NBA Futures for the Last Third of the Season

The last third of the NBA season is well on its way and it’s time to take a look at what the NBA futures market looks like! The ScoreMetrics Labs covers three of the main markets available in this article: Which teams will come out from the West and the East, and who will win it all this season?

We’ve pulled the odds from five different bookmakers for you. All of the odds are as of the 27th of February, 2020.

If you’re unfamiliar with futures in sports, take a look at this article that we did earlier.

Who will win the NBA’s Western Conference?

We covered the NBA’s Western Conference futures a little bit over a month ago and things haven’t changed much on the top. All of the bookmakers still clearly favor one of the LA teams to come out from the West against the rest of the field. Four out of the five sportsbooks we listed now like the Lakers over the Clippers.

Since our article in January, the Clippers have added Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson. Both have the potential to be good role players in their rotation. Injury problems have been a constant for Doc Rivers’ team. Their performances have been inconsistent, but they still sit at the third spot in the West with a 39-19 record.

At some point you have to start questioning whether they’ll actually be able to get healthy for the playoffs. But on the other hand, it’s very hard to bet against a team with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and a heck of a lot of quality players around them.

The Lakers added Markieff Morris in the buyout market and they just keep on rolling over opponents. The only big question mark with them is what happens when LeBron James is not on the floor. During the regular season, they’ve mostly had a negative point differential without James controlling the game, so they probably would have benefitted from adding a ball handler who can create his own shot and distribute the ball. Those sorts of guys are hard to find though. With shorter rotations in the playoffs, maybe this won’t become a problem for them.

Elsewhere, the Rockets leaned 100% into small ball by trading away their starting center, Clint Capela, and adding Robert Covington, DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Green. They’ve been on a tear with their small lineup – Russell Westbrook has been unleashed now that the paint is not clogged. He has essentially stopped shooting threes and is fully focused on driving to the basket and destroying the rim.

But most analysts agree that it’ll be hard for them to manage against bigger lineups in a 7-game series.

The Jazz and the Nuggets were both considered to be candidates for the Western finals before the start of the season, but they’ve fallen out of favor and all of the sportsbooks now consider the Rockets to be the biggest threat to the LA teams.

In our previous article on Western Conference futures, we laid out an investment case for the LA teams that still works as it is, since BetStars haven’t made any changes to their odds for the two teams. Here’s what we wrote:

If you believe that a team from LA will win the West unless something crazy happens, you can make an investment to both the Clippers and the Lakers that guarantees a win. Let’s take the odds from BetStars and look at a $1000 investment:

$500 to the Clippers win at 220 ($1100 ROI +110%)

$500 to the Lakers win at 250 ($1250 ROI +125%)

Who will win the NBA’s Eastern Conference?

The futures landscape at the top of the East is very clear. Milwaukee is still on pace to win 70 games this season and the bookmakers clearly favor them over everyone else.

You’ll quickly notice that there’s no clear consensus on the top contenders below the Bucks though. Philadelphia, Toronto, Boston and Miami are all in the same mix according to most bookmakers. But the differences in the odds of some of the teams are pretty amazing between bookmakers – look at Philly getting +250 at BetStars and +800 at Bet365.

Teams in the East didn’t do that much to add to their rosters. Miami was the exception here, adding Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder.

Philadelphia still probably has the most talent in their squad out of all the contenders in the East outside of Milwaukee. But the Sixers haven’t really found consistency during any part of the season and have been terrible in away games.

It doesn’t take an expert to see that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are without a doubt two of the best players in the league, but they both operate best in the paint and there’s usually just not enough room for both of them in there. The lack of shooting around them and Simmons’ back injury, which will keep him out for the foreseeable future, make it hard to believe in their chances right now.

Toronto has had an incredible run in 2020. Pascal Siakam has taken a leap this season and they have a squad full of players that can get you buckets and create their own shots, while playing with the heart of a champion. But against whom of the other contenders in the East will they have the best player on the floor?

In Boston, Jayson Tatum has been lighting opponents on fire in the last month. If he keeps this up, they might just be the biggest threat to Milwaukee’s quest for the Eastern Conference title.

Who will win the NBA Championship?

When we look at the table below, we’ll notice one change from earlier this season: the market has started to have faith in Milwaukee.

The bookmakers at DraftKings and Bet365 favor the Bucks to win it all, while William Hill and Caesars believe in LeBron’s Lakers. BetStars are the only one of the five that currently favor the Clippers.

The significant differences in odds for a team between bookmakers tell the story of how hard it is to predict the future and take into account everything that might happen between now and the end of the season. This is important to understand for smart investors – it’s rarely a good investment to put money on just one team. With the right odds and unit allocations, one can build a portfolio of multiple futures investments that will land a solid profit when one of the picks hits.

Again, it’s possible to build pretty solid diversified investments on who will be lifting the trophy at the end of the season, given the odds that are available. But careful analysis and risk assessment is needed here.

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