The new year is coming which means that each NBA team has played just about a third of their schedule so far and teams are already starting to separate themselves both at the top of the standings as well as the bottom. All of the preseason favorites are pretty much hovering around the same preseason odds while other teams don’t seem to be getting the love from the odds makers that they deserve.
Starting in the West, the Lakers remain the favorite coming in at 5/2 which is nearly identical to where they started at 11/4. To my surprise there seems to be some nice value on the two teams in the West who have actually outperformed the Lakers so far this season. The Spurs currently hold the top seed and have odds of 10/1 while Dallas comes in at 2nd place in the West yet has 12/1 odds. Now don’t get me wrong, I know just as well as anybody that it is a very long season and we’ve barely scratched the surface so far. The standings in December surely don’t mean much as to who will raise the trophy in June, however neither Dallas nor San Antonio show me many flaws in their game. The Lakers are capable of taking nights off which I guess can be expected when you’ve won the past two championships and it’s still early on. I said it in preseason that there isn’t much value in betting on a team with less than 3/1 odds and it is even more true now that they have some stiff competition this year. I’m staying away from banking on a Lakers 3peat.
The same concept holds true as far as the East goes as well. The Heat were preseason favorites at 7/4 and are still getting a lot of respect from the books at 9/4. On the other hand the Celtics who just won their 14th straight game, are getting almost double those odds at 4/1. They’ve played the last few games of their streak without starting point guard Rajon Rondo and continue to rack up wins. They will also be getting starting center Kendrick Perkins back in the coming months. If you had listened to me during preseason and bet on Boston, you’ve got to like your chances at this point in the season. The Magic, who have just undergone a major reconstruction of their squad, holds the same odds that they opened with at 10/1 and are a sleeper team that I would still consider placing a wager on if you haven’t already.
It goes to show you that although odds makers obviously take results into consideration, they are always on top of public perception. People would rather put their money on big names like the Heat and Lakers rather than teams who are actually performing and the odds reflect that. Do not follow the crowd and place your money on Kobe and LeBron simply because they are Kobe and Lebron. One of those teams may very well get rings at the end of the season but the real value lies elsewhere.