That was certainly something.
With a flurry of big names moving over the course of the last 72-ish hours, the NBA has once again made a strong case for itself as the best soap opera in professional sports. Trade deadlines are always interesting, but I’ve been following the league for over 30 years, and I can’t recall a trade deadline like this one.
You had Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant blowing up the Nets’ grand experiment, you had eight players being traded back to teams they’d already played for and six Western Conference teams improving their rosters. And that’s without even getting into the 38-second-round draft picks flying around.
A trade deadline this wild has produced some wild swings in NBA futures markets.
The Biggest and The Swingingest: The Phoenix Suns
Adding one of the 20 best players of all time via trade is exceedingly rare. I counted six times a player of Kevin Durant’s stature has been traded. Wilt Chamberlain to the 76ers and later to L.A., Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Lakers., Oscar Robertson to the Bucks, Moses Malone to Philly and Shaquille O’Neal to the Heat. All of those but Wilt to Philly would lead to a championship within 5 years of the trade. Two (Moses and Oscar) won rings the year they were traded.
So Phoenix Suns seeing their title odds go from +1800 to +400 overnight is no surprise. I hope you bought some Suns futures two weeks ago, because frankly there’s no longer any value in betting on them to win it all. The same goes for the rest of their futures. I also have questions about their defence, where both Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson (gone to Brooklyn) were integral pieces. If Durant doesn’t play the best defence of his career, I’m not sure Phoenix is going to be able to get stops in the playoffs.
What’s more impressive than how the Durant trade impacted the Suns’ title odds?
How The Durant Trade Moved the Entire Market
Phoenix wasn’t the only title contender that improved at the deadline. In fact, most of them did.
• The Denver Nuggets dealt a defensive liability in Bones Hyland for a backup centre in Thomas Bryant.
• The Memphis Grizzlies turned Danny Green (who has played 43 total minutes this season) into Luke Kennard (who is one of the league’s best shooters).
• Golden State retrieved Gary Payton II from Portland for James Wiseman, who doesn’t play.
• The Clippers added secondary scoring in Eric Gordon and Bones Hyland, plus a backup big in Miles Plumlee
• The Lakers (probably not a title contender) got rid of Russell Westbrook and added shooting and defence in D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley
• The Milwaukee Bucks added Jae Crowder and gave up nothing
• The Mavericks added Kyrie Irving for role players and picks
With the exception of Milwaukee, all of those teams saw their title odds get worse. There’s no better demonstration of how much NBA bettors and bookmakers alike value Kevin Durant than that. And that’s also where we can find some value.
One of my pre-season title picks was Dallas at +1700. They can still be had for +1600, and I like that pick even more now with Kyrie there. He might destroy every locker room he’s ever been a part of, but the first year or so is usually pretty good. I still believe in the Nuggets (who went from +650 to +700), though there’s not a ton of value there.
It’s a homer move, but my best value pick for the NBA title right now is the Warriors at +1600. Adding Gary Payton II improves their depth, defence, and effort-level, there three primary problem areas this season. My worry is, with Stephen Curry out through the All-Star break, they’ll have to expend too much energy to get into the playoffs.
Conference and Divisional Futures
The same thing that happened to the title odds happened at the conference and division levels as well. This means there’s value to be had betting against the Suns. Memphis (+700) and Dallas (+800) to win the West deliver decent value for legitimate title contenders, but if you want to have some real fun, the Los Angeles Lakers are +2200 and I truly feel they’ve improved their roster around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. They turned Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley into three guys who fit around that pairing a lot better, which means all they need is their two stars to stay healthy and they have a shot to win the wide-open West.
Also, the Sacramento Kings are available at +4000 despite still being third in the conference.
Since the Nets blew it up, there’s zero value on Eastern Conference futures right now. No one but Milwaukee or Boston coming out of the east. On to the divisional races.
This deep into the season there’s never value here, as the playoff picture starts to come into focus. Still, I have my eye on one thing: Memphis leads Dallas by four games in the Southwest. Dallas should be significantly better with Kyrie and Luka Doncic, and most of the West got better by a greater margin than Memphis did. Dallas is +350 to win the division, and I could see Dallas closing that gap quickly.
As always, only bet what you can afford to lose. Play safe and don’t chase.