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NBA Championship Futures - Which Team Is Offering the Best Value?

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.

About the Author

Charles Jay is unlike most analysts associated with handicapping and the gaming industry, in that he also has had extensive experience in the so-called "mainstream" media as well.

He has been involved with professional sports industry for almost two decades, working in all capacities, as a matchmaker, booking agent, manager, and also as an editorial consultant on USA Network's "Tuesday Night Fights," which, for a time, carried "Charles Jay's Line" on upcoming fights. As a broadcaster, he has called world title fights around the world for various outlets, and has served as a color commentator for Sunshine Network and Prime Network.

His radio experience includes being the host of numerous programs, including "Sportswatch with Charles Jay" on KDWN in Las Vegas, "Total Action" on WAXY 790 in Miami, and "Charles Jay's Winning Edge", syndicated into 55 markets by the American Radio Networks, and he's done podcasts on all subjects related to sports, gaming and popular culture.

Working within the casino industry, he has a special events consultant for Casino Magic in Mississippi, as that venue established itself in the early 1990s as a hotbed of boxing activity in particular. Prior to this, he had been engaged as a casino gaming columnist for, among others, Casino Player, Card Player and Sports Form (now known as Gaming Today), specializing in blackjack. And later on, his investigative series on boxing, entitled "Operation Cleanup," won him much critical acclaim, including the 2003 "Dignity" Award, in the category of "Best Sports Writer," as bestowed by the Retired Boxers Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to rendering assistance to ex-fighters in need.

In 2006 he established a content services division of his company, which has eventually evolved in JayWords, and he is arguably the world's most prolific sports & gaming writer, with over 20,000 articles to his credit, the vast majority of which have been sports handicapping pieces. So you might say he has analyzed as many sporting events as anyone alive during this period. He has also brought some interest with his so-called "gimmick" odds on special events, including the Academy Awards, the NFL Draft, and the Super Bowl, for which he posted dozens and dozens of different odds propositions with various sportsbooks.

This renaissance man is a winner of the Retired Boxers Foundation's "Dignity Award" and a member of the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame; graduate of the University of Miami (Florida) who currently resides in the South Florida area.