Justin Savaso's NBA gambling recap

Justin Savaso’s NBA gambling recap

Back in October, we had Low Post Gazette contributor and regular “Restricted Area” guest Justin Savaso write an NBA Gambling Preview. With the 2016-17 NBA season in the books, he revisits those preseason bets.

I put down $300 of my own money on a variety of wagers that included team over/unders, division winners, and MVP odds. So how did I do? All in all, I came up in the green winning a total of $128.46 which is a 43% profit on my original investment. Three of the 11 team bets I made ended up being decided on the last day of the season and I was able to hit on all three of them. Better lucky than good. While cashing bets is always a pleasant experience, I simply enjoyed writing my first ever gambling preview/recap and will be doing a similar piece for the upcoming NFL season.

After that early plug, lets go back and take an in-depth look at what bets did and didn’t hit. The following bets down below are organized from largest to smallest total payout.

 

Utah Jazz

Bet No. 1: Win the Northwest Division at +260
Result: WON $26.00
Bet No. 2: Make the Playoffs at -300
Result: WON $10.00

The Jazz comfortably won the Northwest Division finishing 4 games above the second place Thunder. They certainly benefited from the Blazers disappointing .500 finish, but grabbing the Jazz at +260 looked like cash heading into the regular season. The scary part about the Jazz’s season is that despite winning 51 games, you could make the case they actually underperformed this year given their injury problems. The big three of Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert, and George Hill only logged 41 games together, while Derrick Favors limped through 50 games. Despite the Jazz’s success, they enter the off-season with major questions looming over them in free agency—nothing more pressing than resigning Hayward. If they’re able to bring their core back next year, I like them to improve even further.  

 

Golden State Warriors

Bet No. 1: Over 66.5 Wins at -120
Result: WON $25
Bet No. 2: Western Conference Champions at -250
Result: WON $10

My astute preseason analysis of the Golden State Warriors was that they would be a “really, really good basketball team”. Fast forward eight months and well, they didn’t disappoint. Given their postseason success, it’s easy to overlook just how close the Warriors didn’t come to covering that 66.5 over. Following Durant going down with a sprained MCL on February 28, the Warriors proceeded to lose five of their next seven games putting their chances to reach 67 wins in serious jeopardy.

How did they respond? Only by winning 15 of their last 16 regular season games, including a blowout win over the tanking Lakers in Game 82 to give them a final record of 67-15. Additionally, I grabbed the Warriors at -250 as Western Conference Champions which was never in question once Kawhi Leonard went down with a high ankle sprain in the Conference Finals. Vegas has already put out futures for next year and the Warriors are enormous favorites to repeat as champions, with their line currently set at -150.

 

Houston Rockets

Bet No. 1: Over 44 Wins at -115
Result: WON $21.74
Bet No. 2: Make the Playoffs at -145
Result: WON $13.79

I was high on the Rockets coming into this year and they exceeded even my lofty expectations. Behind James Harden’s near-MVP performance, the resurgent Rockets finished a whole 11 games over their over/under with a final record of 55-27. Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson (somewhat miraculously) were both able to stay healthy all year, helping Houston claim the league’s No. 2 offensive rating. Perhaps most surprisingly, this Mike D’Antoni-led team was able to move up eight spots in defensive efficiency from 2015-16, from No. 25 to No. 17. After a disheartening blowout loss to the Kawhi-less Spurs to end their season, the Rockets are the early winners of the offseason, acquiring Chris Paul in a sign and trade. My gut feeling is that CP3 and Harden will figure out how to play together despite their ball dominant tendencies. However, I anticipate a large initial learning curve making their over/under for next year something I plan on staying away from.

 

Brooklyn Nets

Bet: Under 20.5 Wins at -105
Result: WON $28.57

This was a fairly sizable bet (my third largest) that looked like a likely hit for most of the season. Sitting at 13-54 with a little less than a quarter of the season left, Brooklyn just needed to finish under .500 in their final 15 games to ensure they finished below 20.5 wins. Then, madness. They won 7 of 13 including ripping a three-game winning streak. Needing only one more win, they lost to Boston in Game 81 and luckily for me played a Bulls team fighting for a playoff spot in Game 82, which they proceeded to lose by 39. Admittedly, when placing this bet, I overlooked the fact that Brooklyn would have no incentive to tank at the end of the season. Don’t look for me to place a similar bet on the Nets next year with them owing the final piece, an unprotected 2018 first round pick, of the horrendous KG/Pierce trade.

 

Miami Heat

Bet: Miss the Playoffs at -270
Result: WON $22.22

Well that was almost a complete disaster. Wagering large amounts of money for small payouts always has the potential to turn sour quickly and I nearly experienced that here. The Heat sat at 11-30 at the midpoint of the year, with statistical models giving them a 0.3% chance of making the playoffs .

Behind the stellar play of Goran Dragic, James Jones, and DION WAITERS, they ripped off a stunning 13 game-winning streak which included victories over the Rockets and Warriors. That brought them to 24-31, and they just kept winning, closing out the year 17-10. On the last day of the season, they needed to win (which they did) and Chicago to lose in order to move a game ahead of them and grab the No. 8 seed. That Bulls-Nets game on the last day of the season had major implications for me: If the Nets would have won I not only would have a lost a net total of $82.22 on this bet, but also would have lost a net total of $58.57 on Brooklyn’s over/under which would have been a total swing of $140.79. Lets just be thankful the Bulls had something to play for, and disaster was averted.

 

Milwaukee Bucks

Bet: Miss the Playoffs at -160
Result: LOST $12.50

This one’s pretty simple: Giannis Antetokounmpo ascended to NBA Superstar level, Khris Middleton beat his original timetable, and this bet was history. The Bucks ended up finishing sixth in the East, despite losing Jabari Parker mid-season to a torn ACL. Learning my lesson from this year, I don’t anticipate on betting against the Greek Freak and this up and coming Bucks team anytime in the near future.

 

Denver Nuggets

Bet No. 1: Make the Playoffs at +275
Result: LOST $10
Bet No. 2: Over 37 Wins at -110
Result: WON $13.64

I liked the value of getting the Nuggets at +275 to make the playoffs preseason and they came damn close to doing it. One can wonder what would have happened if Mike Malone hadn’t made the head-scratching decision to play franchise center Nikola Jokic only 20-22 minutes the first quarter of the season. Still, the future looks bright in Denver and they’re an intriguing team heading into next year.

 

MVP Bets

Bet No. 1: James Harden to Win MVP at +1000
Result: LOST $10
Bet No. 2: Lebron James to Win MVP at +400
Result: LOST $10

It took a historic season from Russell Westbrook to edge out Harden in what was one of the most debated MVP races in years. James Harden had about as good as a year as I could have hoped averaging 29.1/11.2/8.1 with a 52.5 eFG percentage, only to have Russell Westbrook wrestle away the spotlight from him. Russ defied history and became the first player since 1981-1982 to win an MVP award on a team that did not finish in the top two in their conference (the Thunder finished No. 6). Putting as much bias aside as possible, my personal ballot would have had Leonard as MVP, Harden finishing second, and Russ right behind Harden.

Still though, I get it. Brodie dragged a pitiful roster to a 47-35 record in the rugged West and was the fiercest competitor in the league night in and night out. Add in his insanely clutch performance this year, and I can tip my cap to him all while thinking about what could have been. While having an extra $100 in my pocket (Harden’s payout if he would have won) would have been ideal, I can look back fondly on a profitable first NBA gambling experience and look to continue my success next year.

 

Team/Player Bet Type Odds Money Wagered Final Result
Utah Jazz Division Champions +260 $10 Won $26
Utah Jazz Makes playoffs -300 $35 Won $11.67
Golden State Warriors Over 66.5 wins -120 $30 Won $25
Golden State Warriors Conference Champions -250 $25 Won $10
Houston Rockets Over 44 wins -115 $25 Won $21.74
Houston Rockets Makes playoffs -145 $20 Won $13.79
Brooklyn Nets Under 20.5 wins -105 $30 Won $28.57
Miami Heat Misses playoffs -270 $60 Won $22.22
Milwaukee Bucks Misses playoffs -160 $20 Loss $20
Denver Nuggets Over 37 wins -110 $15 Won $13.64
Denver Nuggets Makes playoffs +275 $10 Loss $10
James Harden Wins MVP +1000 $10 Loss $10
Lebron James Wins MVP +400 $10 Loss $10