NBA futures betting: which team will lose to Golden Stat in the final?

The Draft Kings Sportsbook has released its 2023 NBA title odds, and the Golden State Warriors have the second-best title odds, at +600 (meaning if you bet $100 on Repeat Dubs, you’ll win $600) . However, since Kevin Durant left Golden State and LeBron James left Cleveland, the path to the NBA Finals has been much more unpredictable. Last year, the Warriors were a distant 4th in the preseason, with odds of +1100, and rewarded bettors with an 11-to-1 windfall. The favorites? Not so good.

The 2021-22 favorites were the star-studded Brooklyn Nets, who entered the year at +230 to win it all, followed by the star-studded Los Angeles Lakers, who were second at +425 odds. Combined, these teams won exactly no playoff games, with the Lakers finishing 19.5 games below their projected wins and missing out on the postseason altogether. Where were the Boston Celtics, Eastern Conference champions? 13th, at +4000. Steph Curry ruined huge paydays for Boston fans who put their play money where it was before last season.

In the 2020-21 season, the result was similar. The world champion Lakers were heavy favorites to repeat, at +275, but finished the regular season in seventh place and were dropped in the first round. The eventual champion of the Milwaukee Bucks? Second, with odds of +550, although they lost a point to Kevin Durant in the second round. And where were the final losers, the Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns? Tied for 12th, and like Boston a year later, their title chances were +4,000.

And it was a bit the same in 2019-20! The Clippers were heavy favorites at +425, but they lost a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets, a Doc Rivers special. (Side note: If Draft Kings offers a “Doc Rivers blows a 3-1 lead” prop bet, bet the house.) Slightly behind in second place where the future champion Lakers, at +450. But where was their defeated opponent in the final, the Miami Heat? 14th, at +6000.

What can we learn from these trends? First, the big favorite isn’t going to win it all, which is obvious – the Warriors are going to repeat, and they’re not title favorites. What we can also deduce from this is that the loser of the final will come from the middle of the pack, based on the pre-season odds. Sorry, Celtics. It’s just game math.

So who is the best candidate to lose to the Warriors next June? Obviously, the Warriors will return to the Finals – what could go wrong with an aging squad, with three different basemen looking for new contracts after the season, turning half their bench? The Milwaukee Bucks title odds are +700, which is far too likely. Likewise, the Miami Heat are at +1400 and the Philadelphia 76ers at +1500 – way too high for a Finals loser in this era. We would consider the Brooklyn Nets at +1600, but only because the franchise seems in disarray. Still, the 9th best odds? Feels too high.

Instead, we’ll go for the 15th-place Toronto Raptors, who have the magical title odds of +4000, just like the Celtics and Suns before them. The Raptors have exciting sophomore Scottie Barnes, defensive genius OG Anunoby, NBA champion Otto Porter Junior and point guard Fred VanVleet, a man who becomes unstoppable when his wife goes into labor during the playoffs. They also have the ammunition to trade for Kevin Durant if the relationship with the Nets deteriorates further. It’s a potential rematch of the 2019 Finals and a chance for the Warriors to avenge another loss.

So. Toronto Raptors, Finals away, lock to go to NBA Finals. and lose. So basically bet them to win the Eastern Conference instead. (They are +1400, a great value!)

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