NBA Eastern Conference Futures: The Best Props to make the Playoffs

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Kevin Davis
Kevin Davis is an NYC-based sports bettor who travels to New Jersey to lay his legal sports bets. He is a former elected official, who is also a fourth-generation sports handicapper. As a sports handicapper Davis focuses on international baseball, MLB, NBA, College Football, and Canadian Football. Davis is an analytical sports bettor who builds his own mathematical models for betting on sports. He is a profitable sports bettor who enjoys sharing his insights with aspiring sports handicappers.

Kevin Davis shares his best Eastern Conference Playoff Props as we look forward to the new NBA 2020/21 season.

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Even though the 2019-2020 regular season only ended two months ago, the 2020-2021 season starts on Tuesday. There are many great futures to bet on, but as a bettor you should steer clear of futures markets with a high hold.

While you might get rich betting on which team wins the NBA championship, those markets come with a large house advantage. For example, the futures market on which player will lead the NBA in scoring has a hold of 46.4% even when you shop for the best lines. betting on which team will win the championship will typically have a hold of around 20%. This means that if you randomly bet on a team to win the championship, you should expect to lose $2 for every $10 you bet. This is a higher hold percentage than betting on a -110 spread which has a hold percentage of only 4.55%.

Typically, two-way future markets such as betting on a team’s winning percentage or if a team makes the playoffs have the lowest hold. After adding up the playoff props across all of New Jersey’s legal sportsbooks, I have decreased the average hold for each to team only 1.3%. This means that if I were to blindly bet $10 on a team to make or miss the playoffs using the best odds, I should only expect to lose $0.13.

Why Playoff Props?

When Basketball teams play through a season, their goal is to make the playoffs. A Basketball team’s goal is not to surpass their pre-season win projections, it is to have a chance at winning the NBA championship. What makes playoff props fun when it comes to the NBA is that 16 out of 30 teams make the playoffs. An additional two teams have an opportunity at the end of the season to make it into the new play-in tournament. This means that most teams have a plausible chance at making the playoffs. Additionally, teams can occasionally have a disastrous season and not make the playoffs.

For my playoff betting strategy, I am leaning towards betting on teams to make the playoffs rather than miss as more teams make the playoffs than do not. My betting strategy is to bet based on when my own predictions match up with the prediction website fivethirtyeight.com. While 538 has a reputation for their political analysis, they also do sports predictions. From 2016-2019, if you had bet every team to make or miss the playoffs where 538 disagreed with the betting odds by five percentage points or more, you would made 16.16 units for a return of investment of +26%.

For the Eastern Conference playoffs, I am betting on the Washington Wizards (-105) to miss the playoffs, and the Atlanta Hawks (-122) and Orlando Magic (+180) to make the playoffs.

Favorite Bet to Miss the Playoffs

Washington Wizards (-105) at Hard Rock

Before last season was postponed in March, the Wizards had a 24-40 record and were 5.5 games behind the Orlando Magic for the final playoff spot. When the season resumed in July, the Wizards went 1-7 in the bubble. The Wizards were missing their best player Bradley Beal during the bubble, but even without Beal they did worse than I would have expected. During the offseason Washington traded oft-injured Point Guard John Wall for Russell Westbrook. While the Wizards are expected to be better this season with the acquisition of Westbrook and the return of Beal, I think that the Wizards still miss the playoffs.

538’s player-based forecast gives Washington an only 11% chance of making the playoffs. I agree with their forecast because I think Westbrook has declined since his 2016-17 season where he averaged a triple-double and won an MVP. While Westbrook averaged a triple-double in the following two seasons, his win shares per 48 minutes declined from .224 in 16-17 to .166 in 17-18, and .124 in 18-19.

Last season Westbrook had only .098 win shares per 48 minutes which was the same amount of win shares per 48 minutes as Jae Crowder and Joe Harris. If the Wizards had acquired Harris or Crowder, they would not be considered that much better. That is why I am betting against the Wizards making the playoffs based on the betting markets overvaluing Westbrook’s effect on the Wizards.

Favorite Bets to Make the Playoffs

Atlanta Hawks (-122) at FanDuel

Last season the Atlanta Hawks finished with a 20-47 record which was the third lowest winning percentage in the NBA. That is why it might be surprising that FiveThirtyEight projects Atlanta to have a 65% chance of making the playoffs. While it should be concerning for Hawks fans that they did worse than The Knicks or Pistons last season, it is important to remember that they have not played since the 19-20 season was postponed in March.

Atlanta has a roster full of young players that will only improve this season. Additionally, the Hawks were active in free agency this offseason acquiring Rajon Rondo, Kris Dunn, Danilo Gallinari, and Bogdan Bogdanovic. Based on their young talent and new acquisitions, I think that Hawks make the playoffs this year.

The Hawks lineup is led by 21-year-old point guard Trae Young who averaged 29.6 points and 9.3 assists per game last season, and 23-year-old power forward John Collins who returns from an injury shortened season where he averaged 21.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Most importantly for Atlanta, is that their lineup is bolstered by Bogdan Bogdanovic and Clint Capela who did not play for Atlanta last season. The Hawks young talent and their new acquisitions are why I think they will improve enough to make the playoffs this year.

Orlando Magic (+180) at BetMGM

The Magic are a relatively unremarkable team who has made the playoffs each of the last two seasons. This offseason the Magic did not make any major changes and they only lost backup point guard DJ Augustin to free agency. Despite losing Augustin, Orlando has a 68% chance of making the playoffs again according to 538’s forecast. That is why it is surprising that they have +180 odds to make the playoffs.

The only way I could see the Magic missing out on the playoffs is if they are an 8th or 9th seed, and they lose their play-in tournament. Other than the Hawks I do not think that any other team in the East who was worse than the Magic last season has improved enough to take them on. That is why I am betting on Orlando to make the playoffs.

The Magic have a poor reputation partially because of their offense. Orlando averaged only 107.3 points per game last season which was the 7th lowest in the NBA. However, the Magic averaged only 102.2 possessions per game which was the 6th slowest offense in the league. Orlando’s strength as a team is because of their defense which had the 10th best defensive efficiency in the NBA. I believe that the Magic’s defense and relatively below average offensive will be good enough to get them into the playoffs again this season.

NBA Playoffs Series Bet Slip

$50 Washington Wizards to Miss Playoffs Pays $97.62

$50 Atlanta Hawks to Make Playoffs Pays $90.98

$50 Orlando Magic to Make Playoffs Pays $140

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