Who: Peter Jennings and Justin Phan, NBA gurus at FantasyLabs and The Action Network. They also like to gamble. A lot.
What: Snake-draft-style selection of the NBA playoff teams. Person with the team that wins the title takes down the cash. Main bet is for $4,000. Side bet is for $1,000. The agreed-upon terms stipulated that Justin got the No. 1 pick in the main bet, but he had to take the Warriors, and Peter had to take the Rockets No. 2.
When: The draft took place on Friday, April 13, but the main bet was locked in place long before then, when Kyrie Irving was still healthy and the Celtics looked like a much stronger threat in the East. So the assumption at the time was that Justin would take the Celtics with pick No. 5 in the main draft and leave the 76ers for Peter at No. 6.
Why: Peter has been all-in on the Rockets and 76ers this season, betting Houston at +1150 to win the title and Philly at 12-1 to win the East. So he originally offered the main bet as a way to get even more action down on those two teams. When Kyrie’s injury made it clear that the 76ers would no longer be available at pick No. 6 in the main draft, Peter and Justin agreed to add the side bet of $1K with a tweaked draft order (Justin gave up the fifth pick for selections 6-11, and Peter got 12-16.)
Also: Why not?!?
Got it? Let’s get to the picks.
Main bet (winner gets $4,000)
1) Justin: Warriors. Was locked in here per the terms of the bet, but I still love their chances. Steph Curry has the highest Net Rating in the league this season and has more of a transformative effect on his team than any other player. As long as he’s close to full health in time for their date with the Rockets, the Warriors should be considered the favorite.
2) Peter: Rockets. Like I said, I’ve been all-in on the Rockets this year. No reason to stop now.
3) Justin: Cavs. LeBron James has made the Finals in seven straight seasons, and there’s no way I’m betting against him coming off a 28-9-9 season at age 33. If that’s the bar, it’s scary to think what Playoff LeBron will do. The Cavs’ defensive issues are alarming, but their 5-out look will give Toronto all sorts of matchup issues.
4) Peter: Raptors. This aligns with the odds in the futures markets. I love the 76ers, but this serves as a hedge on the side bet (see below) and my futures investment.
5) Justin: 76ers. Joel Embiid (pictured above) shouldn’t be out for much more than one game, and the 76ers’ usual starting five with him in it has posted an absurd +21.4 Net Rating this season. It also helps that they’ve got the easiest path to the Finals of any team.
6) Peter: Thunder. Outside of Golden State and Houston, the Thunder have the best odds in the futures market in the Western Conference.
7) Peter: Jazz. Utah is my favorite team to come out of the Western Conference outside of Houston and Golden State. Ricky Rubio is shooting well from 3, which spreads the floor for Joe Ingles and Donovan Mitchell.
8) Justin: Celtics. I figured Pete would take the Blazers next because of their Vegas odds, so I opted for the Celtics here instead since I like the Pelicans to come out of their first-round series. It’s tough to envision any team other than the Warriors or Rockets winning the West, so I’ll take my chances in the East. In Brad Stevens we trust.
9) Peter: Trail Blazers. I don’t love the Blazers; I’m just going off the odds. Anthony Davis could easily take over this series.
10) Justin: Pelicans. They’ve got the best player in their first-round series, and Jrue Holiday’s impact can’t be overstated. When Holiday has been on the court, the Pels have gone from the league’s worst defense to a top-five behemoth. Their top-five Net Rating on the road means they’re more than capable of stealing a game.
11) Peter: Spurs. Best future odds of any team left on the board. Kawhi PLEASE come back!
12) Justin: Miami. The Heat have played in more close games than any other team this season, so don’t expect them to make life easy for anyone. With Embiid out for Game 1 and the disparity in playoff experience, the Heat are flying a bit too under the radar with everyone on the 76ers.
13) Peter: Wizards. The Wizards have grossly underachieved this season. However, they have the talent to beat anyone in the Eastern Conference. I like them as a hedge to Toronto.
14) Justin: Pacers. LeBron James hasn’t lost a first-round game since 2012, but the Pacers have shocked just about everyone this season.
15) Peter: Bucks. Almost no equity with this pick but I’m hopeful about the Bucks with Malcolm Brogdon back.
16) Justin: Wolves. I literally had no other choice.
Troy Taormina- USA Today Sports
Side bet (winner gets $1,000)
1) Justin: Warriors
2) Peter: Rockets
3) Justin: Cavs
4) Peter: Raptors
5) Peter: 76ers
6-11) Justin: Jazz, Thunder, Celtics, Pelicans, Blazers, Heat
12-16) Peter: Spurs, Wolves, Wizards, Pacers, Bucks
Justin’s analysis: Got talked into this side bet since Pete is egregiously high on the 76ers, and was even offered the option to hedge off the Warriors at 1 and take the Rockets. I’m sticking to my guns.
Peter’s analysis: Fine with you sticking to your guns. I don’t mind having more Rockets equity. The second bet was specifically made so I could get exposure to the 76ers, so I’m glad that ended up happening.