Why the Milwaukee Bucks are undervalued by the betting market

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Unlike the NFL schedule release, the NBA schedule release is not met with as much pomp and circumstance. The NFL is an 18-week, 17-game sprint to a title and those schedules are easier to dissect and analyze. On the other hand, the NBA schedule is protracted and spread out over the course of six months.

However, much like the NFL, when the schedule is announced oddsmakers get to work and post lines for bettors to dissect and analyze. Sifting through these early lines gives us the chance to see how operators rate these teams and compare those rating to our own. So, let’s do just that.

Below are the market power ratings of all 30 NBA teams. Using 1.5 points as homecourt advantage – the actual number came out to about 1.57 last season – we can look at the spreads posted for the first three days of the regular season to determine how the market rates these teams. Those ratings are as follows:

86: Celtics, Clippers, Warriors

83: 76ers, Heat, Nets, Suns

82.5: Bucks, Nuggets, Grizzlies [No Jackson]

81.5: Lakers, Timberwolves

81: Hawks

80: Pelicans

79: Mavericks, Raptors

78.5: Bulls

76.5: Kings, Knicks, Trail Blazers, Wizards

76: Hornets

75.5: Cavaliers

74.5: Jazz, Pistons

73.5: Thunder

73: Rockets

72.5: Pacers, Magic

71: Spurs

Let’s give you a quick example of how we got these numbers.

Boston is currently a 4.5-point favorite at home on opening night against Philadelphia. If we’re using 1.5 for homecourt advantage as we previously mentioned, then that would mean the Celtics are -3 on a neutral over the 76ers. Subtract three from 86 and we get 83 so we place the 76ers on the 83 line (The actual power rating numbers are subjective for this exercise).

We do this for every game on the board until we get all 30 teams rated. Then we can compare these ratings with our own to find discrepancies and play against those. Let’s talk about a few of those right now.

The market is undervaluing Milwaukee

Milwaukee opens its season on the road against Philadelphia on Oct. 20 and the consensus number is 76ers -2 which would make them 0.5 points better on a neutral. Since we know that Philadelphia is already on the 83 line that would put Milwaukee at 82.5 which is jarring to see. At worst the Bucks should power rate identically to the 76ers, and they are not worse than the Heat, Nets or Suns but the market is saying they are.

By my numbers Milwaukee not only rates better than Philadelphia, but they also actually rate identically to Boston, the title favorite that the market says is 3.5 points better on a neutral. Thus, by my numbers in comparison with the market the Bucks + 2 over the 76ers is a bet worth making.

Is the betting market forgetting about Jaren Jackson Jr.?

Do not run or avert your eyes, this will not turn into a complaint about JJJ not winning the Defensive Player of the Year award last season. Instead, it is a reminder that Jackson will not be available to start the season and could be out through December. Jackson underwent surgery for a stress fracture in his foot in late June and he is expected to miss 4-to-6 months recovering. Yet, the betting market has them about 3.5 points worse than the three title contenders on a neutral.

Jackson is an extremely impactful player who improved Memphis’ efficiency differential by 4.5 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor. What he is worth to this team and to a point spread can be quibbled, but he is worth something, so when Jackson returns are the Grizzlies a title contender just below the Celtics, Clippers and Warriors? Say he is worth a point to the spread. That would mean Memphis with him is on the 83.5 line which makes them just 2.5 points worse on a neutral than Boston, Los Angeles and Golden State. Some bettors might believe that to be the case, but not me. Taking a position against a Memphis team early in the season is on the list.

The Los Angeles Lakers

Los Angeles’ pursuit of Kyrie Irving fell short, and instead the Lakers acquired Patrick Beverley late Wednesday night. Los Angeles made changes in the offseason, but there were minor. Lonnie Walker, Troy Brown Jr., Juan Toscano-Anderson and Thomas Bryant are all fine depth pieces, but that does not move the needle from a power rating standpoint. Yet, the betting market says this team is just a point worse than the Bucks and better than the Hawks?

The Lakers open the season against the Warriors and the line dropped from -6.5 to -6 which is the predominant number on the board now. That would mean that Golden State is just 4.5 points better than Los Angeles on a neutral. The same team which finished 11th and outside of the play-in tournament in the Western Conference last season. It seems that the betting market might be overvaluing the brand that is the Lakers once more. Shocking.

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