NBA Futures (1/14/14)

By John Ewing
After 50,000 simulations of the NBA Playoffs we find value in basketball futures: NBA Championship and conference odds. Odds courtesy of

To setup our NBA Playoffs we used our rest of season projections to determine which teams would make the postseason. As a result a couple teams (Detroit and Phoenix) that are currently in the postseason, if the playoffs started today, miss out.
In the Eastern Conference half of the playoff teams would have losing records. Three teams in the Western Conference with better records than seeds 6-8 in the East would be left out of the postseason altogether.
After 50,000 simulations, the most likely NBA Champion is the Indiana Pacers winning 39.5% of all simulated tournaments. Indiana defeats San Antonio in the most likely NBA Finals.
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 win the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. For example, Miami is listed at 21/10 to win the championship; in order for us to feel comfortable wagering on the Heat they would need to win it all 32.3% (which is 10/(10+21)) of the time. We project Miami to win it all 18.4% of the time, meaning there is no value in placing a bet at 21/10 odds.
NBA Finals Value Bets
Indiana Pacers (29-7, 1st in Central)
Current odds: 13/4, Odds needed in order to place a wager: 23.5%
Indiana wins the NBA Finals 39.5% of the time
Paul George is an MVP candidate and the Pacers have the most stifling defense in the league. Indiana has held 10 opponents under 80 points this season (Bulls second with 4). We are projecting Indiana to have home court advantage throughout the playoffs. As the No. 1 team in our Power Rankings, the Pacers would be favored to win over any team in Indianapolis.
San Antonio Spurs (30-8, 1st in Southwest)
Current odds: 13/2, Odds needed in order to place a wager: 13.3%
San Antonio wins the NBA Finals 21.4% of the time
The Spurs are arguably the most balanced team in the league: 6th in points per game (104.6) and 4th in points allowed per game (96.4). They are the league’s best road team (15-3) and first to 30 wins.
Conference Value Bets
The Indiana Pacers are the only team with value in betting them to win their respective conference. Since we have already discussed the Pacers above let's take a minute to talk about a team that you should not bet on, at least their futures odds.

Miami Heat (27-10, 1st in Southeast)
Current odds: 21/10, Odds needed in order to place a wager: 32.3%
Miami wins the NBA Finals 18.4% of the time
Miami is the prohibitive favorite and that is reasonable - three NBA Finals appearances in a row and back-to-back championships will do that. No team has three-peated since the Lakers in 2000-02 and nobody has been to four consecutive NBA Finals since the Celtics in 1984-87. Injuries and the grind of the NBA season will make it extremely difficult for Miami to win another championship, even with LeBron James.
Below are the odds for each team to win the NBA Championship. Plus, odds needed to place a wager and our projected odds for each team.
NBA Championship Odds

Team NBA Championship Odds Odds Needed Projected Odds
Heat 21/10 32.3% 18.4%
Pacers 13/4 23.5% 39.5%
Thunder 13/2 13.3% 12.4%
Spurs 13/2 13.3% 21.4%
Warriors 10/1 9.1% 1.2%
Clippers 14/1 6.7% 2.3%
Rockets 16/1 5.9% 1.5%
Trailblazers 16/1 5.9% 2.2%
Nets 40/1 2.4% 0.0%
Bulls 50/1 2.0% 0.0%
Mavericks 50/1 2.0% 0.1%
Knicks 50/1 2.0% 0.0%
Hawks 75/1 1.3% 0.2%
Timberwolves 75/1 1.3% 0.2%
Raptors 75/1 1.3% 0.5%
Wizards 100/1 1.0% 0.0%

Eastern Conference Odds

Team East Conf. Odds Odds Needed Projected Odds
Heat 2/3 60.0% 34.7%
Pacers 7/5 41.7% 61.0%
Nets 18/1 5.3% 0.0%
Bulls 25/1 3.8% 0.2%
Knicks 25/1 3.8% 0.0%
Hawks 40/1 2.4% 1.4%
Raptors 40/1 2.4% 2.4%
Wizards 50/1 2.0% 0.2%

Western Conference Odds

Team West Conf. Odds Odds Needed Projected Odds
Thunder 9/4 30.8% 12.4%
Spurs 11/4 26.7% 21.4%
Warriors 5/1 16.7% 1.2%
Clippers 7/1 12.5% 2.3%
Trailblazers 7/1 12.5% 2.2%
Rockets 15/2 11.8% 1.5%
Mavericks 28/1 3.4% 0.1%
Timberwolves 40/1 2.4% 0.2%