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Futures Shopping: NBA 2nd Half Bargains & Ripoffs

The first half of the NBA season is in the can and while we’ve missed the boat on some big-money betting spots (hello OKC Thunder and your league-best 36-19 ATS record), the second half presents some intriguing futures betting opportunities, both in terms of bargains to jump on and ripoffs to avoid.

With the trade deadline in the rear-view mirror, we’ve got a pretty good indication of which teams are focused on the playoffs and which are focused on the draft. We’ve also seen some recent patterns in team performances that point to either success or disaster down the stretch and in the playoffs.

With all this in mind, here’s my best bargains and biggest ripoffs for the NBA’s second half:

All odds courtesy of BetOnline.

Best Bargains:

Mavericks to win Southwest Division (+210)

Dallas comes into the second half just 1.5 games behind the Rockets for the division lead, making this the best value play in division futures markets. The Mavs had a bit of an unusual first half when you consider they played much better on the road, posting a .692 win percentage compared to .517 at home.

I think they can maintain their strong play away from home with 11 of their 15 road games in the second half coming vs teams currently below .500. They’ll face some stiffer challenges at home, but I like the fact that they’ll host each of their two remaining head-to-head matchups vs the Rockets.

Eleven of Dallas’ 15 remaining road games come vs teams that are currently below .500.

As for the Rockets, who tend to run out of gas when they get a few rounds deep in the playoffs, I wouldn’t be surprised if they took their foot off the gas a little bit during the stretch run to be better prepared for the playoff grind. We’re already seeing Russell Westbrook sit in one game of back-to-backs and it would probably be in the team’s best interest to be extra cautious with James Harden.

Aside from that theory, something more tangible might be that the bulk of Houston’s road games are coming against high-level competition. The Rockets are a mediocre 15-12 on the road and eight of their remaining 14 road games are against teams currently above .500.

It should be a great race, but don’t be surprised to see the Mavs edge them out.

Pelicans to make the playoffs (+220)

After a brutal start, this team has really come together, posting a 16-9 record since December 23, which is the league’s ninth-best record in this span. As a result, they’re 5.5 games out of a playoff spot and I like them to leapfrog the teams ahead of them and get that eighth seed.

Maybe the biggest reason is because they have the EASIEST second-half schedule in the NBA with their remaining opponents combining for a .449 win percentage. Memphis, the team that currently occupies the eighth seed, has the hardest schedule in the second half, so the Grizzlies could have a hard time maintaining that spot.

Another major reason why I like the Pelicans’ push to continue is a significant improvement on the defensive end. Since their turnaround began on December 23, they rank seventh in opponent effective field-goal percentage. Up until that point, they had ranked 23rd. They’ve also been a much more efficient scoring team during this stretch, ranking third in EFG% after previously ranking 18th.

With Zion now officially in the fold, the Pelicans should be in for a great second half as perhaps the league’s most promising young roster.

Raptors to win Eastern Conference (+800)

The disrespect is real for the defending champs. Despite having the second-best record in the conference, they’re tied with the Heat for fourth-best odds behind the Bucks, Celtics and 76ers, which is totally asinine given the Sixers’ 9-19 record on the road (more on this in my ripoffs section).

Oddsmakers appear to have a short memory for what the Raptors did to the Bucks in the East finals last season when they completely shut Giannis down, holding him to 22.7 points in six games. That defense is still very much intact, with Toronto ranking second in opponent effective field-goal percentage, second in opponent turnover rate and second in points allowed per 100 possessions.

The Raptors’ 15-game win streak was evidence of how great they can be when fully healthy, and among the teams in the East they’re jockeying with for position, I think they have the best shot at bouncing the Bucks from the playoffs.

A sprinkle on the defending champs at 8-to-1 to once again win the conference might be the best value available in NBA futures markets right now.

UNDER 20.5 wins for the Warriors

Entering the second half with a league-low 12 wins, I don’t think this roster has nine more wins in it. You might be thinking, “But, Joe, Steph Curry is coming back!” Yeah, he’s set to come back after he’s re-evaluated on March 1 but there’s zero incentive to rush him back and zero incentive to push him hard when he does return, so don’t expect an MVP-level contribution from Steph.

With the No. 1 overall draft pick in play, this team does have a lot of incentive to lose, which will be made easier by the fact that they have the third-hardest strength of schedule in the second half.

They may have already thrown in the towel by dumping D’Angelo Russell, Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III at the deadline, meaning Andrew Wiggins is the No. 1 option until Curry returns. That’s rough and so is the outlook for any type of second-half success for Golden State.

Biggest Ripoffs:

Sixers to win anything (division +800, conference +650, Finals +1600)

No one does less with more than the Sixers, who often shrivel up like a group of seniors on a New Year’s Day polar dip when games get tight. Don’t be fooled into thinking there’s any sort of value here.

Besides the constant drama with Joel Embiid, and the fans calling for Brett Brown’s head (he should have been canned in the offseason), my biggest gripe with this team is its pathetic 9-19 road record. If you can’t win on the road in the playoffs, you’re not going anywhere.

The Sixers currently sit fifth in the East with some absolute studs ahead of them. In a best-case scenario, I think they can leapfrog maybe one of those teams and get home-court advantage in the first round, but after that, they’re toast. They’re a combined 1-6 in road games vs the Bucks, Raptors, Celtics and Heat so far, which is an awful look for a team that came into the season with big expectations.

Whatever you do, don’t trust the process.

Lakers to win Western Conference (+165)

Standing in the way of a conference title are some pretty big red flags for the Lakers that I don’t think makes them worthy of being the conference favorite, even though they enter the second half as the top seed. First is their 0-2 record vs the Clippers so far this season. If these two meet up in the playoffs, home-court advantage won’t exist, so that No. 1 seed won’t do them any good.

Second is the fact that this team is extremely top-heavy and did nothing at the deadline to improve its depth. There are still moves that can be made in the buyout market, but their weakness is their co-tenant’s greatest strength, with the Clippers leading the NBA in bench scoring.

One of the Lakers’ biggest weaknesses is the Clippers’ greatest strength.

We’ve seen the Clippers take their foot off the gas on many occasions this season in an attempt to keep Kawhi Leonard fresh for the playoffs. This is a strategy that clearly worked out for the Raptors last season.

The Lakers, meanwhile, have been full throttle for the most part. As someone who despises load management, I applaud them for this, but I hate to say it could come back to bite them if LeBron and/or Anthony Davis go into the playoffs beat up. That’s a big if, but either way, the risk isn’t worth the small reward for the Lakers to make it to the Finals.

Zion to win rookie of the year (+150)

Don’t do it! I thought this may have been a spot to jump on until I saw the odds. Zion is way too overvalued after a strong start that lands him in a highlight reel after each Pelicans game, but he should honestly be much closer to +500.

This isn’t a knock on Zion, who would be neck and neck with Ja Morant had he not missed such a big chunk of time, but he has no chance of catching Morant unless the Grizzlies standout goes down with an injury.

Morant has led Memphis to a surprising 28-26 start, already surpassing its season OVER/UNDER win total of 26.5. He leads all rookies who’ve played in at least 11 games with 17.6 points per game and 7.1 assists per game.

While the jury’s still out on who will have a better career, there should be no debate on who will win this award.

Orlando Magic to make the playoffs (-1000)

Currently holding the eighth seed in an Eastern Conference that gets very shallow after the sixth-seeded Pacers, the Magic are in the midst of a collapse that could see them fall out of playoff contention.

At 4-10 in their last 14 games, the Magic have been a disaster on offense and are starting to fall apart on defense, which used to be their strength. During this slide, they rank 28th in EFG% and 23rd in opponent EFG% while ranking 28th in free-throw rate.

Not that anyone is in a rush to make a -1000 bet, but this had fade written all over it considering you can get them not to make the playoffs at +700.

So, that’s who I like and hate for second-half futures bets in a season that offers a tremendous amount of uncertainty for the first time in a long time. Let me know what picks you’re eyeing for the second half and as always, KEEP CHASING THAT PAPER!