With the All Star Weekend done and dusted for another year, let’s take a look at where things stand as teams head into the tail end of the season.
Now is a great time to dive into some futures markets and see where we can extract some value before Playoffs begin. On a whole I largely agree with the markets pricing but there are two divisions where we might be able to extract some value.
Atlantic Division winner
The Boston Celtics head into the All-Star break with a full head of steam and will look to continue their impressive turn of form to close out the regular season.
It’s hard to attribute their recent success to a singular entity but it has been a combination of roster reshuffling, with the acquisition of Derrick White being a huge boost to their rotations. The only other primary point of emphasis for this team has been health & if they can remain on the right side of that the team looks to be coming together nicely under new head coach Ime Udoka.
Before fumbling their final game against the Detroit Pistons, Boston was on a nine-game win streak; most notably absolutely demoralising division division Philadelphia 76ers by 50 points on their home floor.
Boston now sit on 34 wins for the year and are two games behind Philly for their respective division. Looking ahead they have similar strength of schedule and I expect this one to come right down to the wire.
While both sides draw a lot of similarities there is one big difference maker here; James Harden. With the Ben Simmons trade finally coming to light, Philadelphia take on the contract of Harden and will need to immediately hit the ground running. It’s going to come down to a decision of whether they want to continue Joel Embiid’s push for MVP or work on their rotations and set-plays to prepare for playoffs, and given these two are unlikely to exist together there’s certainly a decision to be made for Doc Rivers.
Essentially, we are betting on a complete side with the league best defensive metrics over a team that is learning how to best fit together and should be looking at managing Embiid’s health in what is very much a ‘win-now’ situation in Philadelphia.
Regardless of how you feel about the narratives, this is simply a price that has to be bet. Had Boston beaten Detroit this number would be much closer to the $2.50-$3.00 range bringing us closer to that 40% probability.
As it stands, anything upwards of $3.50 for Boston right now represents strong value.
Our best bet: Boston Celtics to win the Atlantic Division $3.90 at PlayUp
Central Division winner
The reigning champs head out of the break and play five of their next seven games at home as they look to make a strong push towards the Playoffs.
Over the next month the Bucks will have three opportunities to test their mental against Division opponents Chicago in what will likely turn the tide on this Division race.
Milwaukee hasn’t quite been the side we have been accustomed to seeing dominate the regular season, but this is hopefully a sign of maturity from Coach Budenholzer’s men as they look to take on one of the hardest accomplishments in basketball and run it back-to-back.
Milwaukee currently sits 2.5 games behind Chicago, who are riding on the coat tails of a career-best version of Demar DeRozen. There are, however, concerns regarding the health of this side with reports that Zach LaVine has been playing through discomfort in his knee along with a number of players currently out and looking to return to the lineup. The integration of players doesn’t always make an immediate impact and much like the Celtics this is a bet on squad through continuity if nothing else.
Another point of emphasis is that Chicago now faces the toughest remaining strength of schedule and will play more than half of their games on the road with significant rest disadvantages to match. The Bulls will play 12 road games in a 15-game stretch where only three of their opponents aren’t playoff contenders.
While the Bulls have been impressive this season, they have absolutely overachieved expectations and it will only take a small amount of regression to get this bet over the line.
Take the nice price on the Bucks to win their division as we look ride a couple of plus money tickets into what will be one of the most exciting post-season’s in recent memory.
Our best bet: Milwaukee Bucks to win the Central Division $2.00 at PlayUp