The NBA playoffs getting underway Saturday, and basketball bettors will try to figure out where they might have an edge. The Eastern Conference is seemingly wide open, with LeBron James and Cleveland just the No. 4 seed, while out in the Western Conference, injury-riddled Golden State is suddenly suspect, with some sportsbooks actually lowering the Warriors to the second choice to win it all.
However, Golden State and Cleveland aren’t the chief concerns for oddsmakers. Covers takes a look at three teams sportsbooks are rooting against to win the NBA title, with insights from Tony Nevill, sportsbook director at Treasure Island on the Las Vegas Strip; Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill US in Vegas; and Mike Jerome, lines manager for offshore sportsbook TopBet.eu.
Houston Rockets – Opening odds: 12/1; Current odds: +150
With Chris Paul joining James Harden in the backcourt, Houston put together a stellar season, posting the best record in the NBA. The Rockets went a stout 65-17 SU (41-40-1 ATS), including an eye-popping 28-1 run from Jan. 28-March 30, a stretch that began with a 17-game winning streak.
“We’ve got big liability on Houston,” Nevill said. “Bettors pounded the Rockets. Injuries to Golden State left doubt in many bettors’ minds, plus Houston having home court.”
Bogdanovich now has Houston as the favorite to take the NBA title.
“We opened the Rockets at 30/1, now they’re even money. They’re the lowest-priced team,” Bogdanovich said, noting Golden State – which was as much as a -280 favorite – is now the +140 second choice.
Utah Jazz – Opening odds: 500/1; Current odds: 40/1
Much like Houston, Utah had a phenomenal final 2½ months of the regular season. The Jazz had win streaks of 11 games and nine games while going 29-6 SU in their last 35 outings. That allowed Utah (48-34 SU, 43-39 ATS) to leap from a team that was outside the playoffs to one that nearly nabbed the No. 3 seed before losing on the final night to fall to No. 5.
“The Utah Jazz are by far the worst for us. Infinitely the worst,” Bogdanovich said of William Hill’s position. “Most of the liability is at 500/1, 250/1 and 200/1. We’ve got some big numbers out there.”
Philadelphia 76ers – Opening odds: 100/1; Current odds: 16/1
Philadelphia is yet another team riding an extended streak of success. The 76ers (52-30 SU, 47-33-2 ATS) were a respectable 36-30 a month ago, then closed the season with 16 consecutive victories (11-5 ATS), cashing 10 in a row at one point.
“We are not rooting for the 76ers,” TopBet.eu’s Jerome said. “They were 100/1 to open, 80/1 for the first month of the season and 40/1 at the All-Star break. Philadelphia is currently 16/1.”
Nevill is equally unnerved by the Sixers. Treasure Island also opened Philly 100/1 and is now down to 10/1.
“Young bettors like the upcoming 76ers,” Nevill said, while noting the team’s catchphrase. “Bettors do ‘trust the process’ in Philadelphia.”
Oklahoma City Thunder – Opening odds: 35/1; Current odds: 33/1
Oklahoma City had a less-than-stellar first month of the season, despite the additions of Carmelo Anthony and Paul George to go along with the sensational Russell Westbrook. But the Thunder had a solid December among a few strong stretches of play that included an eight-game win streak and two six-game runs.
“OKC was 35/1 to open season, and after the Thunder’s subpar start, they climbed to 75/1,” Jerome said. “But the Thunder are currently 33/1 to win the NBA title.”
Nevill said Treasure Island has unusually high liability to Oklahoma City, so much so that a team that opened 50/1 is now at an anomaly-tight 13/2.
“We’ve got big, big liability on that, and I don’t want to take any more on that,” Nevill said of why his current odds are much tighter than other shops. “The majority of what he have was on three or four big bets, regional play that came into our location. Bookmaking at Treasure Island on the Thunder is not indicative of what you’d find at other locations.”
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.