Updated NBA Championship Odds: Betting Value After Opening Week

After the first week of the NBA season, which teams come with the most value according to our algorithms?

After their third championship in four seasons and the offseason addition of former all-NBA center DeMarcus Cousins, the Golden State Warriors have shown no signs of slowing down. They’re NBA title favorites once again, and bettors would have to lay some juice for a decent return. Golden State has -160 odds at the FanDuel Sportsbook, which gives an implied probability of about 61.5% to win the NBA Finals for the third straight year. However, our model lists the Warriors as having a mere 36.3% likelihood to win it all, meaning there is some value on futures for different NBA squads.

There are multiple teams with new looks and young players on the rise that seem to be ready for the ultimate challenge of dethroning Golden State,

Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are back from injury to carry a very deep Celtics team, while Kawhi Leonard moves north to lead the Raptors, and LeBron James took his talents west to help reconstruct the Los Angeles Lakers.

Here’s a look at the current title odds and implied probability for each team from FanDuel and how it differs from our model’s algorithms.

TeamTitle OddsImplied ProbabilitynumberFire ProbabilityDifference
Golden State Warriors-16061.5%36.3%25.2%
Boston Celtics+50016.7%10.7%6.0%
Houston Rockets+80011.1%12.2%-1.1%
Los Angeles Lakers+11008.3%3.4%4.9%
Philadelphia 76ers+18005.3%6.3%-1.0%
Toronto Raptors+18005.3%9.2%-3.9%
Oklahoma City Thunder+34002.9%2.0%0.9%
Utah Jazz+42002.3%2.6%-0.3%
San Antonio Spurs+60001.6%4.5%-2.9%
Denver Nuggets+80001.2%0.5%0.7%
Minnesota Timberwolves+80001.2%1.7%-0.5%
Indiana Pacers+100001.0%2.4%-1.4%
Miami Heat+100001.0%0.6%0.4%
Milwaukee Bucks+100001.0%2.3%-1.3%
New Orleans Pelicans+100001.0%1.6%-0.6%
Portland Trail Blazers+100001.0%0.6%0.4%
Washington Wizards+100001.0%1.2%-0.2%
Los Angeles Clippers+180000.6%0.0%0.6%
Detroit Pistons+210000.5%0.7%-0.2%
Cleveland Cavaliers+250000.4%0.0%0.4%
Dallas Mavericks+260000.4%0.2%0.2%
Memphis Grizzlies+290000.3%0.0%0.3%
Charlotte Hornets+360000.3%0.8%-0.5%
Atlanta Hawks+400000.2%0.0%0.2%
Brooklyn Nets+500000.2%0.0%0.2%
New York Knicks+500000.2%0.0%0.2%
Chicago Bulls+550000.2%0.0%0.2%
Orlando Magic+550000.2%0.0%0.2%
Phoenix Suns+550000.2%0.0%0.2%
Sacramento Kings+550000.2%0.0%0.2%

The teams that have positive differences (i.e. our model predicts a lower likelihood than the Vegas odds would imply) are the bets to avoid, while the negative differences are teams that have some betting value.

We can start by crossing off teams that have odds longer than 100-1, because they have virtually no chance at winning a championship. That eliminates about half of the league and it still includes many teams that our model gives less than a 5% probability of winning the title.

Of these teams, we’ve already covered why the Raptors and 76ers both make great title bets. However, there is one mid-level team on the rise in our model after one week: the San Antonio Spurs. Prior to the season, I recommended to bet the under on the Spurs' win total of 43.5 due to the loss of key defensive players Kyle Anderson and Danny Green.

We only have a miniscule sample size to work with (three games), but the Spurs have been predictably bad on defense, ranking 29th in defensive rating, per Basketball Reference. However, San Antonio ranks second in offensive rating despite an effective field goal percentage in the middle of the pack (15th). The Spurs' early offensive improvements can be partly attributed to the addition of DeMar DeRozan's scoring, but there are two other factors to note.

The first is that the Spurs are limiting turnovers even better than they were last season, in which they had three players in their rotation that had turnover percentages of 15% or greater: Anderson, Manu Ginobili, and Dejounte Murray. Anderson plays for the Grizzlies, Ginobili is retired, and Murray is out for the season with a torn ACL. Obviously, the Spurs will miss Murray over the course of the season, but the ball-handlers playing his minutes (and those of Anderson and Ginobili) so far are less prone to turnovers, leading to more volume in the form of possessions resulting in shots.

San Antonio has also created second chances by crashing the boards, as they rank eighth in offensive rebound percentage (28.8%). However, this uptick has more to do with improved numbers from the Spurs returning players, such as Pau Gasol, rather than personnel changes, so we’ll need a larger sample size to see whether this trend is sustainable.

A bet on coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs is worth a flier, but for bettors looking for a stronger contender to challenge the Warriors in the West, the Houston Rockets the best choice.

James Harden and Chris Paul were the best two players in the NBA in real plus/minus last season, and they were on the brink of beating the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals before Paul missed Games 6 and 7 with an injury. The addition of Carmelo Anthony is a downgrade defensively from Trevor Ariza, who departed to Phoenix over the offseason, but the Rockets still have the talent to keep up with the Warriors and are worth a look from bettors at their current odds.