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Breaking down team future odds for the 2013-2014 NBA season

By Matt Moore | NBA writer

Odds are the Heat wind up back here again. (USATSI)
Odds are the Heat wind up back here again. (USATSI)

The house always wins. Oddsmakers spend all their days working on keeping the sportsbooks ahead of the gamblers on an overall statistical basis, and they do extremely well at it. They know what they're doing. With the 2013-2014 season just weeks away and everyone putting together their own set of predictions, we thought it would be fun to check in and see what two online betting sites say are the odds for various team futures

We chose to go with Sportsbook.com and Bovada.lv. If you're into this sort of thing, you probably have your own books you like to consider. That's great. You probably have reasons why you don't like either of those sites. That's fine, too. We chose to use these two for comparison purposes and if you really want to, you can go out and find whatever odds you would like. We went this way.

This also isn't a "SMART PICKS NOW" kind of post. This is more to give you a sense of how oddsmakers feel about certain teams, based on the comparative odds assigned to each team. This is more to suss out what the oddsmakers think about how the Grizzlies will perform this year, than it is to tell you who the sneaky good bets are (though there will be some of that; come on, it's a post about gambling odds). As always, only gamble under legal conditions and if you need help, please reach out for it. Related: if you're considering gambling on the Wizards' chances to win the Southeast Division, that's a strong sign you should give that link a whirl.

(Where noted, "SB" represents' Sportsbook.com's online odds, while BV indicates Bovada.lv.)

The Heavy Hitters

Championship Odds:

Miami Heat 13-5 SB, 2-1 BV;

San Antonio Spurs: 10-1 SB, 12-1 BV

Oklahoma City Thunder 7-1 SB, 8-1 BV

Chicago Bulls 8-1 SB, 8-1 BV


Obviously, the Heat are tops in the championship odds department here. No big shock with them being the two-time defending champs with the reigning MVP and three All-Stars on roster, all in contract years. They're also 6-5 to win the East via Sportsbook.com, and even money to win the East via Bovada. Pretty strong odds on an NBA future in October. From there, though, it gets interesting.

Let's start with the skepticism oddsmakers hold for the defending Western Conference champs to win the title. The Spurs come in well behind Oklahoma City and behind sub-contenders like Chicago, the Clippers, Brooklyn, Houston and Indiana at Bovada. (They land tied with Chicago behind the Clippers and Thunder -- and Heat -- at Sportsbook.com). Whether that's based on concern about the Spurs' health, the fact that teams that make the Finals and lose have historically struggled the following season, or just the unlikelihood of surviving a tough Western Conference, it's kind of odd that a team which has finished first, first, and second in the West the past the three seasons would come in so low. At the same time, you wonder if some function of that has to do with the movement and volume of betting on them.

OKC coming in behind the Heat shouldn't be a shock, though there will be some guffaws. The idea is that the Thunder have fallen, that trading James Harden have doomed them and that it's all downhill from here. While the Russell Westbrook injury issues have created reason to loosen collars to relieve the pressure in your Sunday best, the fact remains this team, without Harden, secured the No.1 seed in last year's playoffs and without Westbrook, there's no way to evaluate what they would have been. If you're putting money behind a "What if the Heat have a disaster?" possibility, OKC comes out pretty well.

How the West was Won

Western Conference Championship Odds:

Oklahoma City Thunder 11-4 SB, 7-2 BV

Los Angeles Clippers 4-1 SB, 7-2 BV

San Antonio Spurs 9-2 SB, 11-2 BV

Houston Rockets 11-2 SB, 4-1 BV

The Spurs have only slightly better odds of winning the West than Houston. More interesting? The Clippers are pretty strong to win the West. The Clippers are oddsmakers' darlings, tied with the Thunder at Bovada to make the Finals. Is the addition of Doc Rivers and two good wings enough to fix all their issues immediately? Are they just shortening? It's peculiar that the Clippers stand out what appears to be skull and hair if not head and shoulders above the West in oddsmakers' eyes.

I tend to try and stay away from superstar teams in their first season. For all the success of the Celtics after adding Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2008, you have the Heat's failure in the Finals in 2011, the Nets' squawking last season, and New York's trouble in 2012. So Houston, even at 12-1 SB, 10-1 Bovada for the title, 11-2 SB, 4-1 Bovada to win the West, has some red flags around it. But if you're into superstar power, and you want a sexy pick...

Western Conference Championship Odds:

Golden State Warriors 13-1 SB, 7-1 BV

Memphis Grizzlies 15-1 SB, 10-1 BV

The Western Long(er) Shots

How bad are the Suns going to be? The odds for winning the West go from 90-1 SB, 100-1 Bovada for the Kings to 250-1 at Sportsbook, 150-1 at Bovada for Phoenix. That's a cliff drop. The Kings are nearly three times as likely to go on an improbable run and win the West as the Suns. Just wanted to get that out there.

But if you're looking for something more reasonable, the Grizzlies, Western Conference Finalists last season, are substantial underdogs to win the Western Conference. Given the questions about the Thunder, the Grizzlies' success against the Clippers, and the possibility they might not have to play the Spurs in the playoffs, those are pretty interesting numbers. The Warriors are less lucrative in their odds, but given their success last year and the upgrades they've made, it's not a bad line of thought. If you believe they can secure homecourt, in particular, as a top two seed, it becomes more provocative.

And then... there's the Lakers. Sportsbook is down on them, at 35-1 to win the West, while Bovada is a more generous (to the team) 16-1. This is pretty much suicide, given Kobe Bryant's injury and that their best player on roster under 30 is Nick Young, but hey, it's the Lakers. If you believe in the Mamba, you believe in the Mamba.

Long Division

Division Championship Odds:

Clippers to win Pacific: 5-18

Warriors to win Pacific 5-2

Los Angeles Lakers to win Pacific 40-1

The Clippers are heavy favorites to win the Pacific Division at 5-18 via Sportsbook, with the Warriors behind at 5-2. If you're strong on the Warriors, this is a nice indicator of their strength, but again, you see how strong the oddsmakers are on the Clippers. The Lakers at 40-1 are an emotional bet, but that number being that high shows you it's not just pundits who have fear about what the Lakers will look like this season.

Thunder to win Northwest 1-4

Nuggets to win Northwest 6-1

Timberwolves to win Northwest 15-1

Let's say you think the Thunder are about to take a long walk off a short pier and that Westbrook's complications, mixed with a bad free agency period and the lack of a developed third option means they're about to be done. The Northwest Division has some interesting stuff. The Nuggets come in at 6-1 SB. But with so much changeover and a new system and an emphasis on unproven commodities like JaVale McGee, you can keep going down the list. The Timberwolves land at 10-1, while the Blazers come in at 15-1. That Blazers pick is one to perk your ears up at (if you think the Thunder could stumble.). They have the reigning ROY, an All-Star forward, and buckets and buckets of depth, along with continuity in their starting five.

Spurs to win Southwest: 6-5

Rockets to win Southwest 8-5

Grizzlies to win Southwest 15-1

Here's something weird. Sportsbook has the Spurs at 6-5 to win their division. Makes sense, cool story, the end. But the Rockets have substantially shorter odds to win the division (8-5) than Memphis (6-1), and are right behind San Antonio. It seems like Sportsbook has questions about their ability to win the title, but more confidence in the regular season.

Bulls to win Central: 5-6

Pacers to win Central: 13-10

Cavaliers to win Central: 18-1

The Central division figures to be a bloodbath this season, with four teams as legitimate playoff possibilities. The Pacers are in some ways the Spurs of the East, in that they get very little credit for having secured a top-three seed last year, won their division, and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals in a Game 7. Chicago lands as the favorite with Indiana coming in right behind. The Pacers struggled to start the season last year behind a wrist injury to Roy Hibbert and offensive woes. But with a revamped bench and the confidence they gained in that playoff run, should they really be behind Chicago, even at that slim a margin? Sportsbook is clearly all in on the Bulls, who have strong odds for the division, conference, and title (comparatively).

The Cavaliers coming in at 18-1 seems long, but you realize how young they are and how many injuries they have.

Heat to win Southeast: 1-100

Wizards to win Southeast: 15-1

Hawks to win Southeast: 20-1

The Heat are 1-100 favorites to win the Southeast, they're going to win the division, we're done with that. But the Wizards actually have better odds via Sportsbook to win the division than the Hawks. There's not going to be much action in a division the Heat will assuredly win, so why are the Wizards, with injuries and an unstable roster, behind an Atlanta team that added major contributors, has depth and what appears to be a good coach? The superstar effect has to be behind this. Oh, and by the way, the Bobcats are 500-1 to win the Southeast, five times longer than the Bucks' odds to win the Central.

Nets to win Atlantic: 5-8

Knicks to win Atlantic: 17-10

Toronto Raptors 10-1

The Knicks-Nets rivalry is being bitterly contested as to who will have the better year this season, and Sportsbook at least feels strongly about the Nets, at leaders to win their division. The Knicks trail at 17-10. That's a pretty hefty margin, and it shows how much the book has soured on New York after their big season last year. The Philadelphia 76ers and their grand tank experiment come in at 500-1. Quietly, the Raptors are 10-1 to win the Atlantic. Think about that. The book has the Raptors as more likely to win the Atlantic than the Timberwolves to win the Northwest.

Loose Ends

Finals matchups:

Heat-Thunder: 6-1

Heat-Spurs: 10-1

Heat-Clippers: 13-1

Heat-Rockets 12-1

Sportsbook's Finals matchup odds are fascinating. Heat-Thunder comes in as the predictable favorite at 6-1, with a Finals rematch of last year at 10-1. Oddly, the book puts the Clippers' odds at winning the West better than the Spurs', but the Spurs are substantially more likely to face the Heat than the Clippers to face Miami. Heat vs. Rockets comes in higher than Miami vs. Clippers, again, with the strong belief in the Dwight Howard-James Harden combo.

Let's say you're a skeptic of all the teams at the top. You think Miami's going to whither with Dwyane Wade's decline, the Thunder have doomed themselves by trading James Harden. Bulls-Clippers comes in at staggering 30-1 odds. Bulls-Spurs at 25-1. And if you're a big fan of the idea that experience trumps talent, how about the Nets vs. the Spurs at 45-1.

Dallas gets hammered by all of the odds in brutal fashion, but still have shorter odds than the Lakers of winning the title. If you want to look at tiers of teams, how about the Pistons coming in at the same odds to win the title (100-1) as the Cavaliers, Timberwolves, and Pelicans?

To go back to those Grizzlies odds, at 15-1 to win the West, they're tied with Dallas at Sportsbook. Bovada has them substantially higher at 10-1 while the Mavericks are at 25-1. Speaking of those disconnects, the Lakers go from 35-1 at Sportsbook to just 16-1 at Bovada, an interesting disconnect, even factoring the general difference in odd length between the two sites. I mean, don't get me wrong, you're shredding your own income if you're wagering on them under any circumstances, but the gap seems notable.

My favorite long-odds Finals matchup? Pacers-Rockets at 55-1. Under the "In Case of Heat Fail" postulate, that one looks right sexy. It would also be an incredibly fun matchup.

Speaking of, the "In Case of Heat Fail" postulate brings some interesting stuff. The Pacers or Nets at 13-2 on Sportsbook to win the East, and the Hawks' odds of winning the division both come into play. It's a little bit like betting on a meteorite hitting a house, both in tone and likelihood, but stuff happens.

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