Value Bets (02/16/16)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
Bet the Spurs, not the Warriors, to win the NBA Championship.

Yesterday we released our updated NBA Playoff Probabilities. Golden State is the most likely champion but there is no value in backing the Warriors to repeat.

To determine if a team has value we look at what their current odds are to win the NBA Championship and compare that to our projected odds that they hoist the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy. For example, the Clippers are listed at 25/1 to win the title, in order for us to feel comfortable wagering on LA they would need to win it all 3.8% (which is 1/(1+25)) of the time. We project the Clips to win it all 0.3% of the time, meaning there is no value in placing a bet at 25/1 odds.

Teams to Back and Avoid

San Antonio Spurs
Current odds: 15/4, Odds needed in order to place a wager: 21.1%
The Spurs win the NBA title 38.0% of the time

The Warriors are the darlings of the NBA on pace to break the Bulls' regular season wins record and favorites to repeat. However, it is the Spurs that provide the best wagering opportunity. San Antonio is one of two teams (the other is Golden State) in the Association to be top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

The Spurs are dominating teams having won 24 games by 15 or more points – the third most for a team in NBA history at this point in the season. Coach Pop's team is also undefeated at home – only the Dubs can say the same. Home court advantage could be the deciding factor on which team (Spurs or Warriors) reaches the NBA Finals. San Antonio is 3.5 games back of Golden State for the top seed in the West. If the Spurs take over first place they would become the projected favorites to win the championship.

Oklahoma City Thunder
Current odds: 9/1, Odds needed in order to place a wager: 10.0%
The Thunder win the NBA title 9.7% of the time

A healthy Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka are a trio no one wants to face in the playoffs. The West's forgotten team has the third best record in the NBA. The Thunder have the second most efficient offense averaging 110.1 points per game and outscoring opponents on average by 8.2 points (the third best margin in the league). OKC has a difficult path to the title but as long as the injury bug doesn't bite, the Thunder are interesting contenders at 9/1 odds.

Cleveland Cavaliers
Current odds: 13/4, Odds needed in order to place a wager: 23.5%
The Cavs win the NBA title 3.2% of the time

You've got to know when to hold'em, know when to fold'em…the Cavs are a team to fade. Cleveland only has a 34.4 percent chance to win the East, let alone the NBA Championship. LeBron and company would be projected underdogs at home against the Warriors, Spurs and Thunder – the most likely teams they would face in the Finals.

To recap, the Spurs are the only team with actual value. The Thunder are the only other team that comes close to breakeven in terms of odds needed and the team's projected odds. Of course with the NBA trade deadline Thusrday there is potential for our analysis to change and for the value in NBA futures to shift.

2016 NBA Title Odds
Note: The Sixers, Lakers, Nets, Nuggets, Suns and Timberwolves are off the board.

Team Odds Odds Needed Projected Odds
Golden State Warriors 4/5 55.6% 45.1%
Cleveland Cavaliers 13/4 23.5% 3.2%
San Antonio Spurs 15/4 21.1% 38.0%
Oklahoma City Thunder 9/1 10.0% 9.7%
Los Angeles Clippers 25/1 3.8% 0.3%
Toronto Raptors 33/1 2.9% 1.5%
Chicago Bulls 40/1 2.4% 0.1%
Atlanta Hawks 50/1 2.0% 0.4%
Boston Celtics 50/1 2.0% 1.1%
Miami Heat 66/1 1.5% 0.1%
Indiana Pacers 75/1 1.3% 0.3%
Houston Rockets 100/1 1.0% 0.0%
Memphis Grizzlies 125/1 0.8% 0.0%
Charlotte Hornets 150/1 0.7% 0.1%
Washington Wizards 200/1 0.5% 0.0%
Detroit Pistons 250/1 0.4% 0.0%
Dallas Mavericks 250/1 0.4% 0.0%
New York Knicks 500/1 0.2% 0.0%
Sacramento Kings 500/1 0.2% 0.0%
Utah Jazz 500/1 0.2% 0.0%
Portland Trailblazers 500/1 0.2% 0.0%
New Orleans Pelicans 1000/1 0.1% 0.0%
Orlando Magic 1000/1 0.1% 0.0%
Milwaukee Bucks 1000/1 0.1% 0.0%