has an eFG% of 51% or lower. Until the Celtics sort out their offensive woes, the more balanced Raptors are deservedly the favorite at their given odds.

Pick: Toronto Raptors +100