April 11, 2022, 3:57 pm
First off, feel free to skip ahead a few paragraphs if you don’t want to read the personal aside.
I wanna say a big hello to everybody after being put on injured reserve this season. If you haven’t seen me tweet or heard me talk about it I basically got hit with a repetitive stress injury from typing like a maniac my whole life, with an assist from sitting at a desk for way too long, bad posture and an overall unhealthy approach to my physical health. So I haven’t been able to produce as much content as I would like. That’s the bad news. That and having to dictate everything I write using voice software, which inevitably leads to a downgraded product, but I digress.
The good news is that I have been able to continue doing all of the research I would do in a normal year. At least that much was saved in this whole process. I wrote down the results of every total and side bet for every team and every game in the NBA regular season. I did that because I wanted to keep at least a minimal pulse from a betting perspective on how teams were doing and how they were perceived. The other good news? I’ve dropped a solid 50 pounds and I’m lighter then I’ve been at any point in time in life since I was a lockdown defender in high school. Forced by my rehab plan, I have a nearly impeccable diet except for a solid handful of cheat days every month (and I feel great about the whole arrangement). My body feels strong and limber again — I’m working toward playing in an over 40 league at some point. I still can’t type and I might never type much more than a sentence here or there ever again but in a way it’s been a blessing. If any of you are suffering from what you believe may be typing related pain — PLEASE hit me up — my story might be able to make a huge difference in your life.
I say all that just so you know where I’ve been and where I’m coming from as I just show up here in the playoffs and throw a couple haymakers. We’re locked and loaded and ready to go.
To set this article up — this journal is my playoff betting journey, minus the game to game plays. So futures bets and series bets, starting with the championship odds. It’s the type of thing that might have a different strategy from year to year. But before we dive into strategy let’s quickly acknowledge that playing a postseason in this manner is a constantly changing chessboard. Investing in the teams that you like and having early success, especially on underdogs that the public hasn’t caught up on yet, can give you ways to hedge into guaranteed profit or even leverage the guaranteed returns into huge upside in future plays.
This year, because Phoenix is so complete on both sides of the ball and Chris Paul looks all the way healthy, and so many other reasons, we want to jump out to a big position on them while we’re still getting pushback by the public on how good they are. There aren’t too many championship teams from the last 20 years that I would put ahead of them in terms of raw expectation. That is, what you expect them to do when the ball gets tipped. We’ll see if that’s right or wrong but as you can see in the chart below they are anchoring the strategy.
Before we go team by team here let’s talk a bit about how I am handling units and overall strategy. Typically units mean whatever your roll is for the season. Here, it’s a target for how much we want to spend on this journey (choose your own adventure). Because we could either experience an accelerated betting strategy as the playoffs progress — one where we want to hit the gas on how much cash we put in the furnace, or conversely one where small bets actually make more sense, whether in profit or loss scenarios, we have to remain flexible on that front.
So I set a target unit distribution for each stage of the playoffs, and my first step here was to figure out what percentage of my roll I wanted to spend on the pre-flop action. As you can see, I have six teams I’m willing to invest in, with the next seven teams that have even the slightest chance of a shot listed as ‘out’ off to the right side. Basically if any of those teams keeps advancing toward an NBA championship, we’re going to have to hedge and otherwise recover later on down the road, probably at a loss.
Running these numbers and seeing that this group of six teams — that I like a lot — with no less than 20% ROI in Philly and all the way up to 200% ROI in Memphis, while also getting three premium teams and a very good Hail Mary… seems like an amazing time to push units into the middle. In other words, I want a higher distribution of my units to fire off early because I like the equation. It might not be as good when the market catches up.
In the chart below you will see that I have 250 units I am targeting to play with 100 of them going in pre-flop. As a quick note, I might come in here and add a conference bet or two (or not), and those aren’t listed in this chart. We’ll deal with any new bets as we go. Again, this is a journal of what I will be playing.
I’ve created the quick chart below so you can see how if you were using one dollar per unit what the ROI for your total investment would be, based on which team wins (for amusement only of course). Down at the bottom I show the distribution of what I’m targeting to play in each stage of the playoffs, as well as a category for series plays, and then show you at the bottom what the total investment would be based on the size of unit you’re playing.
I will update this journal throughout the playoffs and try to be as explanatory as possible but be warned the document can get kind of long and fairly messy. Apologies in advance and best of luck to all of us!
LAST UPDATED: Monday, April 11 12:52 p.m. PT
Team-by-Team Notes and Analysis:
Starting with the three teams that we aren’t backing that have more than a 1% chance, let’s quickly get the Celtics out of the discussion as a championship threat… Yes, they have some compelling angles but they don’t have enough playoff depth. They might not have enough high-end talent to even compete at the top depending on their durability, but regardless at full strength they can’t survive the heavy hitters, who have solutions for the Boston stars and way more fire power.
As for the two teams that could hurt us here, Brooklyn and Miami, let’s start in Brooklyn and look at a favorite’s Finals matchup against Phoenix where Mikal Bridges can be a credible defensive foil against either Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving. Chris Paul can be effective defensively against Irving. Cam Johnson can be effective against Kevin Durant. Aaron Holiday can be effective against Kyrie Irving. Putting any value on Ben Simmons returning is a crazy bet even if you think he can return and play well. What would we expect out of any very good or even All Star level player returning after such a long layoff, let alone a guy with Ben Simmons’ issues. Phoenix has a lot of ways to keep the Brooklyn stars from going supernova and that’s probably what it’s going to take from those two every series for them to have a chance of winning against these premium teams.
Milwaukee, Golden State, Philly and Memphis all present similar issues to Brooklyn, as does Miami and Boston. At best, they get a weakened Celtics squad without Robert Williams, get their revenge against Milwaukee and from there it’s either Miami, Philly or Toronto before a date with one of the arguably top three teams in the league waiting in the West. We’re not just betting against Brooklyn in general, it’s betting against them to rise up 3 to 4 times in tough series for them (depending on how one views a possible opening round matchup against Boston).
Miami is a tough one to fade for obvious reasons. They are nasty as fuck. Opposing teams might not score 80 points. They have legit talent everywhere. Their backups are very good. And no, the market does not understand how good those backups are. Where they lose it with me is how much they are going to struggle with teams packing it in against Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler and one of the most passive star units you’ll ever find on the offensive side. Don’t mistake that for me saying that they are bad because they are definitely not bad. But without willingness to really fire from deep out of key positions that initiate a ton of action, the end result is going to be inefficiency, and the premium teams have guys that can hold up in high leverage situations, even against the vaunted Heat defense.
And when Miami really starts getting bogged down they will turn to their one-way players like Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson and lose their ace in the hole. Even if I was tempted to buy into a team that I have bought into in the past on numerous occasions, and I do love a great defense, whether it’s the mileage and injury risk or whatever one would want to assign any potential drama that we saw play out a few weeks ago, there are more down arrows than you’d like against those other premium teams.
While I recognize the upside Brooklyn brings, it’s Miami that wouldn’t surprise me as a threat to my plan here.
I want to spend a bit more time on our threats because everywhere else we’re winners! We already know a lot about Phoenix, Milwaukee and Golden State. The other three teams in our pool are extremely exciting and will require a bit greater treatment. But before we go there let’s recap Phoenix, who has a high-end, two-way solution at four positions with high-end role players everywhere else. Bridges can take opposing stars out and as mentioned so can Chris Paul. Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton can hold their own defensively against most of their playoff competition. They have great leadership, have experience from the scars and a great coach. The stars are truly aligned for them.
The team that beat them last season, Milwaukee, provides absolutely no reason to fade them. Their stars have not declined in any way and if anything they’ve grown stronger. The only reason I have Phoenix as a better team is that they have had multiple players experience huge jumps in their performance and ability. The Warriors have as much punching power as any team on this list. They have solutions defensively because of Draymond Green and Gary Payton, who are both top five NBA defenders. The question that’s dogging them is whether Klay and Dray can perform at a championship level — knowing that win or lose they’re getting the keys to the car and players like Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole will be put into smaller roles. Poole has been great but needs to prove it on the big stage and I think he will, and Wiggins has higher-end potential in small bursts, but has shown very consistently that he’s a mixed bag at best. You go down roster and there are definitely holes. As far as paying 3/4 of my pre-flop units on these three teams, I have the least amount of concern that one could have.
Now let’s talk about Memphis. I was asked the other day gun to head if I liked Golden State or Memphis in a match up and I said Memphis. I have since flip-flopped a few times but I’m back on Memphis, who I’m handicapping as a 52 to 48 favorite in a matchup. If you told me that De’Anthony Melton was playing 30 minutes per game I would jump that up to 60-40 or maybe 2/3 to 1/3 — he’s that good. I do believe that some of their insane depth won’t be capitalized so there is some value loss here when you consider just how good they really are one through 12. They are so damn good. Ja Morant might just demolish Mikal Bridges in a series and blow everybody’s mind. They have all played big time playoff minutes after last year’s run and they have leadership all over the roster.
Defensively, they have tools for every situation and in Melton and Jaren Jackson they have elite defenders at their positions. Desmond Bane is a force to be reckoned with. They have two guys in Morant and Dillon Brooks that crave big shots and a bevy of players behind them that are more than willing to step into them. Kyle Anderson is a custom built role player for the playoffs. They are having fun and their confidence is off the charts, meaning that they’re not going to go sideways when they get hit with a double digit run. They are my primary upside team in this strategy. As they advance, first past either Minnesota or the L.A. Clippers, the latter of which might be a nuisance, they will continue to be underdogs and allow for both further investment while also hedging on their opponents.
Philadelphia has the one guy that could throw the entire playoffs for a loop. Joel Embiid can blow a hole in your team. The analysis is really that simple. Losing Matisse Thybulle against another squad on our list, the Raptors — it’s definitely a huge concern and especially against that team. But there are quality players all over the court even if we assign James Harden a huge cone of shame to wear in the playoffs until he shows up. He’s still a top 30 player in this league to throw out a random number. The playoffs are about punching power, so getting some action on them for a 20% ROI is great to cover up another square on the board.
And then lastly Toronto is a team that I could go bigger on — and maybe I should — just because they could make it out the first round relatively easily compared to their championship pricing. We could hedge against that, but I don’t want to lose the ROI on all of our premium teams after Phoenix. I’m talking about Milwaukee and Golden State. 30 to 50% would look like 20 to 40% if I was to toss a few more units at Toronto and the key question is can they win it all? I love their roster but Embiid can really expose Precious Achiuwa and Khem Birch, and then as you look down the road against these other premium teams all the questions start to pop up for Toronto.
Will Pascal Siakam lose his efficiency as teams gear up for him? Who is going to steer the ship? Will injury issues for Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent and OG Anunoby start to eat at the margin? Will untested playoff performers like Scottie Barnes and Chris Boucher, who have had amazing and solid seasons respectively, find that there are too many teachable moments? This team is criminally undervalued by the market and they have a puncher’s chance at winning an NBA title, but it feels like 200% profit is good enough when the overall likelihood that they pull this off is less than 10%.
Here is the breakdown of the units and the plays — including ROI based on what you plan to spend pre-flop.
*Odds provided by Vegas Insider.
Screen Recording 2022-04-11 at 12.00.47 AM
It’s pretty slim pickings on the series prices as favorites are pretty chalky and I’m not overly invested in the Nets (+125), who represent a good value but against the Celtics I really do feel like I’m just gambling if I make a play there. OK we’ll gamble with a unit but just to put nominal skin in the game.
I think in general I’m going to go small at this stage but the one place I do like is Dallas at +250, as I was deliberately trying to figure out who I liked in that series without Luka Doncic so if you’re gonna give me those odds I pretty much have to take it. Between Utah coming apart at the seams internally and being a player or too short of a truly compelling playoff rotation, I wonder if Jalen Brunson, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Dorian Finney-Smith can provide enough offense along with their assortment of specialists, but what I do know is they will provide a team effort, with some defensive upside as well. Between Dinwiddie and DFS, along with the mobile digs, there is enough weirdness to throw at Donovan Mitchell to throw him off a bit. From there it’s about stopping Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson, and that might be where this tips in Utah’s favor, but Dallas isn’t dead in the water when it comes to personnel. Boban can get some minutes in the series, too. I’m not expecting Luka to play as I make this bet, but if he returns that doesn’t hurt either.
Lastly, Toronto is very compelling and I have my questions about whether they can handle Joel Embiid but as we said on the Koz and Bru Show, if Toronto can split in Philly and take that momentum home where Matisse Thybulle cannot play you could start to see Philadelphia splinter. So we’ll throw a quick unit on that as well.
Nets +125 vs. Celtics * 1 unit (Bovada)
Raptors +160 vs. Sixers * 1 unit (Bovada)
Mavs +250 vs. Jazz * 2 units (Bovada)
It seems like as good a time as any to add to Memphis after their first loss to Minnesota. 20 to 1 odds on a team with a puncher’s chance is good business.
Memphis NBA Champ +2000 * 4 units (DK)
Well it stopped a nice fat streak of mine but when Phoenix lost G2 and Devin Booker was injured I knew we would be throwing some kindling on the fire. The conference finals are the first time that this injury should be a concern so getting a better number than we got pre-flop means it’s time to splash the pot.
Phoenix NBA Champ +300 * 8 units (FD)
Things got very interesting in the course of about 24 hours in the east as Brooklyn fell apart in an otherwise evenly matched up situation and now we can make our move to stem any losses if they somehow emerge. The matchups picture also got very clear in the top half of the bracket as it looks like we’re getting Miami versus Philly and because of Bam Adebayo and Miami defense at large they now have a path to the finals, in particular because of what they can do to both Philly and Boston.
Let’s take a quick second here and break that down… Adebayo is on the shortlist of credible defenders against Joel Embiid and the team defense means that it will be incumbent upon role players to not just be baseline, but above baseline and Miami brings several players who make that a daunting proposition for Philly. Kyle Lowry and Gabe Vincent can lock down Tyrese Maxey, Lowry and Caleb Martin and even PJ Tucker can do the same against James Harden, and Jimmy Butler can cover both Harden and Tobias Harris, if necessary, with Tucker a fine option against Harris as well. Miami can be prone to bogging down but they have more than enough offensive weapons after Philly takes away whatever they want to take away with Embiid and Matisse Thybulle. The risk would be that Adebayo does not come to play and it’s the piece that topples Miami but even that might not be the case. We already have a position on Philly that we can expand, or not, so this is a good time to get in on Miami, cover our asses and do it before the number gets cut in half.
As for Boston the way to shut them down is to get one of two star wings to be inefficient and Miami has the players to possibly do that to the entire bunch. Butler can take out one of the stars, Caleb Martin can be credible, Lowry can hold up on switches and then you have Bam patrolling the lane. Boston can return fire and do the same to Butler with Jaylen Brown and Kyle Lowry will be stuck with Marcus Smart, Adebayo will have a rough series offensively but the supporting cast of Vincent, Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson will be left to eat and yes the task will be tough but they will be able to find offense, whereas Boston can quickly sputter.
We should also add some kindling to the Milwaukee fire, since they do have that Giannis guy and theoretically could get Middleton back at the tail end of next series. We might actually get a few bites at the apple if Chicago can somehow win this next game so I will probably keep that in mind with the units. I’ll probably sprinkle some on Phoenix since the price got even better, too. As for Boston, I really like what they are doing but whether it is Milwaukee, Miami or whoever comes out of the West I just don’t see them having the punching power to win at all. I want to get some downside protection in there for these guys but I’m not liking the +600 payout in relation to their top-end ability, so we are going to go very light here.
Speaking strictly on the Miami side of things because we already have a stake in Milwaukee, Brooklyn is bludgeoned and we don’t believe in Boston, this is our time to hedge and it’s gonna look costly but getting rid of our downside so we can get aggressive as things proceed is a pretty big deal. We’ve added about 50 units since the pre-flop action and we will still have profitable positions on Phoenix, Milwaukee, Golden State (pending, see below) and Memphis. By bringing Miami into the mix as a potential profit source before they get closer to +500 and below … gives us a good mix of teams that we can then start to lean into as things get a bit more clear.
That said, I’m going to wait before adding to the Golden State position because the recent injuries have caused their payout to drop and some adversity followed by some good news for the premium teams … instead of +380 we might be able to get +450 at some point in time here. I don’t think a couple of days of waiting is going to hurt us so let’s see how that plays out.
Boston NBA Champ +600 * 3 units (MGM) – more soon?
Milwaukee NBA Champ +750 * 4 units (FD) – more soon?
Miami NBA Champ +800 * 20 units (DK)
Brooklyn NBA Champ +2000 * 5 units (Caesars)
Phoenix NBA Champ +320 * 10 units (FD)
GSW – SOON
I was kind of shocked to see Phoenix at +550 and perhaps that’s Golden State jumping out to a 3–0 lead or just more general concern that has welled up with their series tied at a game apiece. Regardless, we have to add and it’s a shame that we didn’t get this number yesterday. We can get Milwaukee at +950 so we need to add a little bit there and Boston with Robert Williams returning has actually moved in the wrong direction so we have to sit and wait there.
Milwaukee NBA Champ +950 * 4 units (FD)
Phoenix NBA Champ +550 * 10 units (FD)
It looks like we are putting our foot in the ground and maybe even finalizing our positions. The teams that are threatening to our strategy are Boston, Philadelphia and until we make this bet right now, Golden State. I’m not sure we’re going to get better money on Boston as they advance and gather steam on the hype train, and we can fortify our position on Miami right now at +950, throwing some kindling here and there on teams we like, and bam we are looking at 20% ROI with the premium teams we like in Phoenix, Milwaukee, Miami and Golden State. If Memphis advances we have a chance at some improvements and then if the teams that we are now fading continue to advance we will have some juice to hedge against losses, and while 20% isn’t the home run we are looking for it’s definitely enough to pay the bills.
Miami NBA Champ +950 * 10 units (DK)
Boston NBA Champ +460 * 10 units (FD)
Milwaukee NBA Champ +800 * 9 units (DK)
Golden State NBA Champ +300 * 40 units (DK)
It’s been a bit quiet because the board doesn’t change for us unless we want to cash in chips to protect against Boston win, Memphis advances or some scenario down the road that’s yet to be determined. We did get something interesting though today after Boston lost and that was the knowledge that Milwaukee is the better team, has less injury issues and now has taken the first game on the road. That doesn’t change the NBA championship picture enough for us to make a play there, but seeing Milwaukee at just -130 to win that series we have to get in on that. Hopefully, we can call our shot in a few days knowing that the minimum ROI will be 20% and that we might get some really favorable hedge options shortly, or we might just see it out I’m not spend a dime. Again, as the illustration shows we are getting 20% ROI on Miami, Milwaukee, Phoenix and Golden State, with Memphis advancing giving us a whole bunch of options to cash in chips there for more likely winners.
Bucks -130 * 5.2 units
What a crazy game it was in Boston as Milwaukee took a 3–2 lead and gave us our last best shot at a hedge. I thought about just letting it ride because we can all-but guarantee a round 20% ROI if Boston falters but a few percentage points doesn’t seem prudent to protect when the other side of the bracket has been sad in the East, and we’ve seen Phoenix play suboptimally so far. Boston matches up pretty well with Golden State and while they’d be challenged significantly at every step and each of Miami, Golden State and Phoenix would present major issues for Boston… Let’s just spend the money and keep our risk super low… We’ll have some chance to liquidate into better profit and also might have an angle on some series odds to bump the final number up. We also have a three unit gain from the opening round and a possible four unit gain if Milwaukee advances past Boston to mess around with.
Boston +1000 * 10 units (Everywhere)
Taking the Warriors at +160 while the chips are down is too much to pass up. Let’s throw another five units on it. Check my WP pieces for more matchup evaluation.
GSW NBA Champ +160 * 5 units
I don’t really wanna do it but it seems silly not to reduce a 60 unit loss potential just to come away with 50 units on the Warriors win rather than the 30 we are going to get if we hedge on Boston at +320. So we are going to drop 21 units on Boston and if they win two games in a row we will win 2.2 units for all of this work, but what we have done is guarantee profit and then again if Golden State wins we get the 30 units.
Boston NBA Champ +320 * 21 units
Love the chart, I need to do this for my bets on the 2024 political markets which have some really juicy numbers right now!