The NBA Finals are about to start. Needless to say, that means that there are a whole lot of props available for sports bettors to invest in. Oddsmakers are getting increasingly creative, so you can bet on pretty much any aspect of the series. With so much available, there inevitably are at least a few that are more than a little interesting. Here’s a look at a handful of the props that stand out in my eyes as being worth a closer look. For simplicity I’ll take all of these props from Bodog, but most online books are offering a wide range of their own:
Rajon Rondo points per game – over/under 16.5 – Rondo is at the center of much speculation in this series, and many people seem to see him as the key figure in the outcome of the whole thing. The public obviously expects Rondo to have a big series – the over is at -125, while the under is a more attractive -105. If the only information you were basing this decision on was the Cleveland series then the over would be the clear bet – he averaged 20.7 points per game in that series. In the other two series, though, he only averaged 14.6 per game. On top of that, his health is a question – he struggled with back issues late in the last round, and hasn’t practiced at full strength since. With all of the hype surrounding Rondo many people will automatically look to the over, but the under deserves a serious look.
Will Kobe Bryant win more NBA championships than Michael Jordan? – This is an interesting prop because it combines what you expect this year with a look into the future. Jordan retired with six titles. Kobe has won four so far. No is the clear favorite at -340. Yes is at +400, and a tie is at +190. If you believe that the Lakers will win this year then that puts him at five. He’s only turning 32 this summer, and he has a core around him that obviously works, so perhaps he can win one or two more. There are questions about Phil Jackson’s future, though, along with all of the uncertainty about where all the free agents will land this summer and what that will do with the power structure of the league. This bet likely isn’t attractive because your money would be tied up for so long, but it’s an interesting mental exercise.
Odds to win the NBA Finals MVP – The first step here is obviously decide who you think is going to win the series. If the Lakers win then there is no surprise that Kobe is the heavy favorite at 4/7. Someone would have to be dramatically better than hm to win it for the Lakers because it is so clearly his team. It becomes a much more interesting debate if the Celtics come out on top. Rondo is the favorite at 5/2, and will likely be the public choice in this series given how much ink is being spilled about him. If his health concerns you, or if you think that the Lakers are going to be focused heavily on containing him then you could look elsewhere. Paul Pierce has been fantastic through the playoffs and is at a nice 5/1. Ray Allen has been shooting the lights out, and you could easily see him being rewarded with the MVP as a sort of career achievement award if he has a strong series.
What will the largest margin of victory be – over/under 14.5 – This is another that is an interesting mental exercise that causes you to consider how you see the series turning out. Both the over and the under are priced at -115, so there is no particular tendency emerging one way or the other as of yet. Looking back at what has happened in the playoffs so far is actually a bit surprising. Most people would assume that because the Celtics are a defensively sound team and the Lakers are more offensive that L.A. would have gone over this margin of victory spread more often than Boston. In fact, that’s just not true. The Lakers have won three playoff games this year by more than 14.5 points, and have lost one by more than that. The stingier Celtics have managed to win four games by more than 15, and have lost two by more than that as well. Overall, the two teams have seen 10 of their 33 playoffs games end with a margin of 14.5 points or more. That’s almost a third, so it seems reasonable to think that it’s possible that it will happen at least once in this series. History supports that theory as well – the Celtics clinched the title in 2008 by winning game six by 39 points.