Welcome back to Futures Friday!
Every week I dive into futures bets to play based on where the value is at that point in the season. Each week we’ll make plays based on distributing a half-unit of value. Over the course of a season, it’ll add up to a sizable position.
Here’s the argument for the Heat. They’re 5-1 vs. the Bucks, Sixers, and Nets, and 14-11 against teams .500 or better overall. They can win the big games.
They hold the fifth-best Adjusted Net Rating in the NBA via Dunks and Threes, and are top-10 in both offense and defense.
All this despite Bam Adebayo having missed all but 18 games and Jimmy Butler having only played 23. Their best-five lineup — Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler, PJ Tucker, and Bam Adebayo — have played just six games together. Six.
Now let’s talk matchups.
Yes, the Bucks eradicated them in the playoffs last postseason, however, there are some key differences. The Bucks don’t have Bryn Forbes who was red hot in that series. The Raptors do have Kyle Lowry who knows how to beat Milwaukee, and the Heat aren’t dealing with the aftereffects of the bubble, which sapped everyone’s will the following season. (None of the Bubble Final Four made it past a sweep in the second round).
The Heat use zone the second-most in the league and that’s proven to be a strategy that messes with the Bucks when it matters. (It should be noted the Bucks are the seventh-best team per possession against zone defense this season per Synergy Sports.)
Adebayo is 6-3 all-time vs. Joel Embiid and the Sixers. The Heat will send effective doubles against Embiid, who consistently struggles with them, and Miami’s switching and zone will discombobulate a Sixers team that averages the 25th-most 3-point attempts per 100 possessions.
The Nets have no interior defense, making life easier for Adebayo, and the Heat have the types of defenders in Lowry, Butler, and Tucker to match up. Tucker will take his usual Sisyphus role of guarding Kevin Durant, allowing Butler to use his length on James Harden. Keeping up offensively may be a struggle, but if the Heat can get the game where they want it, this is doable.
The Chicago Bulls present a tough matchup for two reasons: firepower and physical size inside. The Bulls are an elite transition team and Miami rank 29th in fast break points allowed per 100 possessions and 22nd in transition defense per possession. However, Chicago’s inexperience may struggle with the edge the Heat play with.
Miami has a coaching edge in most matchups; Erik Spoelstra has enough experience and creativity to solve the problems that arise. The threats are a Bucks team they’ve beaten before (and played better this season than last), a Sixers team with a world of weaknesses, and a Nets team they match up well with.
I bet this at 6-1 (which is still available at some books) and at this value, I had to add to my previous position on them.
Phoenix is listed at 8-1 to win the title. For a team that was two wins away last July, and is the No. 1 team in the NBA with 42 games to play, that is certifiably crazy.
From where we stand right now, there is one team in the West that you can feel confident in beating the Suns. The Warriors are 2-1 against them, but one game without Devin Booker. They match up exceedingly well with the Utah Jazz because of how they can switch 1-5 and the size with Deandre Ayton to match up with Rudy Gobert.
So why not just bet them to win the West?
The Suns would have homecourt advantage and I would lean towards Phoenix in three of four potential East matchups. The Nets are likely still favored in that matchup, but not so much it doesn’t present a good hedge opportunity. Brooklyn would struggle with Ayton and the Suns’ shotmaking. The Sixers would be at a disadvantage on multiple fronts. If Chicago somehow made it there, that’s a pretty big stage.
Then there’s Milwaukee, who again the Suns had a 2-0 lead on last season. For that, plus homecourt, the Suns are likely slight favorites in the matchup, which allows a plus-money hedge if they get there.
I mean, while we’re here …