NBA Futures: The 4 Bets to Make

NBA Futures: The 4 Bets to Make article feature image

(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images) Pictured: Stephen Curry

The All-Star break is a great time to reexamine futures, look for fun markets, and make a few key bets. Many books reopen win totals for the first time, which means is the first time we can really bet most teams in a variety of ways.

Boston Celtics Under 63.5 Wins: -110, BetMGM/Caesars, 1 Unit

Are the Celtics this year's 2014-'15 Warriors? The Celtics are 43-12 and would need to go 21-6 down the stretch to finish over this number. Put another way, they'd  need to win 77.8% of their games. Over the past 10 seasons, 13 teams have won 75% or more of their games after the All-Star Break, and only four of those teams were in first place in their conference. In almost every one of those situations, the team was being pushed another, had a desire to finish with a certain seed or was focused on finishing with a fantastic record. The exceptions? The 2014-'15 and 2016-'17 Warriors, who were overloaded with talent.

The Celtics are six games up on the Cavaliers in the East. They are also going to prioritize health down the stretch, as keeping players like Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford healthy for the playoffs is a significant goal. Is there a reason for Boston to push at the same level it did prior to the All-Star break? I don't see one, which is why this is one of my favorite bets for the rest of the season.

Pacers to Get the No. 4 Seed: +750, DraftKings, .25 Unit

I already put this bet out on Twitter, but the reasoning is provided here for this collaboration with Michael Fiddle.

The Celtics have the No. 1 seed locked up, and the Cavaliers and Bucks seem almost guaranteed to finish second and third. That leaves the No. 4 seed, a coveted spot as it provides home-court advantage in the first round.

This essentially boils down to a five-team race between the Knicks, 76ers, Pacers, Heat and Magic. The Knicks and 76ers are the best of the bunch, but their injury problems loom large. The 76ers haven't been the same without Joel Embiid and the Knicks are missing four of their top 10 players.

On the other end, the Heat and Magic are sitting in seventh and eighth, but the Heat are also injured and the Magic are still super young, so I don’t feel as confident.

That leaves the Pacers, who are 2.5 games out of the No. 4 seed. Fiddle is particularly high on Indiana and while I hated the Buddy Hield trade, the Pacers are +7.7 points per 100 possessions when Pascal Siakam and Tyrese Haliburton are on the floor. The Pacers are getting healthy at the right time, have a solid coach and have more talent than any Indiana team in recent memory. I’d put them as the second favorite for the No. 4 seed (right behind the Knicks), but they are currently +750 on DraftKings. That’s too long for a healthy team with top-six talent in the East. (I'd still bet this at +600)

Warriors to Have Best Record After the All-Star Break: +2200, DraftKings, .2 Unit

Over the past 10 seasons, we've had a variety of different teams finish with the best record after the All-Star Break. If you evaluate the teams by their conference rank at the All-Star break, there have been four No. 1 seeds, four No. 2 seeds, one 5 seed and one 6 seed. Generally speaking, the already good teams often continued winning at a high clip and finished with the best record.

But, almost all of the teams had a stronger indicator — a motivation to finish with a better record for seeding purposes. Last season, the Bucks had the best record and were pushing to overtake Boston for the No. 1 seed. The Lakers had the second-best record, and they were pushing to make the playoffs from the No. 13 seed (they ultimately finished seventh). The year before, Boston pushed all the way from the No. 6 seed to the No. 2 seed, while Dallas had the second-best record and got the No. 4 seed after making a major in-season trade.

The four times a No. 1 seed finished with the best record all came from 2015-'18 — three times it was the Warriors, the other time it was the Rockets. The Warriors were an all-time team, and the Rockets were only one game up on the Warriors at the break and held them off.

The West looks to be extremely competitive for the No. 1 seed, so I looked at those teams first. The Wolves have a relatively easy schedule, but have seven back-to-backs during the second half and will only be pushed if one of the teams below them has a great record. The Clippers and Thunder will probably push to stay ahead of Denver, but the Clippers have a hard schedule and Oklahoma City took its foot off the gas in the second half last season. Denver has probably the easiest schedule and only two back-to-backs, but its motivation is just to be healthy. It doesn't seem to matter to the Nuggets if they get the No.1 or No. 4 seed.

The Warriors have a lot of motivation to win games in the second half of the season. They are 1.5 games back of the No. 9 seed and know how valuable each higher seed is in the playoffs. They have the fourth-easiest remaining strength of schedule per Basketball Reference and the sixth-easiest per Tankathon. Golden State has played the most clutch games in the NBA and just winning a few more of those would boost the Warriors' record. The loss to the Clippers was rough, but they have won four of their past five and may have found something by bringing Klay Thompson off the bench. I they have about a 10% chance of having the best record in the second half, which makes +2200 way too long for a team that knows what it has to do.

(When betting NBA futures, register with Action Network's DraftKings promo code today for a sign-up offer.)

Orlando Magic to Win Southeast Division: +125, DraftKings, .5 Unit

The battle for the Southeast is between the Magic and Heat, and I think the wrong team is favored. Both teams have an Over/Under of 45.5, but the Heat are -152 and the Magic are +125.

The Magic have the easiest remaining schedule in the NBA and have been better than the Heat this season. The Heat are also dealing with a ton of injuries. The Magic have a better net rating this season and only have 11 games remaining against teams over .500. These teams are currently tied, but the Heat have the tiebreaker. So, the Magic will need to win one more game, but with better health and an easier schedule, I think they will get it done.

I'd bet this down to -110.

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Nick Sterling
Apr 20, 2024 UTC