NBA preseason odds: Revisiting futures before training camp

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) tries to drive past Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) during the second half of Game 7 of an NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series. (Steven Senne/AP)

Well…if ever there was a time to fade the Boston Celtics…

With the start of the NBA season less than a month away, we’re getting into that period where the futures odds begin to calcify into what will become the official preseason odds we talk about at the end of the year when someone makes a playoff run. And despite Robert Williams’ injury, the Ime Udoka scandal, and Danilo Gallinari’s season-ending knee injury, Boston is still the odds-on favourite to win the title. That feels wrong.

This month is the last chance to get our futures bets in before lines start moving because of actual results. Now, as with live betting a game, grabbing futures as the lines move around once the season starts can produce some serious value. But isn’t it so much more fun to call your shot before tip-off and be right?

2022-23 NBA Champions

I grabbed the Milwaukee Bucks at +750 in June when the lines went up. That’s my official pick, but as those odds get less juicy every day, another team with a European former MVP in its front court is calling. The Denver Nuggets can be had at +1800. That’s a long line for a team that has Nikola Jokic and is getting its second and third best player back, and oh by the way, made a conference finals a few years ago.

Cleveland (+3300) is my favourite long shot on the board. Making that bet isn’t necessarily something I’d do expecting to win, but it’s almost like buying a season’s ticket to caring about the Cavs, which sounds fun.

The true stay-aways here are Boston (+600) and the Lakers (+1600). The degree to which the injuries and general bad vibes in the Garden will affect Cetlics players remains to be seen, and they could very well power through it all and win a chip. But I don’t care how sweet the odds get on the Lakers. Whatever you were planning on betting on them, just set it on fire and you’ll have the same likelihood of turning a profit.

2022-23 NBA MVP

Enough money has come in on Luka Doncic (+450) over the summer that the bet I made on him to win MVP at the start of the offseason has already appreciated slightly. After watching Eurobasket, it’s incredibly tempting to go all in on Giannis Antetokounmpo (+525), who the books have as the third on the list. Jayson Tatum (+1200) is worth a flier, even though I opened telling you to fade the Celtics.

This situation in Boston has all the markings of a team that goes “It’s us against the world” like Phoenix did last year during the investigation into Robert Sarver. I’m fading them, but a 60-win season wouldn’t necessarily surprise me.

2022-23 Rookie Of The Year

Chet Holmgrem is going to miss the season, a fact that bumped top pick Paolo Banchero’s odds from +350 to +180. On paper, Paolo seems like a lock. He’s going to get a lot of run, and Orlando is going to expect him to be a bucket getter right away. At +180 it’s not worth it though.

Shaedon Sharpe (+2000) was my longshot pick when he was at +1800, but an even longer shot caught my eye just this morning. Nikola Jovic (+6000) is way down the list with the likes of A.J. Griffin and Walker Kessler, but he’s exactly the kind of player Miami loves. He’s a high IQ, high versatility guy on a team that develops well and will be in contention all year. Plus there’s a non-zero percent chance at least one person votes for him because they think he’s Jokic.

2022-23 Sixth Man of the Year

Assuming he comes off the bench, I’m just as attracted to Anfernee Simons (+1600) as I was before the odds moved away from him. There is still the worry that he’ll be good enough that Chauncey Billups will have no choice but to start him.

Indulge me in a game of process of elimination. Jordan Poole’s (+400) odds aren’t tasty enough. Tyler Herro (+650) would be a repeat winner, which is rare for NBA season awards (though certainly less rare for this one than others). Bones Hyland (+1600) is always going to be on the floor with a minimum of two scorers better than him. The chuck first, think later vibe of Jordan Clarkson (+1600) has worn out its welcome with voters. And Cam Johnson (+1800) doesn’t score enough.

That leaves us with Simons and Malcolm Brogdon (+1400) as worth picks out of the top seven. I don’t mind either of them, especially if the Celtics come out the gate in F-you mode.

2022-23 Most Improved Player

My official pick remains unchanged. I took Anthony Edwards at +1100, a number that is now down to +900. However, the pair of New York Knicks is a fascinating proposition to me. This is a big if, but if the Knicks are a playoff contender next season, it’ll be because Jalen Brunson (+1800) and R.J. Barrett (+2200) are great. And the league loves nothing more than centering New York in any narrative.

Division and Conference Winners

Like betting on a playoff series, there’s not a lot of value to be had here in single bets. And like I did in nailing an eight-team parlay on the first round of last year’s playoffs, I’m going to find value in all the favourites. A parlay of Bucks-Nuggets-Heat-Grizzlies to all win their divisions will get you something in the +700 range. Milwaukee, Denver and Miami should all coast to division titles, and the Grizz are my “most likely to improve” squad this year.

I’m picking Milwaukee (+350) to win the East, and Golden State (+300) to win the West. If you want longer odds, stay away from the West because I don’t think anyone but Golden State or a healthy Clippers team is winning. But Philadelphia (+650) has the talent and star power to win any playoff series. Remember, you make a conference championship bet, you’re saying that team will make the finals. So if you can’t imagine them in the finals, don’t do it.

And as always, play safe and don’t chase.

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