Staff Picks: Favorite 2018-19 NBA Futures Bets
Photos via USA Today Sports.
- The 2018-19 NBA season will tip off next Tuesday, Oct. 16.
- The Action Network NBA staff compiled some of their favorites NBA future bets for this upcoming season.
Don’t panic, but the NBA SEASON IS ONE WEEK AWAY!
And that means it’s time to get in your NBA futures bets. So without further ado, here are some of our favorite futures bets for this upcoming season, courtesy of NBA analysts Rob Perez (World Wide Wob), Matt Moore, Bryan Mears, Justin Phan, Ken Barkley and Evan Abrams.
Wob: Jaren Jackson Jr. to win Rookie of the Year (+1000)
He’s Giannis Antetokounmpo with a wet 3-point jump shot. Yeah, I said it, and you would too if he played in a city other than Memphis. I’ve never seen someone influence EVERY play, whether it is recorded in the box score or not, like this guy. He is EVERYWHERE.
Most importantly: His usage will be through the roof on a team with little depth or scoring ability.
Matt Moore: Cavaliers to make playoffs (+400)
I have them on the outside as the 9-seed right now, a game behind Miami. The Cavs have looked so good in preseason, though.
I know, it’s preseason, but I have a good sense for what to buy and what not to. Cleveland’s just capable. Even if Kevin Love can’t be a superstar who leads you to 50 wins, he can definitely be a reliable scorer and play-setter who gears you toward .500, which gets you well within range of the playoffs.
George Hill is basically Brussels sprouts at this point. The only people who say they love Brussels sprouts are trying to be the kind of people who say they love Brussels sprouts. However, you know the thing about Brussels sprouts? They’re really good for you! They’re an extremely nutritious food! And so it is with Hill.
They have some young guys with upside, and while I worry about the post-LeBron hangover, I also think it’s possible a lot of this roster makes more sense when they’re not in hyper-stress situations around him. No one will be gunning for the Cavs, and with the bar so low in the playoffs, I love getting 4-1 on a team with this much certified NBA talent.
Ken Barkley: James Harden to win MVP (+550)
He is the fourth choice in the market and should be the favorite. Of the league’s dominant, locked-in 50-plus win teams, the Celtics, Sixers and Warriors all either have two players who could share accolades (Philly), no real viable candidate (Boston) or no plan to play for statistical accomplishments (Golden State).
Giannis (and maybe Kawhi Leonard) are the only other two who really make sense here unless New Orleans is MUCH better than I think it will be. LeBron as the favorite is wonderful because the chances he wins are so low it makes other prices inflated.
Repeat winners are completely in play with this award, as a repeat winner has happened four times since 2000, and LeBron did it twice. This will be Harden’s second, and then he will pass the torch to Davis (on a new team) and Giannis to win the next one or two MVPs until Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell are ready.
Matt Moore: East futures
- Bucks +1500 to win the East
- Pacers +2000 to win the East
- Hedge with Boston -120 to win the East
I’m staking out territory like Walter White in the Eastern Conference. I’m not in on the Sixers: I just don’t think they’re there yet, and I think they overachieved last season.
I’m wary of Toronto: Even if things with Kawhi are copacetic and Kyle Lowry doesn’t blow a gasket, this team still has a roster defined by its playoff failures. Boston is the boring, safe pick. There’s a gap between the Celtics and the rest of the East.
However, Indiana and Milwaukee are incredibly interesting. They have continuity and good coaching. They have two of the top five players in the conference. They don’t have particular weaknesses holding them back; the Bucks defense should be vastly improved under Mike Budenholzer, and Indiana’s offense should only get better.
Milwaukee was one game from knocking off Boston and would have won with any other coach in the NBA, and Indiana was one game from knocking off LeBron, who’s no longer in the conference.
Meanwhile, as high as I am on the Celtics during the regular season, I still have some concerns for the playoffs. Can they manage not to be too predictable with Kyrie Irving running the show? Can they take over games within Brad Stevens’ system? And what if Giannis and/or Oladipo just wind up being the best players in the East playoffs?
With those kinds of payoffs, I’m in on an equal distribution of these three positions, with the Celtics as my failsafe.
Justin Phan: Trae Young to win Rookie of the Year (+1030)
There isn’t another rookie with a more direct path to minutes and usage than Young, who already has the inside track on Jeremy Lin for the starting point guard job in Atlanta. It doesn’t make sense that Young has longer odds than Collin Sexton (+456) and Marvin Bagley (+984) and comparable odds to Jaren Jackson Jr. (+1240) when all three are likely to come off the bench to start the season.
And while Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic have legit competition for touches and shots, Young has to compete with … Taurean Prince and John Collins. This award is all about counting stats, and Young is positioned as well as any rookie to deliver them.
Bryan Mears: Utah Jazz over 49.5 wins
The Jazz were a surprising team last season, largely thanks to rookie phenom Donovan Mitchell, who propelled the young squad to 48 wins. Don’t think it was a fluke, however: Considering the Jazz’s point differential, they actually played at a pace of 53 wins, so that should be a closer baseline than their 48 mark.
So we’re already looking at a value bet, and an increase of 1.5 wins over last season’s mark also doesn’t seem to account for this young squad getting better.
Mitchell will continue to improve in his second year, and Rudy Gobert, perhaps the league’s best rim protector, is smack in the middle of his prime. Ricky Rubio flourished in an off-ball role last season, and Joe Ingles is a lethal knock-down shooter.
Utah is talented and disciplined, and I think it has one of the most underrated coaching staffs in the league, led by head coach Quin Snyder. The Western Conference will be a bloodbath this season, but the Jazz are set up for a 50-win year.
Defense and discipline go a long way in the regular season, and that describes the Jazz perhaps more than any other team.
Matt Moore: Memphis Grizzlies to make playoffs (+500)
I do not have them in currently. I do not like their chances. But I like their chances more than their 5-1 odds indicate.
Who are the locks in the West? The Warriors, Rockets, Thunder and Jazz are locks. But… isn’t that about it?
Let’s throw in LeBron if you want to go down the road I travel, which is “I will believe LeBron James misses the playoffs when I do not see him play the opening weekend of the playoffs.”
So that’s five teams. Denver has one of the worst defenses in the league and always seems to have something going haywire. The Blazers are expected to regress, and Damian Lillard is getting cranky. The Spurs just lost their starting point guard, are in an organizational stress after the Kawhi Leonard trade and will play Pau Gasol heavy minutes. The Wolves are a dumpster fire. The Pelicans are uneven, and while I consider them a near-lock, they made some gambles on changes.
The point is, some of those teams will definitely make the playoffs. But a lot of them won’t. If there were seven locks and one open spot? OK. But at 5-1, for a chance Memphis grabs one of three available spots with two All-Star-worthy talents in Mike Conley and Marc Gasol plus a smart, talented roster? It’s worth it to me at that number.
Evan Abrams: Field vs. Golden State Warriors to win NBA Title (+150)
I’ll be honest … it wasn’t easy writing “Field vs. Golden State Warriors,” but let’s be real about what this bet represents. Realistically, it comes down to about four games in May or June and probably about 20 to 30 minutes of actual game time.
Forgetting the Cavs now without LeBron, Golden State has played almost 8,000 more minutes and over 30 more games than any other team in the NBA since 2014-15. Only one franchise in NBA history has made five consecutive trips to the NBA Finals: the 1950-60s Boston Celtics (10 straight).
Three teams have had an opportunity to go five straight since. The Heat after LeBron left (we can use that as a bit of an outlier), the 1987-88 Celtics and the 1985-86 Lakers. Both teams lost in the Conference Finals, with neither actually being able to force a Game 7.
The 1987-88 Celtics lost to the Pistons, whom they beat twice in their four-year streak, and the 1985-86 Lakers lost to the Rockets in just five games (the Lakers came back to win the title the next season in 1986-87 and 1987-88).
I will go with history and bet on the fact Golden State gets nipped in the Conference Finals by a familiar foe. With a weaker bench, more miles and a tougher Western Conference for the Warriors, I’ll take the field here.
Bryan Mears: Milwaukee Bucks to win Central Division (+110)
This is a bet I’m interested in because I’m quite high on the Bucks — we mostly all are here at The Action Network — but also a little worried about the other favorite, the Indiana Pacers. The Bucks finished four games behind the Pacers and six behind the Cavaliers last season, but they’ve had some of the league’s worst coaching over the past couple of years.
The addition of coach Mike Budenholzer, who will finally have them playing modern offensive and defensive schemes, will be huge. Plus, Giannis Antetokounmpo could very well turn into a LeBron-like force in the Eastern Conference as he approaches his prime. I’m buying all the Bucks stock this season.
And I’m a little pessimistic about the Pacers: They overperformed last season, and they got really hot shooting the ball. Before the New Year, Victor Oladipo was hitting a high percentage of pull-up 3s, and Darren Collison finished the season shooting nearly 47% from behind the arc. The Pacers don’t have a modern offense — they ranked just 27th in 3-point rate on the year — so any regression in efficiency could hurt them.
Don’t get me wrong: The Pacers will be feisty and disciplined — that’s a recipe for a good chunk of wins in the East. But I think they’ll trend a bit down, and I’m expecting a leap from the Bucks. I’ll take plus money on my conviction here.
Matt Moore: Charlotte Hornets to win Southeast Division (+1200)
You cannot tell me a team with Kemba Walker, capable NBA veterans and a few good young guys (Miles Bridges has looked awesome in preseason) should be 12-1 to win a division when the favorites include not just the Wizards, but the Wizards with Dwight Howard, and the Heat, who don’t have a single player you can identify as “their best.”
That number’s just out of whack.