NBA Betting Dime: Can The Celtics Win The Finals?

Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics looks on in the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center on March 16, 2022 in San Francisco, California.
Image Credit: Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

After a week off to recharge the batteries, the NBA Betting Dime is back with a supersized edition. If you’re new here, welcome! This is a safe space that combines some of the things that make basketball so special. You can expect to find some analytical deep dives, social media clips, gambling information, and maybe some dumb pop culture references sprinkled in.

This week’s edition will touch on some of my favorite teams to target in the futures market, what’s going on with the Timberwolves and a profitable late-season betting trend.

Let’s dive right in.

1. The Three Best NBA Title Futures

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns reacts after making a shot against the Charlotte Hornets in the first quarter during their game at Spectrum Center on January 02, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Image Credit: Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

We have officially entered the home stretch of NBA betting. There’s still plenty left to be decided over the final few weeks of the regular season, but the playoffs are starting to come to the front of everyone’s mind.

With that in mind, I wanted to dive into the three teams I think are presenting the most value currently in the NBA Title market. Of course, this is just my opinion, so feel free to ignore me if I’m too low on your preferred squad. However, I’m going to do my best to present a compelling case for my three favorite squads. Let’s get it.

  • The Favorites: Phoenix Suns +350 on Caesars and PointsBet

The Suns’ odds have come down drastically since the start of the season, and they remain the NBA betting sportsbooks biggest liability. John Ewing from BetMGM reports that the Suns have accounted for 21.2% of the tickets and 24.5% of the handle in their Finals market, which is easily the top mark for all teams. The Suns opened at +1200 after making the NBA Finals last season, so some of those tickets can seriously hurt the oddsmakers.

The only real question with the Suns involves the health of Chris Paul, who was initially expected to miss 6-8 weeks with a thumb injury. However, he has already started to ramp up his activity, so there is almost no chance he misses meaningful time.

When Paul has been healthy this season, the Suns have been the clear top team in basketball. They currently own a record of 58-14, giving them at least nine more wins than every other team in the league, and they also rank first in Net Rating.

This team also fits the mold of what a championship winner looks like. They rank second in offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency, and they’ve tasted the bitter sting of defeat. The old saying in the NBA goes that you have to learn how to lose before you can win. The Suns have learned that lesson. As long as CP3 can stay healthy during the postseason – which is far from a guarantee given his track record – this is the team to beat.

  • The Defending Champs: Milwaukee Bucks +700 on DraftKings and PointsBet

The Bucks’ metrics aren’t nearly as impressive as the Suns’, but I’m not particularly concerned about that. This team finally got over the hump last season, so it’s natural that there’s been a bit of a letdown.

However, the Bucks have started to get rolling. They’ve moved up to a tie for second place in the Eastern Conference thanks to an 8-2 stretch over their past 10 games. One of those losses also came with Giannis Antetokounmpo out of the lineup, so it’s hard to take that very seriously.

What I love about the Bucks is that they have the potential to turn things up a notch in the postseason. Most of the top teams in the East are already playing their stars huge workloads. Guys like Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Jayson Tatum are already among the league leaders in minutes per game. Not the case with the Bucks. Jrue Holiday leads the team at 33.2 minutes per game, while Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton are only averaging about 32.5 minutes apiece.

What’s going to happen when those three players start playing 40+ minutes in the playoffs? The Bucks have posted a Net Rating of +10.6 points per 100 possessions with all three players on the court this season, so their upside is obviously higher as those guys play more minutes. Add Bobby Portis into the equation, and the Bucks’ Net Rating increases to +12.2 points per 100 possessions.

The Bucks are going to have to navigate a much tougher field than they did in last year’s postseason, but this team has the horses to get it done.

  • The Long Shot: Boston Celtics +1600 on DraftKings

I hope you took the Celtics in NBA betting when I wrote about them two weeks ago, but if you didn’t, you can still grab them at +1600 on DraftKings. I would recommend doing so while you still can since this number won’t be around for much longer in NBA betting. They’re priced at +1400 or lower on all the other major sportsbooks, including just +1100 on FanDuel.

What the Celtics have done recently is impossible to ignore. They possess the best defense in the league, which has propelled them to 22 wins over their past 26 games. They haven’t just been winning either; they’ve been absolutely mauling teams. They’ve averaged 120.1 points per 100 possessions while allowing just 104.4, resulting in a ridiculous Net Rating of +15.6.

I understand if you’re skeptical of the Celtics, but they check all the boxes when it comes to NBA betting. They’ve already been to the Eastern Conference Finals twice. They have a legitimate superstar in Jayson Tatum. They’re just good enough on offense to complement their elite defense. The Celtics have also rocketed up the standings, and they could finish with a top-two seed in the East. No one is going to want to play them in the playoffs, and I don’t blame them. They stand out as the best pure NBA betting value on the board with the longest odds of the serious title threats.

2. The Best In-Stadium Event Ever

This week’s edition is going to be mostly serious following a one-week hiatus – thanks March Madness – but I have to talk about an in-stadium event that took place in Phoenix. The Suns rolled to an easy win over the Lakers, so the most exciting event happened with the clock stopped:


Was this race a bit of a disaster? Sure. The dogs had no interest in going towards the end, we had at least one accident on the court, and most of the pups never left the starting gate. Do I care about that one bit? I do not.

Bring more dogs into sporting events. Have you seen Finn the Bat Dog? Might be the greatest thing ever:

Listen to how voraciously they boo the ump for not letting Finn do his job.

How can we incorporate this into the NBA and more specifically, NBA betting? I’m not 100% sure yet, but I’m workshopping it. Maybe dogs with towels on their paws instead of mop guys? I’m also open to putting a dog at the scorer’s table to make replays more enjoyable. Regardless, combining sports and dogs is a surefire way to bump up the ratings. NBA – feel free to hit me up for more of my genius ideas.

3. Who’s Bringing The D?

Bam Adebayo #13 of the Miami Heat dribbles the ball against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 21, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Image Credit: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

I’ve talked a lot about the MVP award in this article. That race is a historic one that will go down to the wire, but I’ve said pretty much all I need to say about it. Nikola Jokic deserves to win, but Joel Embiid probably will.

This week, I want to focus on the other big award race that’s still up for grabs. Most Improved Player (Ja Morant), Rookie of the Year (Evan Mobley), and Sixth Man of the Year (Tyler Herro) have been essentially wrapped up, but Defensive Player of the Year remains wide open. You can get better than even money on any player at almost every sportsbook across the industry.

Draymond Green is the guy who deserves to win this award. The Warriors’ defense was easily the best in the league while he was in the lineup. They’ve allowed just 104.0 points per 100 possessions with Green on the floor this season, and he’s averaged 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. Steal and block numbers aren’t an accurate depiction of what makes a good defender, though, and Green excels at all the things that don’t show up in the box score.

Unfortunately, Green has played in just 37 games this season, which takes him out of the running. He will have to wait at least one more year to try and take home his second DPOY.

Bam Adebayo has emerged as the favorite in his absence. Adebayo has missed some time in his own right, but he’s suited up in 47 of the Heat’s 72 games. That means he can get to 57 if he plays in all their remaining contests, which should be enough to put him in consideration.

Like Green, Adebayo’s steal and block numbers don’t exactly jump off the page, but he has been a force on the defensive end. The Heat allow -8.3 fewer points per 100 possessions with Bam on the court, which puts him in the 95th percentile for qualified players per Cleaning the Glass. The Heat are also significantly better in terms of opponent effective field goal percentage, opponent offensive rebound rate, and opponent free throw rate with Adebayo on the court.

Rudy Gobert is viewed as his main competition, and he’s no stranger to this award. He’s already won it three times, including just last year. He’s attempting to join Dwight Howard and Ben Wallace as the only players to win it more than three times, which is pretty impressive since this is just his eighth full NBA season.

Gobert is having another solid statistical year, leading the league with 14.5 rebounds per game while averaging 2.2 blocks per game. The only issue is, the Jazz’s defense isn’t very good. They’ve allowed 109.5 points per 100 possessions this season. That’s good enough to rank ninth in the league, but it’s a far cry from the Jazz’s peak with Gobert. They’ve relied more on a dominant offense than a stifling defense for most of the year.

Gobert’s on/off impact is equally as impressive as Bam’s, but the Heat have just been the better defense this year. That gives him the edge in my mind.

There are some other contenders for this award – namely Antetokounmpo and Mikal Bridges – but the odds suggest this is a two-horse race. Adebayo’s best price is +115 on DraftKings, while Gobert is available at +180 on PointsBet.

With all things considered, Adebayo is presenting better value. Not only are his metrics better, but voter fatigue could be an issue with Gobert. The Heat have also been much better than expected this season, so this could be a way for voters to recognize their team’s success. Anything better than even money is a strong wager in NBA betting.

4. Dunk of the Week

I normally just post one video clip here, but I’m going to post the whole highlight reel from the NBA this week:

Did I do that because I’m lazy? Possibly. My friends and family would probably argue that’s the case, and there’s a 95% chance I’m writing this article in the comfort of my bed. Still, it just seemed like the easiest way to include both of those nasty hammers from Jalen Green, who gets my nod for the top spot.

I’ve talked previously about Green’s struggles this season, who is currently a volume shooter that cannot make any shots. If that sounds like a problem, it’s because it is.

Still, there’s no denying this kid’s upside. He has serious bounce, and he’s a candidate to make the leap in his second professional season.

Green gives me Anthony Edwards vibes. If you can’t remember, Edwards averaged 19.3 points per game while shooting 41.7% from the field and 32.9% from 3-point range. Green hasn’t averaged quite as many points, but the shooting splits are eerily similar. Edwards displayed his elite athletic upside while struggling as a rookie, putting dudes on posters on a near-nightly basis. He’s been more efficient this season, and he’s helped propel the Timberwolves into playoff contention. Let’s hope that Green shows the same kind of development for the Rockets.

5. Are The Timberwolves Legit?

Karl-Anthony Towns #32 celebrates recording an assist on a basket made by D'Angelo Russell #0 of the Minnesota Timberwolves against the Milwaukee Bucks in the fourth quarter of the game at Target Center on March 19, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Image credit: David Berding/Getty Images

The short answer is no. The long answer is also no, but it’s at least a little bit more promising for the team’s future.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Timberwolves have been on a serious heater recently. They’ve won 10 of their past 12 games, and if you want to push it back further, 26 of their past 37. They have been nothing short of one of the best teams in the league over that time frame, outscoring their opponents by +7.7 points per 100 possessions dating back to January 3.

They’ve succeeded by taking their offensive pace and cranking it up to 11. The Timberwolves didn’t exactly play slow to start the year, ranking sixth in pace and averaging 99.91 possessions per game, but they’ve been running wild since the calendar flipped to 2022. They easily lead the league in pace since that time frame, and the gap is growing by the week: They’ve averaged 102.97 possessions over their past 15 games, 103.85 over their past 10, and 104.0 over their past five.

The fast pace has done wonders for the Timberwolves’ offense. They rank second in offensive efficiency over their past 15 games, trailing only the red-hot Celtics. Their defense has also held their own, giving the T’Wolves a sparkling Net Rating of +10.2 over that time frame.

The T’Wolves are threatening the Nuggets for the final guaranteed playoff spot in the West, and it’s possible they may overtake them. They’re only 0.5-games behind the Nuggets heading into Tuesday’s slate.

Even so, it’s hard to imagine the Timberwolves seriously challenging any of the West’s elite. The game changes in the playoffs, and their run-and-gun style will be forced to adapt. They’re still listed at +6000 to win the West on DraftKings Sportsbook. While that may seem like an appealing number, it’s probably fool’s gold in NBA betting.

Still, the recent stretch for the Timberwolves is promising for their future. Instead of having to worry about whether or not Karl-Anthony Towns wants to be there long-term, they can focus instead on building off their success with a young core that still has room for development. It will be interesting to see what their next move is, but Timberwolves fans can be optimistic for the first time since Kevin Garnett left.

7. LeBron James Makes History

I occasionally feel bad for LeBron James. He is carrying an insane workload just to try to drag this team into the play-in tournament, where they will likely need to win two games just to advance to the postseason. The thought of having the playoffs without LeBron is crazy, but there’s a strong chance that’s a reality this season.

Of course, part of the reason the team is so bad is that James the GM is almost as poor as James the player is great, but that’s a conversation for another time.

Instead, let’s focus on some of the history that LeBron is making this season.

It started on March 13th, when James achieved a statistical feat that no one else in history has ever done:

To put that in perspective, he’s scored more points than Michael Jordan, grabbed more rebounds than DeAndre Jordan, and handed out more dimes than Isiah Thomas. His greatness hasn’t been in question for a while now, but the statistical dominance of LeBron cannot be understated. He’s combining peak production and longevity in a way that no one has ever done before.

In fact, James is currently on pace to lead the league in scoring in his 19th professional season. He’s averaging 30.0 points per game – his most since he was 23 years old – and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. The previous record for points per game by a player in his 19th season? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who averaged just 14.6. That is absurd.

James also recently moved into second place on the all-time scoring leaderboard, passing Karl Malone:

LeBron now has Kareem squarely in his sights, and he needs just 1,403 points to secure the top spot. He’s racked up 1,618 points in just 54 games this season, so that should be a walk in the park.

James vs. Jordan will always be a heated topic of conversation. There’s truly no right answer when it comes to the NBA GOAT. Debating between the two is like debating between two great wines: It comes down to personal preference. But statistically? The King reigns supreme.

7. Late Season NBA Betting Trend – Fade Tanking Teams

Dennis Schroder #17 of the Houston Rockets brings the ball up court during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers at Arena
Image Credit: Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Let’s be honest, betting on the NBA is hard. There are lots of great tools that can help you get better – including the awesome content on Props – but most sports bettors are still losers in the long run. If they didn’t, Las Vegas would just be another NBA betting spot in the desert and sportsbooks wouldn’t be handing out sign-up bonuses like they’re Halloween candy.

That’s why I like NBA betting trends. I don’t stick to them as definites, and there can be some really bad trends out there. Do I care that a certain team has a record of 19-2 ATS on the third Wednesday of each month when playing at home? I most certainly do not. But trends that are at least based on some form of logic? Sign me up, baby.

That’s why I love one particular late-season trend. We all know that tanking exists in the NBA. The current system rewards teams that finish with the worst records, so it makes sense to lose as many games as possible if you can’t make the playoffs. Everyone seems to get how this system works, with the exception of the Kings. Sorry Kings fans.

With certain teams trying to lose down the stretch, it makes sense to fade them as a bettor. The best situation to do this is when the tanking is team is at home – that helps keep the spread down – and you’re doing so with a quality opponent. When a road team with a winning percentage of above 50% plays a home team with a winning percentage of below 38% over the final 25 games of the year, the road team has posted a record of 434-353-15 ATS since 2005. That’s good for a return on investment of +7.5%, and while that number may not jump off the page, a $100 bettor would be up more than $6,000 using this system in NBA betting.

My dad loves to tell me KISS – keep it simple, stupid. This system is the embodiment of KISS. Fade the teams that are trying to lose when they’re playing teams that are trying to win. Doesn’t get any simpler than that in NBA betting.

8. Popovich 2024

Gregg Popovich is now the winningest coach in NBA history. That’s not exactly an earth-shattering development, but it’s now official. Pop also shows no signs of slowing down. He has the potential to push his record even further in the near future.

The best part about Popovich becoming the win king was all the great stories about him, not just as a coach, but as a human. ESPN put together an excellent piece with quotes from some of his former players and assistants, and it’s worth a read if you need to put a smile on your face.

My favorite part though was watching his team celebrate after sealing the deal for their coach:

These are young men nearly a third of his age who are completely ecstatic for him. I’m not sure what comes next for Popovich after basketball, but the man has my vote if he decides to run for president.

9. Saddiq Bey Drops 50

Saddiq Bey #41 of the Detroit Pistons shoots a free throw against the Washington Wizards during the first half at Capital One Arena on March 1, 2022 in Washington, DC
Image Credit: Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The NBA has had some tremendous performances in March. In fact, there have already been eight 50-point games, which is the most in any month in league history. There are still a bunch of games left to be played this month, so the number has the potential to reach double-digits.

Most of the 50-point games have been scored by the game’s biggest stars, with LeBron, Tatum, Towns, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving all achieving the feat at least once. But the man who put March over the top? Saddiq Bey.

Bey plays for the lowly Pistons, so I don’t blame you if you don’t know much about him. He was the No. 19 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft after spending two years at Villanova. That made him relatively old for draft prospect, and he’ll turn 23 before the end of his second professional season. That may not sound old, but it’s ancient by NBA standards.

It remains to be seen if Bey is part of the Pistons’ future, but they at least have something cooking in Detroit. Cade Cunningham has turned things on after a rocky start to the year, while guys like Bey, Isaiah Stewart, and Hamidou Diallo have all shown promise. The Pistons still have plenty of work to do before they’re relevant once again, but I’m at least somewhat intrigued by what they’re building.

That makes the race for the worst record in the league absolutely fascinating. There are currently four teams jockeying for the worst record in the league: the Pistons, Rockets, Magic, and Thunder. Those four teams are separated by just two games in the standings, and the Thunder would finish with the fourth-worst record if the season ended today. However, they’re coming on strong thanks to an 0-10 record over their past 10 games.

Finishing with a bottom-three record is vital for these teams. The three worst teams all own the same odds for the No. 1 pick (14.0%), and their odds at a top-four pick are north of 50%. The team with the fourth-worst record dips to 12.5% for the No. 1 spot and 48.1% for a top-four selection. Those numbers may not seem like much, but one spot in the draft can be the difference between Steph Curry and Jordan Hill.

If the Pistons can land the No. 1 pick for the second straight year, it will turbocharge their rebuild. The 76ers had back-to-back top picks in 2016 and 2017, and while neither of the players they selected is currently on the roster, it allowed them to pair Harden and Embiid. The Cavs picked first three times over a four-year stretch, which was enough to lure LeBron back to Cleveland. Sweating ping pong balls is never fun, but Pistons fans should be excited to watch their team lose as much as possible down the stretch.

10. Let’s Be Honest, College Basketball Is Boring

Villanova Wildcats head coach Jay Wright talks to Villanova Wildcats guard Collin Gillespie (2) during the men's March Madness college basketball game
Image Credit: Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This is one of my hottest takes that frankly shouldn’t be hot at all. I hear it every year from people around tournament time. The college game is better than the NBA because the players care more. Another excuse is they play more defense, or whatever other excuse they want to cook up. It’s fine if you think that, just know that you’re 100% wrong.

Don’t get it twisted; I enjoy the NCAA tournament and I fill out a bracket just like every other degenerate in the country. But the best thing the tournament has going is is the time slot. As someone who works from home, you can only watch so many re-runs of Law and Order during the afternoon. Having some live sports to fill the day is a blessing.

But when nighttime comes? You best believe I’m switching over to the pros. You may think that the college game features better defense, but the reality is that college players are just way worse on offense. If you leave an NBA player alone, he’s going to make it far more often than he misses it. That’s not the case in college. Watching some of these college games during the first week of the tournament made me want to gouge my eyes out. Who could forget Illinois riveting 54-53 win over Chattanooga on Friday? What about the absolute joy of watching Ohio State outlast Loyola Chicago 54-41? I’ve seen football games with more scoring than that.

The poor level of basketball does result in some exciting finishes. I guess this is what most people care about in the end. I’d personally rather watch the Warriors make basketball poetry, but to each their own I suppose.

Anyways, college basketball is great for one thing – supporting underdogs. Give ‘em hell this week Saint Peter’s.