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Tipico Tips: Finding an NBA playoff futures edge

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It’s Friday, and that means another installment of the Tipico Sportsbook Futures Friday on FTN Bets. Today’s sport is going to be the NBA. Some very interesting things are going on right now in the NBA futures market, and when I say interesting, I really mean potentially profitable.

Sometimes things just do not make a whole lot of sense to me when it comes to futures bets. I understand that certain teams are better, but when you look at some of the payouts being offered, the math does not make a ton of sense. When the math looks off, that means we have opportunities to capitalize on mistakes and I think that is where we are with some of these NBA playoff futures.

Here is what I mean. 

Betting on NBA futures at Tipico

We can start this discussion in either conference, but let’s take the East for now. On one side of the bracket, you have the Nets and Bucks tied at 3-3 going to a Game 7. The Nets are currently +105 to win the East and +190 to win the NBA championship. A week ago, they were minus money to win both, so the odds have crept up. Of course, this is one of those examples where something did materially change. Last week, they were up 2-0 on the Bucks with Kyrie Irving still in uniform. Now they are in a do-or-die Game 7 with Kyrie unlikely to play. As far as value goes, even with the higher payout offered, I do not think this is the spot we really want to be attacking. The Nets should have lost Game 5 and should be planning golf trips right now. Maybe they do find something and beat the Bucks Saturday to move on, but they still have two more series against top teams in the league to play with James Harden and Kyrie Irving both at way less than 100% health. It doesn’t seem like the smartest play.

Nets futures odds

If the Nets are a tad overvalued here, that means we must have some value on this side of the bracket. The Bucks are paying twice what the Nets are to win the championship at +380 and are also +150 to win the East, a 50% premium on the payout over what you get betting on the Nets. The kicker here is that both teams on Tipico are -110 for this Game 7 on the moneyline. Something here does not make sense. If these two teams are both even money to win this deciding Game 7, why do they have different payouts to win the East and the overall championship? If you like the Bucks to win Friday night, avoid taking them at -110 on this moneyline. Take the better payout by going +150 to win the East. Everyone is of the mindset that this series is the real Eastern Conference Championship and whoever wins this Nets/Bucks game is going to be favored in the next round. If you bet the Bucks to win the East at +150 and they do win Friday, you effectively set up a situation where you can take the underdog (Hawks/76ers) at plus money and also have the Bucks in hand at +150. If you bet an equal amount on Bucks +150 and the underdog to win the next series at plus money, you create a no-downside play where no matter who wins the East you make a profit.

If you prefer the Nets, the difference between the -110 moneyline on this game and the +105 to win the East is not worth the added risk of needing another series win. Therefore, if you want Brooklyn Friday, just take the moneyline as that is the better value and eliminates the need to wait to see your profit hit your account. 

Clippers futures odds

The West also has something not making much sense to me. I get that Utah should be favored if Kawhi Leonard cannot go, but aren’t the Jazz down 3-2 and heading back to Los Angeles off a home loss in a key situation? Utah is -125 on the moneyline here, which equates to a 55.5% chance of victory. Adjusting for home court, if they win, they will probably go into a Game 7 somewhere around -200, which means a 66% chance to win. So when figuring out the price, you would assume the Jazz win Game 6 about 55% of the time. If they win that Game 6, they would then win Game 7 66% of the time. That means the chance for the Jazz to move on is only 37% (two-thirds of 55%). Remember, the odds are telling us they lose Game 6 about 45% of the time, and even if they win Game 6 to stay alive they would still lose a Game 7 close to 33% of the time.

If they have a 37% chance to move on, that also means the Clippers have a 63% chance. Either team gets to face Phoenix next round, likely without Chris Paul for a few games. That should flip both to being favored early, even if the game is in Phoenix. The Clippers holding a 63% chance to move on here coupled with the softer opponent next round should have them as a bigger favorite to win the West and the championship than the Jazz are.

Yet when you look at the prices, this is not the case. Utah is the shorter price to win the whole thing at +600. The Clippers, who have almost twice the chance to move on, are 50 basis points worse at +650. The same is seen in the odds to win the West with Utah at +230 and LA at +270. Now is Utah the better team? Based on the regular season stats they are, but LA was not bad. Does not having Kawhi hurt? Absolutely. But they still had the firepower to go into Utah and win a Game 5 without him. Should the Jazz be the shorter price? If they win Game 6 Friday, then yes, they should. As of now though, the Jazz are less likely than the Clippers are to move on and yet the payouts are much better. This creates value on the Clippers side.

One warning I will give about the difference between the two conferences, though, is this: The winner of the Bucks/Nets is the likely favorite in the next round. I’m not sure if the Clippers would be favored vs. the Suns. Betting on the Clippers to win the West here gives you a decent +270 ticket for the next round if they vanquish Utah, but you will not get the same situation where you can bet the underdog in the next round and have two plus money tickets with a guaranteed profit. The Suns may end up as -150 to -200 favorites in the next round, so you would have to lay out more to get that situation where you limit your downside by hedging. It can still be done, but the margin may not be as wide as you would like. It might not be worth hedging it unless you make a sizable bet to begin with. 

Overall, the NBA playoffs have been very exciting. Injuries have played a major role though, and that is the big knock everyone has this year. The show must go on though and as we saw in the last game with LA and Utah, these teams are all capable of pulling out a victory even if they do not have one of their stars. I’m not sure how any of this plays out and neither is anyone else who tells you they do. Frankly I do not care either. Our job as bettors is not to predict the future, it’s to take advantage of the mistakes in pricing that are more likely to occur than the odds are implying. If you can keep that in mind when you make your bets, you will end up with more money at the end than you will by chasing these overpriced favorites in negative situations. 

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