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NBA Playoff Bets: Who We’re Trading and Who We’re Shorting

After an exciting Masters golf tournament that signaled a full transition to Spring, it’s time for another tradition: Watching the guys on TNT every night of the NBA Playoffs for two months. On Sporttrade, you’ll be able to bet on NBA Moneylines, Spreads and Totals for every NBA playoff game, securing profits and stopping losses before the games even conclude.

Social Media Manager, Greg Rappaport, and Executive Producer of Content and Media, Dan Koob, are back to offer who they’re trading, who they’re shorting and who they’re backing to take home the Larry O’B Trophy. 

Dan: I feel like I have to begin with a public service announcement about my undying love (and hate) for the Sixers. My answers will probably be emotionally skewed because they’re like a family member you don’t agree on anything with, but you know at the end of the day you’re calling to watch The Bachelor simultaneously because the gossip is just too good to wait until morning. It’s unhealthy. It’s unwise.

Greg: Like The Bachelor, the NBA Playoffs never seem to have any shortage of drama. I’m especially excited for this postseason because thanks to the usual churn of star player movement, we’ve ended up in a situation where the postseason feels more wide-open than we’ve seen in some time. After a five-year stretch in which the Warriors and Cavs were in the Finals every year except a surprise Raptors run in 2019, parity is back in the NBA. And for trading, that presents a lot of unique opportunities to take advantage of on a sports betting exchange like Sporttrade. 

As of 4/14/22
Pricing as of April 14, 2022
  • Which team are you directionally trading? 

Dan: First things first. What is directional trading? Directional trading or ‘momentum trading’ is exactly as it sounds. Buying contracts on a team you think can get close to a NBA championship, but would be ok selling those contracts prior to the FInals as long as the team’s price increases as the playoffs continue. So which team can win a few rounds?

This answer is a direct tie-in to the team I’m shorting (more on that later), but seeding and matchups matter in the NBA playoffs. No team could benefit from that more than the Denver Nuggets.

6th-seed Denver ($3.5 per contract) will get 3rd-seed Golden State in the first round, a team with no center and whose 3 major stars are 34, 32 and 32 years old. This is a play against veteran savvy, experience, and guile and fun. I loved the Dynasty Warriors. But I think it’s over. 

This is a trade leaning heavily on Nikola Jokic. 

Let’s say Denver gets through Golden State. Who awaits them in the 2nd round? The Memphis Grizzlies, who seem ahead of schedule and who’s star has missed the last month of the season with a sore knee. Yes, Memphis is 20-5 without Ja Morant, but I can see Jokic carrying this sub-par Nuggets team to a Western Conference Final, where they’ll be promptly swept by Phoenix for the second straight season.

Full transparency, I’d be placing trades on both Denver and Memphis ($6 per contract) to get to a West Finals. If you’re spending only $9 for both contracts, you’re going to come out profitable if either team makes it to the NBA’s Final Four. 

Greg: You said it best Dan, even the team that makes a surprise run to the Western Conference Finals will likely be handled by the juggernaut that is the Phoenix Suns. That’s why I’m turning to the Eastern Conference for my directional trades this postseason. Each round won should see a greater price increase for an Eastern Conference team than for a Western Conference team waiting to get torn to pieces by the Suns. 

When you look at the current pricing available in the East, there are great deals to be had. I don’t think I’m reinventing the wheel by buying up a few contracts of the Miami Heat—owners of the best record in the conference—at just $7 per contract. Miami should breeze through its first-round matchup with Atlanta or Cleveland and then await the winner of 76ers-Raptors. To me that looks like a relatively easy path to the Conference Finals. If that were to come to fruition, I’d likely sell off half my position and let the rest ride to see if they can make it to the NBA Finals. 

With the Heat contracts added to my portfolio, I’d also take some positions in the Nets ($9/Contract) and the Celtics ($8.50/Contract), which would basically be a wager that one of those two teams is going to be able to get past Giannis and the Bucks. 

I would be rooting for the Nets to be the team that advances, since a roster that features elite talent like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving (and maybe Ben Simmons?) should see a huge spike in price as it becomes clear they are realistic contenders to win it all. 

Dan: At the risk of my head flying off my body, through my ceiling and into the Earth’s stratosphere, I’d love to see Ben Simmons play exactly 60 seconds of competitive basketball before spending any money on the Nets. Have I mentioned I’m from Philly? Maybe I didn’t mention that. 

  • Which team are you shorting? 

Greg: It wouldn’t surprise me if this team proved me wrong, but I’m going to go ahead and short the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks this postseason. As the second highest-priced team in our championship market, I just see too many challenges ahead for Milwaukee’s road to a repeat. 

The Bucks should have little problem getting past the injury-plagued Bulls in the first round, but a talented Boston or Brooklyn awaits them in the Semifinals. The bottom line is, the 2022-21 Bucks haven’t packed the same punch as last season’s Championship squad. 

In 2020-21 the Bucks had a top-10 offense and defense, ranking 4th in the league in Net Rating. This year the offense has remained top-5, but the defense has slipped down to 14th in the NBA. Most concerning is perhaps that the trend worsened over the final 15 games of the season, posting the 11th worst defensive rating in the league in that time span. 

The Bucks have looked bored by the regular season all year, still relishing their Championship run. And while they still may be capable of flipping the switch, there may have been too many bad habits learned to overcome some of the teams in the East. And don’t forget about an overwhelming favorite in Phoenix waiting to avenge last year’s loss in the Finals. 

Dan: The Philadelphia 76ers at $6/contract (takes several deep breaths) have been an imperfect puzzle for years. People who watched them night-in-and-night-out felt deep in the cockles of their being that the Ben Simmons/Joel Embiid pairing couldn’t work in the playoffs. We knew the team never addressed the backup center position, even though they were getting historically skewered whenever Joel was off the court.. We knew Brett Brown was overmatched and then when he was replaced, they collapsed against Atlanta anyway. 

April has become a yearly nightmare factory without the supply chain issues. There was The Canadian Goodbye. The Bubble Sweep at the hands of the Celtics that ended the Brett Brown era. Then the Simmons No Dunk that eventually led to his holdout and trade for James Harden, who is shooting a career-worst 40.2% from the field and a career-worst 32.6% from three. I don’t see a reasonable path for them making a Finals. They can’t beat Milwaukee. They wouldn’t beat Brooklyn in a 7 game series. They’re 1-8 against the Celtics the last two playoff series they’ve played. 

HAVING SAID THAT (Larry David voice) my answer here is the Warriors because there’s more value in shorting them at $10 per contract. They’ve had Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson on the floor at the same time for 11 minutes all season and are coasting on reputation alone. Curry hasn’t played since March 16th with a foot sprain and may not be ready for the first round. They’re 26-22 in 2022 and just 12-16 since February 9th. There’s absolutely no reason they should have the 4th shortest odds of winning a championship.

The Nets are being overvalued because of pedigree. The Warriors are overvalued because of nostalgia. 

Getty Images
Source: Getty Images
  • Who are you backing? 

Dan: The Bucks and Suns are on a collision course for a rematch of last year’s Finals that felt unnecessarily discounted by NBA fans. The Suns may sneakily be one of the best regular season teams we’ve seen in some time, while simultaneously being motivated by losing in last year’s Finals. 

But at $25, they’re commanding ¼ of the market. I’m going head-to-head with Greg here. The Bucks are assuredly going to beat the Bulls to open the playoffs and more than likely going to beat the Celtics in round 2, meaning that $15 will inevitably rise. There’s always a championship hangover of sorts, but this Bucks team is through it. They’re missing a lock-down 4 defender after P.J Tucker left, but every East contender is flawed in some way. I think MIlwaukee has the fewest scars. They also have Giannis. No one in the NBA cares more than Giannis Antetokounmpo. Nobody.

The Bucks have historically made sure to manage Giannis’ workload by keeping him below 35 minutes per game until the postseason. In fact, Giannis hasn’t averaged more than 35 minutes per game in five seasons (2017/18).

In 16 postseason games last year in which he logged 35 minutes or more, Giannis averaged 33/13/5. Those are Kareem numbers. Those are better than Prime Shaq. It’s Giannis season. Ain’t nobody stopping him. 

Greg: The Phoenix Suns may appear like a pricey pick at $25/Contract, but I actually think it’s a good deal all things considered. Ask yourself what a team with the ilk of the Warriors or Nets would be trading at if they had just notched a league-best 64 wins in a season where the next best team had 56 wins. 

For whatever reason, these Suns are still flying under the radar, which is a weird thing to say about the current favorite to win the NBA Title! Give me two contracts of the Suns to win it all. This is a team that finished the year Top-5 in offensive and defensive rating, having the league’s best net rating. Or how about looking at their absolutely absurdstatistics in the clutch (when a game is within five points with under five minutes to play); the Suns’ net rating is 33.4, more than double the next closest team. So basically, when the game gets tight in crunch time, the Suns are twice as good as any team this season. 

This team absolutely has the look of a 2012 Miami Heat or a 2014 San Antonio Spurs. Losers in the Finals the previous year with an overwhelming laser-focus to become champions. It’s getting hot in The Valley, and I’m buying in.  

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Greg Rappaport & Dan Koob are employees at Sporttrade and recreational sports bettors. While Greg & Dan may place some of the discussed wagers with licensed sports betting operators, their advice is purely for entertainment purposes only.  Their opinions are not gambling advice and do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of Sporttrade.  They do not have access to any non-public information. Trades described above are similar to options trading and are illustrative (i.e. not real) and absent any commission Sporttrade will charge on winning trades.

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