NBA Odds Update: Should You Bet On the Defending Champs?
In this edition of the NBA Odds Update, we’ll look at which teams saw their odds move the most in the month of January.
Teams that had a strong month and are starting to look like cohesive units will likely see the most upward movement, while those who had it rough could see their odds spiraling.
If you want to see our odds for every team, be sure to check out our power rankings. Here's a look at the five teams who had their title odds move by more than 2.5 percentage points.
FanDuel Title Odds: +300
numberFire Champs Probability: 46.7
The Milwaukee Bucks were -- by far -- our biggest mover in the month of January. Our algorithm saw Milwaukee's title probabilities jump from 34.4 percent at the end of December to 46.7 as of today.
It's not difficult to pinpoint why the Bucks jumped so much. The Deer lost just 2 of their 13 contests for the month and had the league's best defensive rating and second-best net rating. Milwaukee also won five contests by 20 or more points.
The Bucks are setting themselves up nicely for a deep playoff run by not overburdening any of their players. Giannis Antetokounmpo leads the team with an average of 30.7 minutes per game, which is good for 77th in the league. It also helps that the Bucks are headed towards home-court advantage throughout the entire postseason -- they're currently 4.5 games up on the next best team in the Association.
It's easy to go on about the play of Giannis, who is likely to pick up his second consecutive MVP at this pace, but Khris Middleton has been quite impressive in his own right. Khash is on pace to become just the ninth player in NBA history to join the 50-40-90 club, which means he's hitting 50 percent of his attempts from the field, 40 percent from beyond the arc, and 90 percent from the charity stripe.
If Middleton plays at this level in the playoffs, good luck beating the Bucks in a seven-game series.
Los Angeles Clippers
FanDuel Title Odds: +340
numberFire Champs Probability: 5.5%
The Los Angeles Clippers are 34-15 and in second place in the Western Conference, but it's hard to get excited about their play so far this season. The Clippers started the season with our model's highest title probability at 21 percent, but that dropped to 10.5 percent at the end of 2019 and 5.5 percent today.
Watching the Clippers this season can leave one with the feeling that the whole is far less than the sum of its parts. A squad that has Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, and Patrick Beverley should be consistently dominating, but that just hasn't been the case. Leonard has been his usual self when he does take the court, though he's missed a quarter of the team's games due to load management. George has essentially been Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde this season.
In January, the Clips posted the 8th-best net rating -- far from impressive -- and the 15th-worst defensive rating -- even less impressive.
In that past, we've seen talented teams with similar rosters makeups flip a switch, but it's hard to feel comfortable betting on this unit until they actually do so.
FanDuel Title Odds: +3600
numberFire Champs Probability: 7.9%
At 36-14, the Toronto Raptors have the same record as they did at this stage last season. That is astonishingly impressive, considering that they lost one of the game's five best players.
Toronto won 12 of their 15 January contests and posted the third-best net rating in the process. The defending champs currently sit second in the East, with a two-game lead over third-seeded Boston. Their title probability -- which was 3.2 percent at the end of December, per our model -- is now up to 7.9 percent.
The Raptors have one of the most well-balanced squads in the league, with five players averaging more than 15 points per game. Toronto also has four players posting more than three assists per game, including two -- Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet -- averaging at least seven.
In today's NBA, having a number of players who can shoot the three is vital to success. The Raptors have eight players averaging 20 or more minutes per game, and each one of them is shooting at least 34 percent from downtown.
Betters can be encouraged by the fact that Pascal Siakam had his least productive month in January, and yet the team still didn't miss a beat. At 36/1, they're a great value play.
Los Angeles Lakers
FanDuel Title Odds: +290
numberFire Champs Probability: 15.1%
After starting the season 24-3, the Los Angeles Lakers have lost 8 of their last 21, and some of those losses have not been pretty. That has resulted in their odds dropping 3.8 percentage points over the last month.
Close home losses to the Orlando Magic and Portland Trail Blazers are tough to swallow but explainable. That said, their two losses to the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics by an average of 20 points are of more concern.
Every team will have some blemishes in an 81-game schedule, but the Lakers have struggled to consistently beat either of the conference's leading teams. With a very real possibility of needing to win at least three ultra-competitive series, it's fair to question whether the Lakers can do it.
All that said, the Lakers still have the second-best odds in the league, according to numberFire's model. Though, at +290, the odds aren't friendly enough to be considered a value bet.
FanDuel Title Odds: +1500
numberFire Champs Probability: 2.7%
January was a weird and uneven month for the Houston Rockets.
Despite those victories, it's hard to feel good about how Houston has been playing. In January, Mike D'Antoni's squad posted the 15th-worst net and offensive rating. Their effective field goal percentage was 12th-worst in the league, while their turnover percentage was 12th-highest. All of that resulted in a drop of 2.9 percentage points in numberFire's champions probability since the start of 2020.
A lot of their struggles can be tied directly to the play of James Harden. For the month, the 2017-18 MVP shot just 35.5 percent from the field and a miserable 27 percent from three-point land -- that's despite averaging 21.6 and 11.4 attempts, respectively.
You can get better value betting on any of the Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks, Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, and Indiana Pacers -- which makes Houston not worth your time or money.