NBA playoff odds: A team-by-team cheat sheet heading into 2017-18 season
A look at each team's odds of making the postseason, and where the good value is to be found
The 2017-18 NBA season is just 40 days away. While the outcome -- a Warriors third title in four years -- seems assured, the trick will be in discovering how the season plays out for everyone else. And in the NBA, despite over half the league being playoff eligible, making the playoffs remains an important bar for evaluating team success.
The SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas released their playoff odds for next season last week. We thought we'd take a look and give you the lay of the land, and where the good and bad value is for each team in their efforts to reach the postseason.
Analysis: This one's too obvious, except ...
Atlanta's new GM Travis Schlenk made several decisions in pursuit of clearing cap space. Dennis Schröder is their best player, Kent Bazemore is behind him. There's no front court, to speak of. They are actively rebuilding. There's no reason for them to pursue the playoffs, this is strictly a reset year.
But we return to the East question. The Hawks still have the remnants of a 43-win team. They have some surprisingly good young talent and added some sneaky OK veterans in free agency. The Hawks won't be good. Good thing for them the Eastern Conference 8th seed won't be good either. It'll be the team with some combination of talent and coaching. The Hawks are short on talent, but their best player is better than a few in the East. One good month is all it takes. Is that worth a gambit at 14-to-1 odds?
Analysis: No money to be made on a sure thing. The Celtics will obviously make the playoffs next year.
Analysis: Well, if you can talk yourself into the Hawks, you can talk yourself into the Nets. Brooklyn was pesky last season, but still finished with the worst record and the third-worst point differential. Can a team with D'Angelo Russell as its best player find a way to 35 wins, a likely bar for the 8th seed in the East, no matter how bad it is? Their ceiling seems lower than Atlanta's, even if their floor is roughly the same. No efficiency on these odds.
Analysis: Finally an interesting one. The Hornets were in the playoff race throughout the whole season, despite a 7-18 stretch from January through February. The wheels came off for two months and they couldn't dig out. They also went 0-9 in games decided by three points or less -- an absolutely ridiculous mark that has some roots in clutch failure, and some roots in just random chance. Minus-360 isn't great payout, but when you consider that there are really only five teams you would consider "locks" for the playoffs (CLE, BOS, TOR, WAS, MIL), Charlotte is a soft spot.
Analysis: That combination of talent and coaching with Atlanta? It's absent in Chicago. Fred Hoiberg has struggled to put a positive imprint through two seasons in the league, and with Zach LaVine out for an indefinite amount of time and Dwyane Wade likely to be bought out before the season begins, the Bulls are going to be tanking from the get-go. This is a non-starter, either way.
Analysis: Here is the entirety of my analysis regarding the Cavaliers: "LeBron James." The end. (Stay away from this.)
Analysis: The "yes" is really tasty. Dallas has a lot of question marks, including a rookie point guard (never a good starting point) playing for Rick Carlisle (who either loves or loathes his point guards), an ancient Dirk Nowitzki and the coin flip on which Wesley Matthews is able to show up week by week due to injury. But here's what we know: They have shooting, rim protection, spacing, great coaching, good veteran leadership and some surprising depth. Since 2000, the Mavericks have missed the playoffs twice ... and never in consecutive seasons.
Analysis: The sweet spot, either way. The Nuggets have a team that was literally a game back of the 8th seed (Portland had tiebreaker, so technically it's 1.5 games), and added Paul Millsap. They have internal improvement expected and (at the moment), no injury red flags. They are deep, versatile and have a number of players who can make a jump, along with talented veterans. So "yes" is still low enough to get good return.
On the other hand: Millsap is 32. Their team's injury history over the past five seasons has been something out of American Horror Story. If Gary Harris and/or Nikola Jokic take a step backward, it's a disaster for the team. They have consistently lost heartbreaking games in bunches, which has strained the relationship between the players and coach Michael Malone (who enters the season with a year and a half left on his deal after Denver picked up his option in June). Denver had the second-worst defense in the NBA last season, and was the worst for most of the year. The Nuggets have too many power forwards and are always reluctant to make deals to clear up the rotation. And despite adding Millsap, they also lost Danilo Gallinari in free agency. There are a world of questions about this team. Plus-280 for "no," in a stacked Western Conference, seems like an efficiency area.
Analysis: Talk about a coin flip. The Pistons aren't great, or even really good, and may not be good period, but the East is terrible. If you dislike the other contenders in the East of the Miami-Philadelphia-Charlotte group, then you can pick up a little boost here. If you think there's a good chance the team melts down considering trade rumors for Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond last year, you can make an argument for "no," but it's not going to bring you much back for the risk.
Yes: minus-100,000 (No, I am not kidding)
No: plus-10,000 (Also not kidding.)
Analysis: It would take such a catastrophic series of events for the "no" bet to make sense that you would have to be discussing a completely separate reality. Even if Chris Paul or James Harden went down for months, they likely have enough to get to the playoffs at some seeding. There's no plausible scenario where Houston misses the playoffs.
Analysis: The "yes" being so low is interesting, and probably just a function of the above-stated East-being-terrible function. The "no" seems safe here. At a 20 percent return rate, it's not exactly going to put you in a new tax bracket, but it's also very strong on reliability. The Pacers lost their best player, and multiple starters. They have little to inspire confidence, even in a weak East.
Analysis: Another "not gonna get much back on a borderline case" situation. But plus-140 for missing the playoffs seems specious when they do have two borderline All-Star players and added a lot of depth in the Chris Paul trade and free agency. Yet, in the Western Conference, being a favorite to make it when you have multiple injury concerns in Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari that could sink a season is a concern.
Analysis: You're going to look at that plus-500. You're going to think about the majesty of the Lakers' tradition. You're going to think about how special Lonzo Ball is. You're going to think about how great Brandon Ingram looked in that one summer league game. You'll see Brook Lopez impressive 3-point percentage from last year and how he's played over 70 games the past three seasons. But this is a bad team. They won 26 games last year, added Ball but lost D'Angelo Russell in the Lopez trade, still don't have any plus defenders and play in the West. That voice in your head is going to try and talk you into that plus-500. Silence that voice and bury it deep down. Stay away.
Analysis: This is stunning. Memphis has made the playoffs the last seven seasons, still have two All-Star caliber players in Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, have some underrated depth and good coaching. There are holes in the Grizzlies' roster, but there's also opportunity for development and Conley and Gasol remain one of the best duos on the floor together in the West on both ends of the floor. Unless Vegas knows something deeply horrible about the team that no one else does (which of course isn't outside the realm of possibility), this seems like a prime opportunity to get a steal on "yes" odds.
Analysis: Return on investment on "yes" isn't great, but there are only two types of East teams: totally horrible and "very likely going to make the playoffs." You could hedge one of the longshots like Atlanta or Brooklyn with a small move on Miami and come out a little ahead in the long-run no matter what. Miami's got veteran NBA-caliber talent all the way through. If the East were tougher, they'd be in a lot of trouble; they're very low on "special" talent. But they're solid and well coached.
Analysis: "No" is sneaky good value here. Milwaukee was all over the map last season. The Bucks were good to start with, then their defense turned into hot garbage for two months, before settling down. They are reliant on an ultra-aggressive blitz scheme that, if the league figures out, can be exploited easily. They are young, and those teams often can struggled against adversity, and are entirely dependent on Giannis Antetokoumpo. They will still very much likely make the playoffs, but plus-550 is a very good number on them getting squeaked out if they wind up in the high 30's due to some terrible stretch that sustains itself.
Analysis: Like Milwaukee, that "no" has some good edge on it. The Wolves underperformed last year, wildly so. They added Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, big additions, but if they don't fit with the young kids, or if the team-wide struggles defensively continue and those two can't fix it on their own, there's a real chance things get dicey. If they fall back into that pack with the Nuggets, Pelicans, Blazers and the Clippers, they could find themselves on the outside due to tiebreaker. The "no" is worth considering, with "yes" being likely but so low for return.
Analysis: New York has a bad relationship with its best player, Kristaps Porzingis, is likely trading Carmelo Anthony for very little return, and has an underwhelming roster otherwise, with a rookie point guard. Even at minus-600, the "no" looks solid here. The Knicks remain bad.
Analysis: A coin flip set of odds. The "yes" is probably worth a look, given the fact that they do have two top-15 players on the same roster, no matter how many issues the depth presents. Those two plus Jrue Holiday should be good for 35 wins just among the three of them, and from there they only need to find about 10 more to secure a spot most likely. The Pelicans have not had great luck, but they're so talented. This is mostly a stay-away, but at plus-150, it presents some value.
Analysis: A playoff lock, even if the Paul George trade goes belly up and they're forced to deal him mid-season. They have too much on that roster around Russell Westbrook, and at minus-1400, no value to be earned off it. Stay away.
Analysis: The Magic had the third-worst mark in pythagorean wins last season; their record honestly should have been worse. They added no veterans in the offseason that will make an impact, and still don't have an identity. There's no way they make the playoffs, and minus-360 seems steep in the East. It's a stay-away.
Analysis: Plus-280 is a gift here. Yes, the Sixers should make the playoffs if healthy. But two of their three best players missed almost all of last season, and one of them has missed all but one of three seasons. Meanwhile, all three of their best players are under 25, and young teams don't win. The talent and hype has this team with big expectations, but no one should be surprised if they fall short and struggle. You have to learn how to crawl before you can walk, and this team has yet to learn how to win. Plus-280 is great value, even if I think they wind up in the playoffs.
Analysis: I can talk you into the "yes" bet here. Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Tyson Chandler, Marquese Chriss, Jared Dudley, Leandro Barbosa, Dragan Bender. Just talent alone, that team is better than some of the bottom dwellers. All it would realistically take from Phoenix is one good month of play and then just mediocrity the rest of the time. If the Suns suck into the conversation, they have the horses to push things in March. At plus-1200, it's great return, too. Phoenix may be the worst team in the West ... but the talent is there if it could find some momentum.
Analysis: They're in a cluster with so many other teams battling over the 6-8 spots in the West that they could realistically wind up missing out because of a tiebreaker. Getting even money on them to miss the playoffs with a flawed roster that has major defensive issues seems too good to be true. If you have had your inoculation against Nurkic fever, the "no" bet is pretty sound.
Analysis: I'm actually bullish on the Kings for once. I'm taking the over on their win total (28.5), and think they'll resemble an actual NBA team. But this is the Kings, in the West. Their veterans have injury and age concerns, their youngsters are still raw. There's no efficiency in that "no" bet, so it's a stay-away.
Analysis: Go ahead and drop that $400 on the "yes" bet so that you can get $20 back in return, go see a movie, and make better use of your time than analyzing if the Spurs are going to make the playoffs.
Analysis: I believe the Raptors are a good bet for their over on season wins (48.5), but I would be tempted to consider the "no" just for the chance this is the year everything blows up for them at a 6-1 return. However, in the East, just like the bar is low for teams to get in, that also means it's an impossibly low bar for teams to dip under. The Raptors would have to fall off by realistically somewhere between 10 and 15 wins to miss the playoffs, and that kind of drop-off is just not something you can believe in.
Analysis: Well, we're going to find out a whole lot about how good Rudy Gobert is. Gordon Hayward and George Hill are both gone. Ricky Rubio is in. The veterans are another year older, and will need to play bigger roles, and Rodney Hood absolutely must make a jump, and Gobert must stay healthy. They are right there in that pack with the others. If you find Denver's defense too big of an anchor, if you don't buy into Nurkic fever, if you don't think the Pelicans can solve the Cousins conundrum, then the Jazz seem like the most solid of options. The "yes" is decent payout if Utah's the one you believe in with its coaching and defensive strength.
On the other hand, there's a pretty good chance the Jazz's offense is a puddle of oil, and any swoon could put them in a hole they can't dig out of. These are really good numbers on both sides.
Analysis: Teams coached by Scott Brooks have missed the playoffs once, his first season, in 2009. Other than that, they are locks. The Wizards have two All-Star caliber players, continuity and a bench that is different and so it at least likely won't be worse than last year's tire fire. There's no value here, they're a playoff team, especially in the East.
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