NBA

Updated NBA Championship Odds: Last-Chance Long Shot

The playoffs are set except for the eighth seed in the East with two days to go in the regular season; Detroit, Miami, and Charlotte will play must-win games today and tomorrow for the right to likely get crushed by one of the favorites to win the conference.

If you’ve been following our model all season long, it’s likely that your bets are locked in as well. We’ve discussed the current value on the Milwaukee Bucks ad nauseum, along with other favorites that have a shot to dethrone Golden State. However, there’s one last betting angle to cover before the playoffs begin: long shots. The Jazz, Blazers, and Spurs all have odds to win the title between 50-1 and 100-1, but there’s one team in particular that stands out with long odds.

Although center Jusuf Nurkic is out for the remainder of the season, the Portland Trail Blazers are one long shot for bettors to keep an eye on. Let’s examine why Damian Lillard and company can contend in the West using our model and the odds from FanDuel Sportsbook.

Portland Trail Blazers

FanDuel Title Odds: +8000

numberFire Title Probability: 3.4%

The math checks out for Portland; based on our model’s projections, a bet on the Blazers yields a positive expected value. However, it’s tough to see value with such a low probability to win the title to begin with. Despite being in the middle of a crowded Western Conference playoff picture, Portland has the offensive skill set to challenge the prohibitive favorites like the Warriors and the Rockets.

The Blazers’ offense begins and ends with the backcourt tandem of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, who both make three-pointers at a clip above 37%. Lillard scores 11.8 point per game as the ball-handler in pick-and-roll plays, according to NBA.com, which is second in the league, just behind Kemba Walker. Both Lillard and McCollum are amongst the top five pull-up shooters in the league as well, which is further evidence that the Blazers’ guard duo can create shots.

Overall, Portland is third in offensive efficiency, behind Golden State (first) and Houston (second). The Blazers are elite on offense, so in order to keep up with the West’s best, they’ll need to be average on the defensive end.

So far this season, Portland is 16th in defensive efficiency due outstanding defense around the rim by Nurkic. Since Nurkic won’t be available for the postseason, Portland will need larger defensive contributions from forwards Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless. Nurkic also averaged 10.4 rebounds per game, so newly acquired center Enes Kanter will need to replace some of that production along with Aminu and Harkless.

If Portland can replace some of the defensive impact of Nurkic, they’ll be able to push their playoff opponents with their ability to score. The Blazers are a team with similar strengths and weaknesses to Houston, except they’re offensive production is more diversified. If Lillard has an off night, McCollum can pick up the slack, and vice versa. Portland’s backcourt will give them an advantage when facing a team with a premier perimeter defender that could match up to either guard, such as the Thunder with Paul George.

Bettors should monitor the odds for Portland, who are currently 80-1 to win the title and 48-1 to win the Western Conference. As of this writing, they’d likely face Utah in the first round, who could be a potential mismatch, as the Jazz have difficulty defending the three-point shot. Utah ranks in the bottom six teams in the league against the above the break three-pointer, while the Blazers are amongst the top six teams shooting three-pointers above the break, according to NBA.com.