Odds Check: Bucks Slight Favorites Over LA Squads

Odds Check: Bucks Slight Favorites Over LA Squads

This article is part of our Handicapping the NBA series.

We're still roughly a month-and-a-half away from the resumption of the 2019-20 NBA season, but that doesn't mean you can't start zeroing in on some betting angles.

Oddsmakers have been forced to adjust for some unprecedented variables as the league returns to play, and our friends at the Fanduel Sportsbook have issued updated odds on several team outcomes and individual end-of-season awards.

Team Futures

NBA Finals Winner

Milwaukee: +240LA Lakers: +260
LA Clippers: +340Houston: +1300
Boston: +2000Toronto: +2400
Denver: +2500Miami: +2700
Philadelphia: +2700Utah: +2900
Dallas: +3600Indiana: +10000
Oklahoma City: +10000New Orleans: +12000

As has been the case for virtually the entire season, the Bucks (+240), Lakers (+260) and Clippers (+340) are on a tier of their own at the top. For all of the uncertainty brought on by the delay of the season, it would remain a major surprise if Milwaukee doesn't meet one of the Los Angeles teams in the Finals.

The next tier is quite a bit thicker, with seven teams holding odds between 13/1 (Houston) and 29/1 (Utah). The Rockets' position as the third-best bet in the West is interesting and likely speaks to the unpredictability – and, in turn, upside – of a team that relies so heavily on isolation and three-point shooting. That all-or-nothing approach has haunted Houston in the past. But as the numbers indicate, there's a belief that if any team out West can pull off an upset, it might be the Rockets – even if that would mean vanquishing both LA teams before a (likely) meeting with Milwaukee in the Finals.

READ: NBA Roundtable – What To Watch For In Orlando

In the East, oddsmakers see Boston (20/1) and Toronto (24/1) as having the best chance to topple Milwaukee, but Miami (27/1) and Philadelphia (27/1) are close behind. As has been the case all year, there's not much of a consensus as to which of those is the second-best team behind the Bucks. Both the Heat and Sixers have had varying degrees of success against the conference juggernaut, but taking down Giannis and Co. four times in seven tries will be a monumental task.

Also of note is the absence of the Pacers from that secondary Eastern Conference tier. Indiana is all the way down at 100/1, despite holding the same 39-26 record as Philly and trailing Miami by just 2.0 games. The same gap is reflected in Fanduel's Conference Winner odds, with Indiana sitting back at 29/1.

Eastern Conference Winner

Milwaukee: -175Boston: +700
Toronto: +800Miami: +900
Philadelphia: +900Indiana: +2900
Brooklyn: +8000Orlando: +10000
Washington: +10000 

Western Conference Winner

LA Lakers: +160LA Clippers: +190
Houston: +700Denver: +1000
Utah: +1300Dallas: +1600
Oklahoma City: +3500New Orleans: +6500
Portland: +8500Memphis: +11000
Sacramento: +16000San Antonio: +18000
Phoenix: +25000 

If you're looking to pick the exact matchup in the NBA Finals, Fanduel offers 39 different options ranging from Bucks-Lakers at +300 to Magic-Clippers at +25,000 (would not recommend).

NBA Finals Matchup

Bucks-Lakers: +300Bucks-Clippers: +370
Bucks-Rockets: +1100Bucks-Nuggets: +1600
Celtics-Lakers: +1900Bucks-Jazz: +2100
Raptors-Lakers: +2200Celtics-Clippers: +2300
Heat-Lakers: +250076ers-Lakers: +2500
Bucks-Mavericks: +2600Raptors-Clippers: +2600
Heat-Clippers: +280076ers-Clippers: +2800
Celtics-Rockets: +5500Bucks-Thunder: +5500
Raptors-Rockets: +6000Heat-Rockets: +6500
76ers-Rockets: +6500Pacers-Lakers: +7000
Celtics-Nuggets: +8000Pacers-Clippers: +8000
Raptors-Nuggets: +9000Celtics-Jazz: +10000

Milwaukee being involved in five of the six lowest odds is no coincidence. For as talented as the top of the East is this season, there remains a sizable gap between the Bucks and the rest of the field.

Oddsmakers do see the Lakers as slight favorites out West, but the gulf between the Los Angeles teams is relatively minuscule. That Fanduel views Bucks-Jazz (21/1) as a more likely matchup than Raptors-Lakers (22/1) speaks volumes about the overall confidence that Milwaukee can pick up where it left off.

Fanduel also offers odds on whether the bubble teams in each conference will ultimately qualify for the playoffs following the eight-game finish to the regular season.

To Quality for Playoffs

New Orleans+360-450
San Antonio+1700-3500

Unsurprisingly, Memphis is the favorite to hold on to its current eighth spot in the West, but New Orleans (+360) and Portland (+420) aren't too far behind.

In the East, Orlando and Brooklyn are each heavy favorites to stave off Washington. Currently sitting 5.5 games back, the Wizards' best hope is to climb within 4.0 games of the eighth seed and take their chances in the subsequent play-in "tournament". The format would require the ninth seed to beat the eighth seed in two consecutive games to steal the final playoff spot.

Player Awards Futures

In terms of individual bets, Fanduel posts wagering opportunities for five of the major season-long awards: MVP, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, and Most Improved Player.

Most Valuable Player

Giannis Antetokounmpo: -2000LeBron James: +1100
James Harden: +8000Luka Doncic: +8000
Anthony Davis: +9500Kawhi Leonard: +9500
Damian Lillard: +10000Nikola Jokic: +10000
Russell Westbrook: +10000 

LeBron James may have started a conversation about the MVP back in March, but any chance James had to catch Antetokounmpo disappeared as soon as the season was suspended. Even if things had continued as normal, Antetokounmpo likely would've cruised to a second straight MVP with relative ease. Now, it's a virtual lock.

Rookie of the Year

Ja Morant: -3000Zion Williamson: +900

The Rookie of the Year award followed a similar narrative to MVP before the shutdown. Ja Morant was probably going to win, but Zion Williamson was building his case on a night-to-night basis. With only eight more games before votes are cast, Williamson, who's played only 19 games to date, simply won't have time to narrow the gap.

Defensive Player of the Year

Giannis Antetokounmpo: -140Anthony Davis: +105
Rudy Gobert: +1400Ben Simmons: +6000
Brook Lopez: +6000Kawhi Leonard: +6000
Joel Embiid: +9000Hassan Whiteside: +10000
Jimmy Butler: +10000 

Here is where things start to get a little more interesting. Antetokounmpo is the favorite to take home the award, but not by much. It's essentially a two-horse race, with Rudy Gobert (14/1) trailing the top two by a sizable margin.

Both Antetokounmpo and Davis have been fantastic on the defensive end this season. One helms the best defensive unit in the NBA, while the other protects the paint for the third-ranked defense, while also leading the league in combined blocks and steals.

Voters really can't get this one wrong, but it's worth noting that if Antetokounmpo were to win both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, he'd join Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players in league history to accomplish the feat in the same season.

Sixth Man of the Year

Dennis Schroder: -175Montrezl Harrell: +190
Lou Williams: +290 

A three-man race between Schroder, Harrell and Williams, the value lies in the two Clippers players. Schroder has enjoyed a surprisingly resurgent year playing behind Chris Paul, but voters may ultimately give Harrell the edge for his contributions to a potential title team. This one is probably a stay-away.

Most Improved Player

Bam Adebayo: -140Brandon Ingram: +260
Luka Doncic: +550Jayson Tatum: +1000
Devonte' Graham: +1100Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: +2700
Trae Young: +2700Davis Bertans: +10000
Domantas Sabonis: +10000Fred VanVleet: +10000
Jaylen Brown: +10000Lonzo Ball: +10000
Markelle Fultz: +10000Pascal Siakam: +10000

This is easily the most interesting awards race of the season. In a typical year, any of the top-seven players above would have a strong case to take home the award. And the same could even be said about some of the players – like Domantas Sabonis and Fred VanVleet – in the +10,000 cluster.

As the numbers indicate, Adebayo and Ingram are the projected top-two, and it's hard to argue against that. Adebayo made his first All-Star Game and emerged as one of the best young two-way players in the league this season. Meanwhile, Ingram completely flipped the narrative on his career, transforming his offensive profile and becoming a lethal scorer at every level. Choosing between the two is an impossible task.

Even bigger names lie beyond the top-two, with Luka Doncic (+550), Jayson Tatum (+1000) and Trae Young (+2700) lurking as dark-horse contenders. All three were All-Stars this season, but their respective leaps were more in line with expectations than Adebayo's or Ingram's.

Right or wrong, this award historically rewards players whose improvement was less anticipated.

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Nick Whalen
RotoWire's NBA Editor and host of the RotoWire NBA Podcast. Nick was awarded the FSWA Best Podcast -- All Sports award in 2017 and 2018. Many years ago, Stromile Swift gave Nick his unbelievably sweaty headband after a preseason game. Despite its failure to match his school colors, Nick went on to wear that headband for the entirety of his sixth grade basketball season. Catch Nick on Twitter @wha1en.
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