NBA Playoffs 2014 Preview

NBA PLAYOFFS PREVIEW:

To quote the great Marv Albert, “Yes!!!” The long-awaited second season (or ‘real season’ for the cynics) has finally arrived and will kick off in all its glory tomorrow. There are certainly some interesting series, especially in the West, and it is going to be great basketball to watch – but are there some good value plays out there?

Let’s take a look at some of my favorite value plays in opening round series prices, conference championships, and the NBA Finals winner.

OPENING ROUND SERIES PRICES:

Not every sportsbook will offer this wager, but most do, so you may have look around a bit. I’d also recommend you price shop to get the best value, as I’ve seen several different numbers on these prices.

Atlanta Hawks +450 vs. Indiana Pacers -600

Look, I get it. The Pacers have struggled down the stretch and the last time we saw them against the Hawks they got pasted by 22 points on their home court and scored just 23 points in the first half. So the Hawks are a great value play, right???

The Pacers are not losing their opening series to a team that won 38 games this year. They aren’t.   Teams go through their ups and downs in the doldrums of the regular season, but the chemistry woes in Indiana make a better media story than true disaster concern. Don’t be surprised if this series is done in five games. I’d be absolutely stunned if this series is tense for Indiana, which makes the -600 a pretty good value for the top seed.

Free Pick: Indiana Pacers -600

Other good value picks:

The San Antonio Spurs have not lost to the Mavericks in more than two years. They are healthy and well-rested. I don’t care about their first-round flub three years ago. They’ll dispatch Dallas with EASE. Minus 700 is a steal. It’s free money.

Plus-Money Value Series:

I think this opening round is going to star the favorites, but if you want a pair of long-shot value plays, here’s my two favorites. Golden State shouldn’t beat the Clippers, but the Warriors have enough offense and explosive capability to make things interesting. +300 is enough value to at least offer some hedge opportunities if they can steal one of the first two games. Likewise for Washington against Chicago. No one is giving the Wizards any chance, but they have an explosive backcourt that could give Chicago’s very weak backcourt some troubles. A healthy Marcin Gortat at least makes Joakim work all series on defense. +185 is a decent value for a sneaky-good Wizards team.

Value Picks: Golden State Warriors +300, Washington Wizards +185

Conference Champions & NBA Champs:

It really feels like you only have two options in the East; Miami or Indiana. The Pacers have given plenty of cause for concern lately, but do have home court advantage and seem to play better against the Heat than they do just about anyone else, so assuming they survive that far, it’s a decent value at +200.

The real interesting plays are the relative values of the Bulls and Nets. It is widely publicized that these two teams had the best records in the East post All-Star Break. But does either really have enough to get to the Finals? My take is NO, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some value in their lofty odds. If either can at least GET to the conference finals, then some great hedging opportunities exist.

My gut feel is that we are looking at a Thunder vs. Heat Finals once again. But that doesn’t mean that the Pacers, Spurs, Clippers and even the Nets or Bulls couldn’t crash the party.

Here’s my favorite value wagers.

Los Angeles Clippers to WIN WEST +550: The Clippers split the season series against Oklahoma City, and matchup fairly well with the Thunder should they meet in the second round. From there, you have a great hedge opportunity against the Spurs, who despite yet another fantastic regular season, still feel a little vulnerable to an explosive young team like LAC.

Chicago Bulls to WIN NBA TITLE +4000: Are the Bulls going to win the title this season with their best players being Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson? Not likely. But could they knock off the Pacers in Round Two and become an insanely tantalizing hedge value at 40 to 1? Sure. I like the positioning I can potentially get myself into with the Bulls at this steep of a price. But no, I do not really think they are winning the Title. And I like this play much more than Brooklyn at +2500, because of the tougher path the Nets would have to navigate to get through the East.

Indiana Pacers to WIN EAST +200: Why not? The Pacers are slumping? Sure they finished the season 12-13, but the Heat finished the season 11-14 and the Pacers have home court advantage should the two meet in the long-anticipated conference finals. I’d have a hard time picking them over whoever emerges from the West, but at 2:1 for the #1 seed in the East, it’s a pretty good value.

NBA Finals Exact Matchup: Oklahoma City vs. Indiana +800: At 8:1, I’ll take a flyer on this not-so-unlikely matchup. I still find it hard to believe anyone other than Miami or Indy is emerging from the East, and with OKC being the slight favorite to win the West, 8:1 is a nice value for this matchup possibility.

NBA Finals Exact Matchup: Miami vs. Oklahoma City +400: There isn’t as much extreme value in this wager, but this is my honest pick for what the Finals will look like this season. Four to one isn’t a bad payout to get the two objective conference favorites to advance. I’m coupling this pick with a Oklahoma City to win the title at +400, and hopefully will already have some cash locked in before the series starts!

Enjoy the second season – it should be fantastic this year, and of course, be sure to come back daily for picks and previews throughout the entire postseason.

Chris Scheeren / Author