The Brooklyn Nets are rather clearly the favorites to win the Eastern Conference, and indeed, the NBA title.
The Los Angeles Lakers are the #1 choice to win the Western Conference.
Is that a true reflection of reality?
This is something we touched upon in a previous piece, but now we're going to examine it from a whole different angle.
In looking at the futures odds to win either conference and the NBA title, we found some interesting perspective to offer in terms of deciding whether you might be able to get "the best of it."
2021 NBA Playoffs Probabilities
We looked at Baseball Reference (BR) the other day, in checking out futures and playoff possibilities on the diamond. The same folks also run Basketball Reference (a great site that you should check out), and they have calculated a formula as well - this one to calculate the percentage chance for each team to win their conference and ultimately the Finals.
The numbers are, in their words, "based on 10,000 simulations of the remainder of season, including the play-in round."
We've taken the liberty of converting those percentages into prices.
Interestingly, they have the Lakers at 110-1 to win the title and 41-1 to win the West. Meanwhile, bookies have them at +185 in the conference and +325 to win the title.
So if you wanted to follow the model at Basketball Reference, you wouldn't want to invest in them.
And perhaps shockingly, the Nets are in that boat too. Brooklyn is a -125 choice to get through the East and +175 to go all the way. But Basketball Reference has them at +560 in the East and +2000 for the title.
But where would we find something that constitutes value, recognizing of course that we should not expect to get prices in a sportsbook that reflects the "true" odds?
Well, Denver would probably qualify under this criteria. The Nuggets are listed at +800 and +1700 to win the conference and the Finals, while the Basketball Reference model has them at +870 and +1750. That's pretty close.
The New York Knicks can't necessarily be considered a prime contender, but they are given odds of +2800 to win the East, while the model has them at +1300 to capture the East title.
The Milwaukee Bucks would be a big value in this formula. BR has them at +190 and +550 for the East and the championship, while you can get +375 and +850 in the sportsbook.
The Phoenix Suns are +450 at America's Bookie to be the West champs, and +800 to go on to win the Finals. Those are pretty close to the corresponding percentages that Basketball Reference has them pegged at (+420 and +813). So they offer better value than most, but not even close to offering the best value of all.
Indications are that the Utah Jazz still aren't getting enough respect. Utah is given a 49.4% chance to win the Western Conference, which would translate to a price of +103. And they are afforded a 36.1% probability to win the NBA championship, which, if you wanted to convert that, would put them at a +177 price, according to the numbers from BR. That would make them by far the favorite to ultimately come out on top.
But in the sportsbook, you can get 3-1 (+300) on them to win the Western Conference playoffs and then +700 (7-1) to be crowned NBA champions,which puts three teams (the Nets, Lakers and Clippers) ahead of them.
Unless you've got some reason to automatically disqualify the Jazz, Salt Lake City might be the place you'd want to look.