It might be a little “ho-hum,” but professional sports handicapper Erin Rynning thinks the oddsmakers in Nevada called it right in making the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat favorites when the NBA playoffs begin on Saturday. The Heat are the overall favorite at 9-5 odds to win the NBA championship while the Spurs come in at 5-2.
Rynning does like the Spurs to win it all but, he says, there is a reason the Heat have the shortest odds: “Miami has an easier path than San Antonio “ meaning the Western Conference is much better than the East this year. He goes on to say the fact that they are the defending champions has a lot to do with it too. Rynning points out that bettors could have picked up great value on San Antonio earlier in the season. “You probably could have gotten them at 7-1 a couple of months ago when they were fighting some injuries.” After the All-Star break, though, the Spurs went on a 19-game winning streak which ultimately led to them being a popular pick as the NBA playoffs begin.
With the two best teams at such short odds, Rynning says sports players should look for another Texas team for value in the post-season. “The play to make right now would be the Houston Rockets at 20-1.” He says he has had his eye on the Rockets all season long and they have some things going for them. “They have, potentially, the most dominating center in the game, Dwight Howard, and when you have the most dominating center, that goes a long, long way in the NBA playoffs.” The handicapper also points to Houston guard Patrick Beverly, calling him a good “pest defender.” Rynning says “He’ll match up very well in the Western Conference. He’s someone who can at least help slow down Tony Parker, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook.” Another factor he cites in the Rocket’s favor is shooting guard James Harden’s experience in playing the NBA finals with Oklahoma City. “He’s that efficient superstar scorer that you would need” to win in the championship series.
Rynning, who lends his expertise to handicapping website Sportsmemo.com, says 7-foot center Omar Asik, who backs up Dwight Howard, gives the Rockets two dominating low post players. “They remind me a little bit of the Dallas Mavericks team that won as a three-seed three years ago when Tyson Chandler was the guy that locked down the paint” with Dirk Nowitzki. He also pointed out that Houston attempts more long-range shots than any team in the league this year and, “if they happen to be hitting these three-pointers, like Dallas three years ago, that could vault them and give them a shot at winning the championship.” Keeping a sense of humor about him, Rynning added a final caveat, saying then again “as a 4-seed, they could get knocked out in the first round. That’s how tough that Western Conference is.” The Rockets take on the Portland Trail Blazers in their opening game of the NBA playoffs on Sunday in Houston.
After favorites Miami and San Antonio, the Oklahoma City Thunder is next (7-2) followed by the Indiana Pacers (8-1) and the Clippers (10-1). The Rockets are sixth on the board at 20-1. The longest odds to win the NBA title this year belong to the Atlanta Hawks at 950-1.
Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky