As the NBA season approaches its midway point, MetroBet looks for a couple of value plays in the futures markets.
Denver Nuggets to win the Northwest Division (+200)
The Thunder and the Nuggets are co-favored to win the Northwest about 40 games into the year, but Denver is the much better bet.
The Nuggets have a 1.5-game lead over Oklahoma City as of Sunday morning. At 16-3, their home record is among the best in the NBA. Visiting teams often make mention of how difficult it is to play in the “Mile-High City” despite the games taking place indoors. The numbers bear this out, as the Nuggets allow just 101.7 points per tilt at the Pepsi Center, among the lowest marks in the league.
Denver lacks the star power that Russell Westbrook and Paul George provide for the Thunder, but center Nikola Jokic is a brilliant player in his own right. He’s the team leader in points per game (18.8), assists per game (7.5) and rebounds per game (10.0).
Aside from second-year point guard Jamal Murray (18.5 points per game, 5.0 assists per game), the Nuggets’ starting lineup can vary wildly from night to night, making it harder for opponents to gameplan. Gary Harris (16.1 points per game) and Paul Millsap (13.4 points per game) have been providing solid secondary scoring all year, and the eagerly-awaited return of Will Barton (15.7 points per game last season) will only help bolster that.
Boston Celtics to win the Eastern Conference (+220)
Despite the significantly higher odds on the Celtics to win the NBA Finals (+800), bettors should take Boston to win the East instead. The West’s Golden State Warriors have been so dominant over the last few years that a mediocre first half of a season can only be held against them so much.
The Celtics are arguably the deepest team in the East, with six players in double-digit points per game. Kyrie Irving leads the way at point guard, as his 23.1 points per game and 6.6 assists per game are tops on the team. Rookie sensation Jayson Tatum has 16.1 points per game and leads Boston in rebounds per contest (6.5). Having Brad Stevens, arguably the best head coach in the league, on the bench cannot be overlooked.
Boston’s competition in the East isn’t exactly a collection of NBA bluebloods. The unproven Bucks and Pacers are among the conference leaders as of Sunday, along with the Raptors, who have made a habit of exiting the postseason early, and the 76ers, who struggle mightily on the road (9-11 through Sunday).