When the NBA playoffs started, most sportsbooks likely didn’t pay much mind to Atlanta Hawks futures. After all, a 41-31 fifth seed in a notoriously predictable and top-heavy sport wouldn’t figure to be a major player for the title. Bettors could find them as high as 100-to-1 at some shops.
Five weeks and two rounds later, things have changed considerably. With the Hawks four wins from playing for the NBA title, bettors can now find them prior to Game 1 at +340 at DraftKings Sportsbook. FanDuel Sportsbook has the series price against the Bucks at +350, before the start of the series. The sportsbooks have little choice but to take their chances seriously.
TheLines asked several sportsbooks how their liability looks with four teams left, particularly on the Cinderella Hawks.
How The Hawks Got Here
When the playoffs began, the Hawks opened as small favorites in the first round despite playing on the road against the Knicks. So, when they stormed past them in an easy gentleman’s sweep, it didn’t come as a total shock.
The top-seeded Sixers, however, presented a more significant challenge. Judged to be one of the true title contenders for most of the season, the only real question mark was the health of superstar center Joel Embiid.
That kept the odds fairly reasonable, but Embiid played and played well. He averaged 30.4 points, 12.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists on solid shooting splits. Few would have expected the Hawks to advance facing a productive Embiid.
But, they did. They again displayed smart positional defense, exploiting non-shooters like Ben Simmons and Dwight Howard. They swarmed Embiid and forced eight turnovers in each of the final two games. Along with balanced shot-making on offense, it proved enough once to make the Conference Finals.
Next up for the Hawks: the Milwaukee Bucks. Once again, the Hawks enter as underdogs.
Which Books Are Sweating Atlanta Hawks Futures?
Now, the sweat on Atlanta Hawks futures has become real for some of the sportsbooks. No longer can they afford to shrug off potential future liability that seemed unlikely to be realized.
One group that ranks among the most concerned won’t come as a surprise to those following some of the headlines: DraftKings Sportsbook. They made headlines accepting some monster bets in May from a Colorado user.
- $20,000 to win $800,000 on Hawks to win Eastern Conference
- $20,000 to win $2,000,000 Hawks to win NBA title
Earlier this month, rather than hedging, the bettor chose to fire more:
- $10,000 to win $250,000 on Hawks to win the Eastern Conference
- $10,000 to $600,000 on Hawks to win NBA title
The total liability on those bets alone surpasses $3.5 million. Thus, it’s no surprise that DraftKings confirmed a Hawks title run represents the worst-case scenario for the house.
BetMGM told TheLines they’re in “terrific” shape on NBA futures — no shock with favored big-market beasts Brooklyn Nets and L.A. Lakers eliminated. However, Atlanta does represent their top liability as well.
Likewise at PointsBet.
FanDuel Sportsbook appears to be an exception. While they did accept an $8,000 bet at 100-to-1 odds on the Hawks, they stand to lose the most on a Phoenix Suns championship. FanDuel also already paid out more than $20,000 to one bettor who took the Hawks at +540 to topple the Sixers when down 2-1.
Can The Hawks Beat The Bucks?
By basically all of the key regular season metrics, this looks like a mismatch. The Bucks had both a better defense and a better offense than the Hawks this season. They had a net rating of +5.5 to +2.3. They have more top-end talent, a more experienced roster by far, and a two-time MVP leading them.
And yet, the Hawks keep surprising, raising their level of play in the playoffs instead of wilting. Trae Young appears to be ascending to superstar status, and the team showed it can win even with an off night from him. They survived a 5-for-23 shooting performance in Game 7 thanks to brilliant play by Kevin Huerter and Danilo Gallinari.
The Bucks shoot it better than the Knicks and Sixers, but their offense still looks suspect. They rank 10th or worse among playoff teams from all shooting locations except corner 3s (sixth), according to Cleaning The Glass. This series doesn’t look impossible for the Hawks to win.
PointsBet Sports Analyst Michael Korn admitted the book has changed its perception of the Hawks in the wake of their excellent run.
“The line would be much bigger in favor of the Bucks if this were the first round of the playoffs,” he said. “The Hawks advancing passed the Knicks and 76ers makes us realize that they’re a better team than we originally thought.”
Korn’s shop will pull hard for the Bucks. Not only would a Bucks championship be the best result left for the house, but they’ve taken one-sided action on the Eastern Conference Finals. More than 90% of bets and money have come in on Atlanta. The line has been adjusted down a tad from the +400 opener.
FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM also reported mostly Atlanta tickets, though the latter two said heavier money has come in on the Bucks. FanDuel has taken more Hawks championship tickets than any other team since Sunday.
Thanks to futures liability, nearly all of the sportsbooks will hope bettors have hopped on the bandwagon too late, and the Bucks end the underdog’s run.