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Trade rocks NBA, but not betting markets

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

An eclipse one NBA earthquake the next! We look at the betting market and on-floor impact of the Kyrie Irving/Isaiah Thomas trade that rocked the sports world Tuesday…plus boxing, baseball and our Wednesday tutorial today in VSiN City.

NBA: Blockbuster trade sends Kyrie Irving to Boston Celtics; Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and more to Cleveland Cavaliers

Minutes after the trade was announced, the debates began. Various pundits made their cases about who won the talent exchange. Those who debate with their money in legal betting markets didn’t see a significant change in futures prices because there’s a chance that the perceived swap of superstars might cancel out.

  • The South Point saw Boston as getting the best of it slightly in terms of odds to win the 2017-18 NBA Championship. Cleveland moved from plus 325 to plus 350 (from 24% down to 22% for the percentage equivalent). Boston moved from plus 800 to plus 600 (from 11% to 14%, keeping in mind that sports book futures have vigorish built in that creates a universe larger than 100%). 
  • The Westgate didn’t make any futures adjustments, as Cleveland remained at plus 400 (20%), Boston at 1000 (9%). Though, Jeff Sherman did tweet out an update of odds to win the MVP. LeBron James fell from 5/1 to 6/1; Kyrie Irving rose from 50/1 to 25/1; while the new man in LeBron’s shadow, Isaiah Thomas, dropped from 30/1 to 100/1.

The future impact of this trade may come down to Isaiah Thomas’s ability to recover from his hip injury. He didn’t have offseason surgery. Word is that that he’ll undergo a physical soon by the Cavaliers medical team. If he’s cleared, the trade will go through. If not…more bedlam!

Let’s assume a full recovery for Thomas. Who wins the trade? Basketball followers who see Kyrie Irving as a true superstar who’s been “held back” by playing in the shadow of LeBron James are confident Boston got the best of it. The Celtics may have a new team leader for years. But many in analytics are looking at the totality of the trade and calling it a fleecing by the Cavs!

The overlooked player in initial media discussion was Jae Crowder. He doesn’t have the raw scoring stats of Thomas. But his impact on the game thanks to efficient offense, quality defense, and rebounding is arguably just as important. Don’t forget that Thomas often “gave back” what he gained on offense with poor defense. 

A great way to show that is through the “Wins Above Replacement” projections created by 538’s “Carmelo” player evaluation system. Here’s what that analytics site foresees for the principals in this transaction (click on each player’s name to see 538’s player chart). 

Boston gets:

Kyrie Irving: projected 5.6, 5.2, 4.9 wins above replacement next three seasons

Cleveland gets:

Isaiah Thomas: projected 4.9, 4.5, and 3.7 wins above replacement next three seasons

Jae Crowder: projected 5.1, 4.6, and 3.9 wins above replacement next three seasons

Ante Zizic: projected 0.4, 0.6, and 0.7 wins above replacement next three seasons

Brooklyn’s #1 draft pick in 2018: might be a prime spot in a strong draft

Irving is projected to be about one win better per season than Thomas over the next three years. But Crowder’s projected to be almost identical to Thomas in overall impact because his positives cross the full spectrum. If you see this as Cleveland trading Kyrie Irving for TWO significant contributors AND a possible high-impact draft pick next summer…then the case for Boston getting fleeced is in play. 

Now…maybe Irving will lift his game even higher…while Thomas fails to recover from injury in a way that negates his impact. Or, longer term, maybe Irving keeps Boston in the championship hunt for the next several seasons while Thomas and LeBron James eventually head elsewhere and that draft pick from Brooklyn is just part of a rebuilding process after Cleveland crumbles. 

That volatile future landscape is a big part of what makes this blockbuster trade so intriguing. (Click here to read a special overnight posting on the trade from VSiN Senior Editor Matt Youmans.)

Matt and his guest co-host Chuck Esposito will dig even deeper during “Follow the Money” Wednesday beginning at 2 p.m. ET, 11 a.m. here in Las Vegas.

Ron Flatter, Amal Shah, and Vinny Magliulo broke all the news about betting impact of the trade moments after it happened Tuesday on “My Guys in the Desert.” They’ll have more Wednesday…along with a report from Brent Musburger as “Fight Week” continues leading up to McGregor/Mayweather this Saturday night. 

Thanks to all of you who flocked online to or tuned in SiriusXM Channel 204 as soon as you heard the news of this trade. That's why we are here. Other sports networks have their usual suspects for reaction and debate. Only VSiN provides instant high-level analysis while also telling you what’s happening in the betting markets…where the true experts back their opinions with skin in the game

Boxing: Mayweather down to -490, McGregor plus 390 at the South Point in Saturday’s spectacle

The price continues to fall on favorite Floyd Mayweather for this Saturday’s contest against Conor McGregor. We haven’t talked much about this event here in VSiN City. There’s not much of an “analytics” angle given the lack of a sample size for what Gill Alexander’s been calling a “trava-sham-mockery,” (a tribute to a 2004 beer commercial starring Bob Odenkirk, that itself was a tribute to Woody Allen’s movie “Bananas” from 1971). No data to analyze!

VSiN has compiled this “sharp bettor’s guide” to the fight that we invite all of you to read.

We would like to point out though that the media hubbub about “how far” this line has moved from the opener is partly the result of how hard it is to imagine fractions with big favorites. Mayweather opened at favorite priced equal to about a 95%-win expectancy. He’s “plummeted” down to an 83%-win expectancy based on that -490 price at the South Point (or the -500 you’re seeing elsewhere). 

It’s the NFL equivalent of a favorite opening at -14.5 and being bet down to -10. The 10-point favorite is still likely to dominate, particularly because the line move in McGregor/Mayweather seems more keyed by bettor’s personal animosity toward the favorite (or rooting interest in the underdog) rather than an informed read of relevant athletic skill sets. It’s a very rare instance where much of the “skin in the game” has little to do with analysis and more to do with wishful thinking. 

There’s likely to be some intense fluctuations between now and the opening bell. Deep-pocketed sharps are ready to make their move at these low prices, while it’s expected that most tourists (perhaps led by an overseas contingent) will still be loading up on the dog. Brent Musburger and Jimmy Vaccaro will have more from “Radio Row” at the T-Mobile Center through the week. 

(A late-breaking MMA note from Tuesday evening…Jon Jones is expected to be stripped of his light-heavyweight championship belt after testing positive for the steroid Turinabol after his recent win over Daniel Cormier.)

MLB: Wild Wednesday on tap in playoff chase 

That big NBA trade threw a monkey wrench into our original plans to go deep into the Major League playoff chase in this report. A few teams are starting to drift from relevance (most notably Baltimore, Tampa Bay, and Toronto from the AL East). But the existing races are arguably getting more entertaining because so many teams are playing well in recent days. 

Here’s a quick look at starting pitcher xFIP’s for Wednesday games involving teams in the NL Central race (Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis), teams in the NL Wildcard race (Colorado, Arizona, Milwaukee again), and teams within at least one game of .500 or better in the AL Wildcard race (plus Boston/Cleveland since that’s a playoff preview). Games are presented in Nevada rotation order

  • Milwaukee (Garza 5.03 xFIP) at S. Fran. (Moore 5.02 xFIP) (SF -115, 9-Under)
  • Arizona (Godley 3.24 xFIP) at NY Mets (Flexen 6.76 xFIP) (Arizona -155, 9-Over)
  • Cubs (Montgomery 4.44 xFIP) at Cinc. (Wojciechowski 4.51 xFIP) (Cubs -140, 10-Under)
  • S. Diego (Chacin 4.43 xFIP) at St. Louis (Weaver 3.89 xFIP) (St.L -165, 8.5-Under)
  • Yankees (Severino 3.10 xFIP) at Detroit (Zimmerman 5.39 xFIP) (NYY -210, 9-Over)
  • Boston (Pomeranz 3.85 xFIP) at Cleveland (Kluber 2.49 xFIP) (Cleveland -185, 7.5)
  • Minnesota (Santana 4.80 xFIP) at ChiSox (Shields 5.53 xFIP) (Minnesota -160, 10.5-Under)
  • Texas (Cashner 5.26 xFIP) at Angels (Heaney 4.00 xFIP) (LAA -150, 9-Over)
  • Seattle (Ramirez 4.95 xFIP) at Atlanta (Dickey 4.87 xFIP) (Seattle -120, 9.5)
  • Colorado (Senzatela 4.33 xFIP) at K. City (Kennedy 5.13 xFIP) (KC -120, 9.5-Under)

We use xFIP for shorthand because it’s been shown to paint a more accurate picture of a pitcher’s performance, and to have more predictive value moving forward. It’s a fielding-independent representation that rides the same scale as ERA. Stats gathered from the amazing Fangraphs website. 

Wednesday Tutorial: Thinking about Regular Season Win props

As we approach the start of the college football season (a few games this weekend!) and the NFL, a sense of urgency takes hold for those interested in betting Regular Season Win props. Be sure you’re thinking about these the right way as you make your final choices. 

Too many casual bettors focus on these two questions:

“What do I need to WIN my bet?”

“Can I visualize this team winning (or losing) that many games?

The problems with those priorities are:

*It’s easy to forget that pushes aren’t your enemy. The question isn’t “how many wins (or losses) you need” to cash, it’s “what percentage of the time will you win vs. what percentage of the time you’ll lose.”

Imagine that you’re looking at a team with a Regular Season Win Total of 8. If you’re thinking, “I don’t know if this team is going to get to nine wins more than half the time,” that’s the WRONG way to think about it. 

What if the likely percentages are like this?

  • 9 wins or more: will happen 40% of the time
  • 8 wins for a push: will happen 30% of the time
  • 7 wins or less for a loss: will happen 30% of the time

Even though “Over 8” only cashes 40% of the time, it’s a SMART BET because you win a lot more of than you lose. Over 100 samples, you get refunded 30 times, then go 40-30 on the other 70 bets. 

You may find it a helpful exercise to try to map out the probabilities for “win, tie, or lose” rather than just thinking about what it takes to clear the hurdle for any prop that’s on a full number (7, 8, 9, 10, etc…). 

Second issue…too many timid bettors decide to leave a proposition alone if the line has already moved. While it’s true that some value is gone after a line move, it may not be true that ALL the value is gone. It’s you vs. the numbers on the board NOW. Can you find a winner?

Think about all that New England Patriots smart money that hit the board earlier this summer. The South Point put the Pats up at 11 wins with the Over priced at -120. Sharps hit that hard…and the line moved to 11.5. Was the value gone? NO! Sharps kept hitting the Pats to drive the game up to the full dozen. 

Was the value gone then? NO! Respected money, plus some public money kept right on betting New England Over 12 wins. The tide wasn’t stemmed until the South Point went to 12.5 wins, where the Under is now a -120 favorite. 

If you made a number in an NFL or college team prop NINE wins, and the summer line has moved from 7.5 to 8.5…betting Over 8.5 still makes sense for value even if the 7.5 and 8 are long gone. The percentages are still in your favor to profit, just not as much as they would have been if you acted sooner. 

Bottom line…make your own numbers…and visualize how often each team is likely to skew Over or Under that range given your read of that team and its schedule. 

Back Thursday to get ready for dress rehearsal weekend in the NFL. If you’re reading this on the home page of the website, please click here to subscribe for weekday morning delivery to your email box. Subscribers also get links to all those handy betting sheets from the South Point that cover each day’s schedule and a variety of futures prices. 

Don’t forget to follow us on twitter for news and programming bulletins. That’s going to be even more important when the schedule BLOWS UP in size next week. If you have any comments or questions about VSiN programming or the VSiN City newsletter, please drop us a note.

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