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Picking Preseason NBA Title Contenders

When the NBA season is about to get underway the attention of bettors inevitably is drawn towards the NBA Championship futures odds. For astute bettors these can be a great way to find some nice profit that can fatten the bankroll substantially. They are also a really easy way to make terrible bets that tie up your money without offering any chance of a value-filled profit. The trick, obviously, is to find the right bets and avoid the wrong ones. At the heart of that there is one obvious but often overlooked truth – there is no point in making a futures bet on a NBA team if they have no chance of winning the championship. In all sports there are some teams that are unlikely to win it all, and in the NBA that is more true than in any other major league. It is incredibly rare for a professional basketball team to come from nowhere to win a single playoff round, never mind a championship. So how do you tell if a team has a legitimate chance of winning it all? Here are six good questions to ask regarding basketball futures:

How close were they last year? – Each year there is only one team that ended their playoff run with a win. Every other NBA team lost at some point, and in most cases they did it sooner than they would have liked. The starting point, then, is to look at how close they came to winning it all last year. You need to look just beyond the playoff bracket here, When did they get eliminated? Did they play poorly on the hardwood, or was it just an unfortunate situation that led to their downfall? Did they lose to a better team, or to a lesser one? Did they lose because they were outclassed, or was it a close fight? The better sense you can get of why a team lost and how good they were last year, the better sense you have of what they have to build on and what they might be capable of this year.

What did they do in the offseason? – You need to spend a lot of time looking closely at every move that the team made in the offseason. Did they lose any starters? How about reserve players who were a key part of their rotation? Did they add any draft picks who have the talent to contribute right away? Did they add high profile free agent stars? Did they add free agents who aren’t stars but who can  be valuable? Ultimately, it all boils down to one question – did they improve significantly in an area they needed to, adding a point guard, power forward, center or other player? If a team didn’t make significant improvements then they are going to fall behind the other competitive teams that did improve. If you don’t improve constantly in the NBA then you aren’t going to enjoy success. It’s illogical to assume that a team that hasn’t improved is going to significantly improve their results on the court and be a good futures bet.

Is their core going to be significantly better? – Teams in the NBA are built around a core group of players – the stars who play the majority of minutes and produce the big stats, assists, rebounds, baskets and turnovers. In order for a team to be better they need their core to be better. If they haven’t made big changes to that core then when handicapping you have to look for the opportunity for internal improvements. Are some of the core players young guys who are going to get better as they get stronger and more experienced? Is the core relatively new as a unit so they will benefit from extra time playing and practicing together? Was a key player who was banged up last year healthy this year?

What’s the coaching status? – A NBA team that is going to win the championship has to have outstanding, stable coaching. That doesn’t mean that  there can’t be changes in the offseason. You just need to be confident that the transition was smooth, that the new coach is at least as good as the person he replaced, and that the players are likely to respond well to the new regime.

How strong is the division and the conference? – A team’s future has a lot to do with things it can’t control – most significantly how good the teams are around them. The better the teams are that they have to play their games against the harder it is going to be for them to shine. That will reflect in their eventual playoff positioning, and it will have an obvious impact on how hard the games are to win in the playoffs. If two teams are approximately equal then the one that plays in an easier NBA division and conference is going to be much more attractive in the futures market because they have fewer potential hurdles to jump over.

What’s the public perception? – One of the most important things to consider when looking at futures odds is what the public is feeling about a NBA team, and what impact that is having on the futures odds. A very popular team will see their futures odds set at a lower level than they otherwise would be, and that can eliminate the value of betting on the team. If the team isn’t a high profile team that the public has embraced then the odds could be higher than they normally would be, and that could make value easy to find. That’s key when is comes to NBA handicapping and betting on futures.

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