NBA Western Conference Playoffs: Series Odds, Best Bets And Upset Picks
The NBA Playoffs tip off on Saturday with the Golden State Warriors huge favorites to advance past the Los Angeles Clippers in Round 1. Can any team in the Western Conference end Golden State’s reign of terror? Thomas Casale and Matt Schmitto break down the series odds in the Western Conference playoffs, giving out their best bets and sleeper picks.
Western Conference Series Odds
Odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook
LA Clippers (+4800) vs. Golden State Warriors (-20000)
San Antonio Spurs (+175) vs. Denver Nuggets (-270)
Portland Trail Blazers (+110) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (-170)
Utah Jazz (+210) vs. Houston Rockets (-320)
Favorite Series Bet
Schmitto: I’m a big Thunder fan and I’m certainly tempted to take them here but playing potentially four of the seven games in Portland leaves me a bit uneasy. My friends will kill me for saying this, but the way George has played the last month or so, Portland might actually have the best player on the court in Damian Lillard. I still think the Thunder’s pick-and-roll offense will be too much for the Trail Blazers with Enes Kanter starting down low — a big defensive liability. If Nurkic was healthy then this would be an entirely different series. Still, considering home court and Oklahoma City’s inconsistent play, I prefer taking the Denver Nuggets -270 in the first round.
I think there’s public perception that the Nuggets are a little bit of a fluke and that Gregg Popovich will have the Spurs ready for the playoffs, giving us value on Denver. Spurs have been bad on defense (No. 20 overall) and particularly bad on the road all year. Jokic will eat that defense up. I can’t see the Spurs stealing a game in Denver to give themselves a chance at advancing to the second round. I have Nuggets in 5.
Casale: We are on the exact same page with Denver. I really like the Nuggets -270 here. I rarely lay odds with a favorite but I actually feel there is some value here with Denver. Some don’t believe in the Nuggets because they haven’t been in this spot before. I’m not one of those people.
Gregg Popovich is a coaching legend and there is a concern that Pop will have a big edge over Michael Malone. My argument is the Nuggets have more talent, so while Popovich is a master of coming up with gameplans to confuse the Spurs’ opponents, he doesn’t have the horses to upset Denver this year. Popovich makes San Antonio more dangerous in Round 1 but that’s reflected in the odds. It’s why I think there is value with taking the Nuggets.
The two teams split four games in the regular season with each winning two at home. Home court advantage will be huge here because the Nuggets finished an NBA-best 34-7 at home this season. I’m with you Schmitto. Double-double machine Nikola Jokic dominates this series in the paint and the Nuggets win in six. Lay the 270.
Schmitto: I have a feeling we’re going to be on the same team again, Casale. The best shot and value for a first round upset is the Utah Jazz over the Houston Rockets. People will point towards the Rockets superb play after the All-Star Break, and rightfully so. The Rockets have the No. 2 net rating in the NBA after February 1st, in part because they finally got healthy towards the end of the season. But guess who’s ahead of Houston? The Utah Jazz.
Utah is one of the more difficult places to play, and if they can steal one in Houston then they certainly have a chance. One thing going against the Jazz is that they’ve lost almost eight games less than their point differential implies, so they’ve been on the right side of variance during the regular season. My favorite bet in this series is betting on it to go seven games at +185. I think this is better than taking the Jazz +1.5 because I have tough time picturing a scenario where the Jazz win 4-2. I’d rather take close to 2-to-1 on seven games exactly.
Casale: You are correct Schmitto, we are on the same side again. We had some disagreements on the Eastern Conference but we are together in the West. Also, nice stat on the net rating.
Here’s the thing: I like the Rockets to win the Western Conference but I’m taking the Jazz in this series. The reason is I bet numbers, not teams. While I believe the Rockets are the one team that can upset the Warriors down the road, they have to get past the Jazz first. Utah is a tough first-round draw because they always play hard and the Jazz have arguably the best home court advantage in the NBA.
The teams split four matchups during the regular season and surprisingly, three of those games were blowout. This will be a long series and I like Schmitto’s +185 for it to go seven games. I like the Rockets if they can get by the Jazz but this series will be a dogfight. The Jazz are worth a shot at these odds.
Western Conference Winner
Schmitto: Let’s be real, the Golden State Warriors are going to win again. We don’t want it to happen, but it’s going to happen. Even if Kevin Durant or Steph Curry go down, the Warriors would still be the favorite to win the whole thing.
I actually disagree with you on there not being value in a Warriors’ futures bet. I think the Warriors are still worth taking at -210 to win the Finals. Everyone hates the Warriors and I think it leads to a good number of futures bets on other teams. The Warriors also underperformed in the regular season, because quite simply, they don’t really care. I prefer taking the -210 to win the finals over -350 conference price, though. Once the Warriors get past the Western Conference you can just hedge if you really feel the need to.
With that said, if there’s a team I’m betting on to win the West not named the Warriors then it’s going to be the Oklahoma City Thunder at +2000 on FanDuel. If the basketball gods are just, they’ll give us this Western Conference matchup and they’ll be sure to make it a close one. If any team can beat the Warriors, it’s going to be Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. Of course, it will require Paul George and Russell Westbrook to both play like MVPs and maybe even an injury on the other side, but +2000 is better value than +550 on the Rockets or +1200 on the Nuggets in my opinion.
Casale: We finally disagree. I’m not high on OKC. So, I’m making two bets here because the Warriors are such a big favorite to win the Western Conference. I’m betting the Rockets +550 to win the West and the Bucks to face the Warriors +300 in the finals. This way, I get some money on the Warriors with the team I feel strongly will come out of the Eastern Conference, and I got action on the one team that can derail Golden State in the West.
Houston is one of the only teams that isn’t afraid of the Warriors. Some teams are defeated before the series even starts. The Rockets know they can play with Golden State and could have beaten them last year up 3-2 but Chris Paul missed the final two games of the series with an injury. Not much value here betting Golden State -300, so I’m going with the Rockets and the Warriors in a finals matchup with Milwaukee. I feel confident one of those will hit.
Schmitto: Playoffs start Saturday. I’m hoping for some quick first rounds series so we can get this show on the road. Both sides will be interesting after we get past these first-round matchups.
Casale: Agree. Not a ton of value in Round 1. Looking forward to cutting the fat. Sorry Clippers.