NBA Playoff Futures: Can the Clippers Reach the Postseason?

NBA Playoff Futures: Can the Clippers Reach the Postseason? article feature image

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA stretch run is set to begin on Thursday. With fewer than 30 games to go, the playoff race is about to get interesting. In the East, five games separate the 4-seed Washington Wizards from the 9th-place Detroit Pistons. It’s just as tight out West with only a two-game difference between the 6th-place Denver Nuggets and 10th-place Utah Jazz.

The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are locks to make the playoffs, but there’s still plenty of uncertainty for many other teams. With this in mind, oddsmakers have posted “Make or Miss” playoff odds for 15 squads and I’ve analyzed which of these playoff futures are offering value.

To answer that question, we crowdsourced simulations from FiveThirtyEight, ESPN and NumberFire to create a consensus playoff projection. Then to identify prop bets with value, we converted each team’s future price into an implied probability and compared it to the playoff projection. For example, the Charlotte Hornets are +800 to reach the postseason. In order for us to feel comfortable wagering on the Hornets, Charlotte would need to make the playoffs 11.1% (which is 100/(100 + 800)) of the time. Michael Jordan’s team is projected to play past the 82nd game of the season 7.4% of the time, meaning there is no value placing a “yes” bet at +800 odds.

The table below displays current odds and probabilities for each team to make the playoffs.

Without any more preamble, here are four bets with value:

Los Angeles Clippers – Make

Current odds: +100, Implied Probability: 50.0%

Clippers make the playoffs 57.4% of the time

No Chris Paul, no Blake Griffin and the Clippers are still in playoff contention? It is hard to believe but LA is just a 0.5 game back of the New Orleans Pelicans for the 8-seed in the Western Conference. Lou Williams is having a career year (23.2 points, shooting .440/.378/.895), DeAndre Jordan (pictured above) remains a double-double threat and the team is 5-2 since moving on from Griffin at the trade deadline. LA has blown a playoff series lead five-straight years, without Paul and Griffin, it would be poetic for this team to end the Clipper-Curse. 

Philadelphia 76ers – Make

Current odds: -1500, Implied Probability: 93.8%

Sixers make the playoffs 97.0% of the time

Trust the process. It has been five years since Philly made a playoff appearance. The odds suggest the streak ends this season and the simulations are even higher on a Sixers postseason berth. Philadelphia is 3rd in defensive efficiency (102.6 points/100 possessions) and has a good balance of young talent (Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons) and veteran leadership (JJ Redick).

Washington Wizards – Make

Current odds: -2000, Implied Probability: 95.2%

Wizards make the playoffs 97.3% of the time

Most squares won’t touch this bet. Recreational bettors aren’t interested in laying $2,000 to win $100, but this is free money. Washington is the current 4-seed and has managed to go 6-2 without star John Wall. Barring a setback, the point guard should be back in mid-to-late March. Plus, The Action Network’s Matt Moore has the Wizards as the most likely team to win the Southeast Division.

Denver Nuggets – Miss

Current odds: +260, Implied Probability: 27.8%

Nuggets miss the playoffs 30.5% of the time

The Nuggets were playing good basketball entering the break having won seven of 10, including victories over Golden State and San Antonio. The team also expects to get Paul Millsap back in early March. However, as the current 6-seed in the West, Denver is just two games removed from being on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin. Inconsistent play has been an issue for the Nuggets (recently lost to the Kings, Suns, and Hawks), and in a tight Western Conference race you can’t afford to drop games to the league’s bottom-dwellers.

Photo via Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports