Setting The Pick – In-Season Tournament Hedge Opportunity
If there’s any benefit from the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament, it’s the instant gratification we get just weeks into the regular season.
Getting ahead of NBA awards like Most Improved Player or Rookie of the Year can be profitable, but those tickets don’t get realized until five months from now.
The group stage of the NBA Cup will be wrapped by next Tuesday and the entire tournament will be wrapped by Dec. 9.
If you’ve been paying close attention to the prices offered by FanDuel and the tiebreaker rules for the round robin, you might identify some opportunities.
New York Knicks primed for wildcard berth
As it stands FanDuel has the Knicks as +4400 longshots to win the In-Season Tournament.
I’m not suggesting they end up winning it, but I think they’re in better position to enter the knockout stage than they’re currently getting credit for.
New York is +1400 to win East Group B and that’s fair.
However, with one win over the Miami Heat on Friday (which they’re currently favoured to), they’d be the front-runners for the East wild-card spot.
Group Play of the first-ever NBA In-Season Tournament continues with 10 GAMES TODAY!— NBA (@NBA) November 24, 2023
🏆 The Celtics can clinch East Group C and advance to the Knockout Round with a win
🏆 The Timberwolves can clinch West Group C and advance to the Knockout Round with a win
🏆 The Kings can… pic.twitter.com/d5VIZ0KHbg
Let me elaborate with the necessary assumptions.
In all likelihood, the wild-card team needs to finish 3-1 to advance.
Should New York win against Miami, they’ll be 2-1 with one final game against the Charlotte Hornets.
For argument’s sake, let’s assume they win that game and finish 3-1.
The tiebreaker to decide who advances as a wildcard is head-to-head record, point differential, and total points scored (which should be decided by these three).
As it stands, three of the following six teams are eligible to advance:
Boston, Milwaukee, Miami, Brooklyn, Cleveland, and Orlando.
Boston is -350 to win their group and needs a win over Orlando to clinch.
One can assume the Bucks beat the Wizards tonight and move to 3-0 with a final game against Miami to secure East Group B.
That leaves Miami, Brooklyn, and Cleveland all with the possibility of finishing 3-1 for the final wildcard berth.
Should New York defeat Miami, they’ll have the head-to-head tiebreaker over them. But to supersede the other two, the Knicks need to finish with a higher point differential.
Here’s where the teams are today (games played in brackets):
New York (2) plus-16
Brooklyn (3) plus-8
Cleveland (3) plus-6
Assuming the Knicks win over the Heat by the bare minimum, their point differential moves to plus-17.
That means, with one final game in hand, they’ll have to beat Charlotte and cover a nine-point or higher margin of victory compared to Brooklyn over Toronto or Cleveland over Atlanta.
There are two exceptions to screw things up – Orlando defeats Boston today leaving the Celtics competing with New York for the wild-card berth or Milwaukee loses to Miami by enough points on Tuesday putting New York last in a three-way tie for East Group B.
I’m spelling out a lot of scenarios above but the most important takeaway – if New York wins over Miami, their odds to win the In-Season Tournament will drop significantly from +4400.
Now as the title of this article goes, how do you hedge?
Say you bet $10 on New York to win the NBA Cup at +4400 and they win, you’d be up $440.
Miami is currently +180 underdogs on the moneyline tonight. If you place $10 on them, you win $28 total and cover the $10 placed on New York to win the tournament for a profit of $18.
But if New York wins, all you’ll need is a reasonable victory over the Hornets to advance.
You can execute the same hedging strategy with Charlotte who’ll likely be an even longer underdog.
If New York loses, they’re out but you cover your bets with the Hornets hedge.
If they win, now you have a +4400 ticket on one of the eight final teams in the tournament.
Assuming all teams are equal, each knockout stage team has a 12.5 per cent chance to win it.
A +4400 implies a 2.2 per cent probability at the trophy.
You can continue to roll over the same hedging opportunity for the final three games in the unlikely event the Knicks make it to the final.
If not, you can keep elevating your hedge bets to ensure you’ve covered your initial investments across all previously placed wagers.
One additional trend I want to flag are the outrageous game totals Indiana is throwing up on a nightly basis.
The headline grabbing moment was FanDuel posting a 252.5 total for their match against Atlanta last Tuesday. It was the highest line set for an NBA game in roughly three decades.
It finished 157-152 in regulation – 56.5 points over the line.
The Pacers are getting recognition for running a historic offence, averaging four more points per game than the next closest team.
What doesn’t get mentioned is how they also allow the most points in the league at 126.4 PPG.
Indiana has gone over their game total 13 out of 14 times this season and that’s with oddsmakers setting historically high lines.
Unless they continue moving up the goal posts, the Pacers are in line to keep covering.
Tyrese Haliburton has transformed into an All-NBA playmaker and is hitting shots at MVP levels.
Defensively though, this team couldn’t be worse at rim protection.
According to Cleaning The Glass, Indy allows 44 per cent of their opponent’s shot attempts to come at the rim – 5.5 per cent higher than the next worst team.
On average, NBA teams allow opponents to take 32.6 per cent of their shots at the rim.
I don’t expect much to change for them defensively.
The only way this trend stops is FanDuel upping the ante with more historically high game totals.