NBA Playoff Odds: 5 Value Bets You Can’t Ignore
The All-Star break represents the unofficial halfway point of the NBA season, though we’re already well past the actual 50% marker. Most teams have already played about 60 games to this point. Considering the regular season is 82 games long, the season is already about 70% over with.
At this point, the teams can be safely divided into 3 tiers. The first tier is comprised of teams whose playoff fate already appears set. These teams are just going through the motions and trying to get into the postseason as healthy as possible. They’re jockeying for home court advantage, but they’re not worried about missing the cut altogether.
On the other end of the spectrum we have teams actively trying to lose. Some may not come out and say it (though Mark Cuban already has), but there are quite a few clubs still vying to finish with the worst record in the league in hopes of securing the best possible draft pick this summer.
In the middle, we have a gaggle of teams still trying to inch their way into the top-8 in their respective conferences. These teams aren’t comfy enough to coast the rest of the way, but they’re also not trying to lose games. The playoff races are far from decided at this point. Which teams make for solid values to get into or miss the tournament at season’s end?
Los Angeles Clippers (+100 to make playoffs)
When the Clippers shockingly traded Blake Griffin to the Pistons last month, most believed the move signaled that the Clips were ready to tank. The team has been plucky all year despite a rash of injuries, but the Griffin trade seemed to indicate that the team was ready to punt on the season.
However, the actual result has been quite the contrary. Since the Griffin deal, the Clips surprisingly inked Lou Williams to a contract extension. The acquisitions of Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley in the trade indicated that the Clippers weren’t ready to throw in the towel on this season. DeAndre Jordan wasn’t dealt at the deadline either.
Entering the season’s unofficial second half, LAC is currently 9th in the Western Conference, just a half-game back of the Pelicans for the final playoff spot.
They’ve won 2 straight, including an impressive 10-point victory in Boston in their final game before the hiatus. The immediate upcoming schedule isn’t particularly friendly (at Warriors, at Suns, at Nuggets, vs. Rockets), but the quality of opponents eases considerably after that.
Even without Griffin, the Clippers have enough talent to make a playoff push. Harris has played well since coming over, ditto for Danilo Gallinari since he finally returned from his long-term butt injury. If Jordan can play with the amount of energy we saw after the deadline, this team is capable of making some noise.
With New Orleans wounded, the Clippers have a golden opportunity to sneak into the top-8. Don’t write them off. They’re a nice value at +100 to make the postseason.
Detroit Pistons +240
Speaking of the Pistons, they’re in the exact same spot the Clippers are. Griffin’s new squad finds itself in ninth in the East, 1.5 back of the tumbling Miami Heat. Detroit has been up-and-down since the trade. They won each of their first 4 contests with Griffin, and then went on to lose the next 3.
Obviously, this team is going to take time to gel with a new ball-dominant player in the fold. Having some time to practice during the break should help with chemistry, so the Pistons are a team to watch over the last 20 (or so) games of the year.
Griffin has shown that he can work alongside Andre Drummond, which was always going to be the chief challenge moving forward. Drummond is in the midst of a career year, but he’s not exactly the ball-dominant type of big man. As a result, Griffin’s excellent playmaking skills have made the tandem look like a natural fit alongside one another.
The rest of the roster isn’t all that inspiring, but Detroit has gotten an uptick in play from both Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson of late. Anthony Tolliver has also settled in nicely to his role as the third rotation big man.
Reggie Jackson will return from injury before long, and it’ll be interesting to see where he fits into all of this. Jackson is a score-first point guard, which may clash with a player like Griffin, who likes to have the ball in his own hands.
If you look at the teams immediately in front of them, it’s clear that the Pistons have a chance to get into the postseason.
The Heat have been in a constant downward spiral over the last few weeks, while the Bucks are still adjusting to life since the Jason Kidd firing. The young 76ers have struggled with consistency, while the unproven Pacers could also come back down to earth.
Given the level of competition, the Pistons make for a very appealing profit potential bet, especially compared to the Clippers. Detroit looks excellent here at +240 to make it into the Eastern Conference’s top-8.
New Orleans Pelicans (+110 to miss the playoffs)
Many hoped that the Pelicans would make the leap this year. DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis got a full training camp together, and GM Dell Demps surrounded his big man tandem with a solid group of complementary pieces.
Unfortunately, the team was essentially treading water over the season’s first few months before Cousins went down with a devastating season-ending Achilles injury last month. The Pelicans were already a mediocre defensive team with Cousins in there, but their defense has cratered without the big man patrolling the paint.
Since he went down, New Orleans has played at the league’s fastest pace, which leads to high-scoring contests. The Pels have conceded at least 100 points in all 9 games since Cousins was lost. The Pels have gone 4-5 over that stretch, though they do enter the break as winners of 3 straight.
Of course, those 3 wins came over the Nets, Pistons and Lakers. At least 2 of those teams won’t sniff the playoffs, while the Pistons are on the fence. The Western Conference is rather mediocre after the top 2 or 3 teams this year, but the Pelicans are still going to struggle to string together wins.
After Davis and Jrue Holiday, there just isn’t enough here. Nikola Mirotic has shown some promise since coming over from Chicago, but he’s nowhere close to as impactful a two-way player as Cousins is.
The Pelicans are currently 31-26. It’s going to take quite the effort to stave off the Clippers and the red-hot Utah Jazz for that last playoff spot.
Davis is a transcendent talent, but it’s hard to win basketball games alone. The Pelicans are a solid value to miss the Western Conference playoffs here at +110.
Miami Heat (+350 to miss the playoffs)
The Heat probably should’ve made the playoffs last season. They got off to a miserable start, only to go on an absolute tear over the second half of the season. They wound up missing the postseason thanks to losing a tiebreaker to the Bulls.
This year started off differently. As of January 20, the Heat were 27-19 and knocking on the door of a top-4 finish in the East. However, since then, they’ve absolutely gone down the toilet. The Heat have gone just 3-9 to drop into the East’s final playoff position.
Miami just has a weird collection of talent. Erik Spoelstra is a phenomenal coach, but it’s tough to project how this team is going to fare on a night-to-night basis. Hassan Whiteside may be the league’s most mercurial talent, and he hasn’t really lived up to the massive contract he signed before last season.
Goran Dragic is an All-Star, while Josh Richardson is arguably the best all-around player on the team. After that, though, it gets murky. Justise Winslow hasn’t progressed as they had hoped. Wayne Ellington is in the midst of a career-best year, but he’s not much more than a 3-point shooter. James Johnson has been inconsistent, as has Tyler Johnson. Dwyane Wade was just re-acquired, but there’s no telling what he’s got left in the tank at this advanced stage of his career.
The Heat have the talent to get the job done, and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see them climb back toward the top half of the playoff picture come April.
Still, a playoff berth is far from a sure thing at this point. The Pistons are really the only team capable of passing them. Do we trust Detroit enough to make a run?
We’re listing Miami here because the value is too good. Getting the Heat at +350 to finish the season on the outside looking in on the playoff picture comes with a hefty potential payoff. There are worse flier bets on the board.
Utah Jazz (-300 to make the playoffs)
It’s been a strange few months in Salt Lake City. Over the summer, the franchise’s fan base was devastated when Gordon Hayward decided to bolt for Boston. Most figured the loss of a player of that caliber meant the Jazz were destined to head back to the lottery.
While they’ve spent most of the season outside the top-8, things have changed in a hurry for Quin Snyder’s group. The Jazz were arguably the league’s hottest team entering the break. Utah is currently riding a league-best 10-game winning streak, and they’re now just a game-and-a-half back of 8th place New Orleans.
With Rudy Gobert healthy and Donovan Mitchell leading the charge offensively, Utah suddenly looks incredibly dangerous. Ricky Rubio has finally awakened from his season-long slumber and is currently in the midst of what may be the best individual stretch of his career.
The Jazz aren’t just housing the dregs of the league, either. Their streak includes 2 victories over the Spurs, a blowout win in Portland, a win in Toronto and a 30-point drubbing of the Warriors. The Jazz have been a stingy defensive team whenever Gobert is out there, but they now look like an offensive juggernaut all of a sudden.
Can they keep it going? Who knows. The All-Star break came at the worst possible time for the Jazz, that’s for sure. They’ve got a couple of games left with Golden State and Minnesota along with one more matchup apiece with the Rockets and Spurs. Utah will also have huge games against fellow playoff hopefuls like New Orleans, the Clippers and Portland before season’s end.
The Jazz have an excellent opportunity to get back into the playoffs in a year many had tabbed as a rebuilding campaign.
The Jazz at +240 to miss the playoffs is somewhat tempting considering they’re still only in 10th, but they have the look of a team that won’t be denied. Utah will make the playoffs.