Our Staff’s Favorite NBA Finals Series Bets: Is Toronto Undervalued?
Photo credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard
- The NBA Finals between the Warriors and Raptors will begin Thursday, May 30 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
- The defending champion Warriors are currently -300 favorites to win the title; the Raptors have +240 odds.
- Our NBA staff breaks down the matchup and gives their favorite series bets for the NBA Finals.
Bettors can wager on the NBA Finals in a variety of ways, including simple series prices or speculating on exactly when a series will end. Warriors in 6? Raptors in 7?
Our NBA experts are here to break down their favorite NBA Finals series bets.
Odds as of Wednesday afternoon.
Wob: Raptors +240 to win series, Game 1: Warriors HT/Raptors FT (+600)
I’ve been on the record all year predicting the Raptors to make the Finals, and now that they’re here — it’s decision time. I’m taking the Raptors for a couple reasons:
- Home court, where Toronto has proven to have one of the biggest advantages in the NBA. That arena sounds like Cameron Indoor Stadium but an entire country.
- The uncertainty of Kevin Durant. He’s already out Game 1, and we have no clue if he’s even coming back at all. If Durant was active and healthy, I think this would be a layup for the Warriors, but he’s not. He is the best basketball player on Earth; I do not care how much fun the “Strength in Numbers” Warriors are — they are missing a vital piece of what makes them so great. This Harassic Park defense is not Portland. This is a different monster. Steph is not going to be running around out there playing Duck-Duck-Goose with defenders like he was against the Trail Blazers; he is going to be draped by a 6’6” Godzilla with Inspector Gadget wingspan. What happens when Steph Curry can’t get open looks? We’ve seen this before.
- Game 7 is in Toronto if we get there.
- DeMarcus Cousins simply does not fit in this “pace-and-space,” free-flowing Warriors offense. Per just about every advanced analytic, they were significantly worse with him on the floor this season. Maybe he’ll play better without KD on the floor hogging up all of his touches, but I don’t know how he just figures it out in the fire of an NBA Finals after a major injury.
- This Raptors team has been through war. From losing Game 1 against Orlando and having to exorcise their playoff demons to the Game 7 thriller against Philadelphia to the bayonet fight against the Bucks … there is nothing that can spook them now. Oh, and by the way, they have Kawhi.
John Ewing: Raptors +240 to win series
Wob makes a compelling case for backing the Raptors, but do the numbers agree? To get an idea of that, I created a consensus projection to win the NBA Finals based on predictions from ESPN, CBS and FiveThirtyEight.
The models give the Warriors on average a 54.3% chance to three-peat, which means the Raptors have a 45.7% chance of ending Golden State’s reign. At +240 odds, the implied probability of a Toronto championship is 29.4%. That means there is good value backing Kawhi and Co. to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Ken Barkley: Warriors to win series (-290), Warriors in 6 games (+250)
For those of us who have large Warriors positions already from futures during the season and postseason, there’s really not a need to add MORE on a price like this in this kind of series, with so much injury uncertainty clouding things. If given the choice between the two teams in the current market at the current odds, though, I would take Golden State.
Think about how you felt about the Bucks a week ago. You watched them pummel Toronto in Game 2. You thought there was no way they were losing the series and were destined to face the Warriors. Sportsbooks started putting up Warriors-Bucks series prices. We all drooled over Giannis and a barrage of 3-pointers.
Remember that feeling? That’s how a lot of people feel about Toronto right now. And everyone’s wrong on both counts. It’s more a fad than substance. Just because the Bucks won the first two games didn’t mean there was a giant gap between them and the Raptors, and just because Toronto won the next four games doesn’t mean there was a giant gap the other way.
It’s just the way the games played out. And none of that means there’s a very narrow gap between either team and the Warriors. The Warriors are much better and will win this series a large percentage of the time. And how many times have we seen the better team lose the Finals? It’s a rare occurrence.
Yes, the injury to Kevin Durant — and on a much smaller scale, the injury to DeMarcus Cousins — makes things very interesting in the series, but interesting is not the same as “in doubt.”
It’s awesome fodder for between-game conversations and talk shows. Who is going to play and who isn’t? Would the team be better with Durant on-court or off? Is Cousins helping or hurting?
If neither player returns to play (and you could make an argument for both players about whether they should or shouldn’t return, especially if not 100 percent), I still think the Warriors are valuable at these numbers.
Evan Abrams: Toronto Raptors +1.5 games (+130) and Raptors in 6 (+1200)
I’ve thought all year that the Raptors were the class of the Eastern Conference. Their depth, playoff experience and home-court advantage are enough to look for a few props on Toronto to extend this series.
If the series is 2-2 after four games I am happy, especially with Games 5 and 7 at home, even with the Warriors stealing road playoff games left and right. If the Warriors are going to win, I believe it is going to have to come from Klay Thompson (my Warriors Finals MVP bet), given how they’ll defend Steph.
The Raptors are underdogs for a reason against the juggernaut Warriors, but I believe they possess the hungriest player in the series, and if I had to pinpoint the type of guy to potentially end the Golden reign, it would be Kawhi Leonard. After beating Milwaukee, Kawhi said Toronto “wasn’t done yet,” and I believe him.
Now for the fun part: I am going to grab Raptors in 6, too, at 12-1. If another team can take down the Warriors in the Finals, I think they will do it again on the road in Oracle.
The Raptors went 2-0 against the Warriors in 2019, and Kawhi Leonard is 18-10 straight-up and 17-11 ATS in Games 5-7 of a playoff series. I have a feeling those stats will hold up in these Finals.
Matt Moore: Warriors in 5 (+400), Raptors in 7 (+600)
Yes, I’m hedging. I want good return on this series and am willing to mess around a bit, since I will still believe til the day I die that Milwaukee was better and just got VanVleet’d.
Let’s say the Warriors take Game 1 vs. an awestruck, “just happy to be here” Raptors team and then protect home court in Oracle. Game 5 is a closeout with Kawhi potentially leaving, Durant likely back, the Raptors confidence ruined and the whole team just super happy they got that far. With how good the Warriors have been on the road in these playoffs? I like it.
Now, because I’m hedging that, I’ll take Raptors in 7 for similar reasons. Toronto loses one of the first two but steals one in Oracle because the Warriors have been oddly vulnerable there this whole season.
It’s 2-2, the Raptors take care of business at home, the Warriors won’t let Oracle close with a loss, the Dubs push to seven — and in a Game 7 Kawhi does his thing, Kyle Lowry hits a big shot and we have the storybook ending.
Those two possibilities are strong enough to where I can buy in. I lost so much on Bucks futures, I’m not even taking the safe overall series price. Go big or go home.
Matt LaMarca: Warriors -1.5 games (-150)
The Warriors have looked vulnerable at times this season, but they made quick work dismantling a Blazers team that wasn’t in their weight class. They’ll face a much stiffer test from Toronto, but it’s hard to bet against the Warriors now that they’ve gotten their groove back.
Draymond Green in particular looked inspired vs. the Blazers. He averaged 16.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 2.8 blocks and 2.3 steals in that series and looked energized on both ends of the court. It seems likely that they’ll get back DeMarcus Cousins and/or Kevin Durant at some point in this series, and if they can add them in without sacrificing Draymond’s production, they should be able to take home their fourth title in five years.
The one potential concern is that they don’t have home court, but history suggests they’re in a good position to steal Game 1 on the road. Teams with at least eight days of rest have posted a 17-8 record ATS during the postseason.