Sheridan: NBA Finals Preview – Who Are Bettors Liking Ahead Of Game 1?

Written By Chris Sheridan on September 29, 2020
NBA Finals betting Lakers Heat

Plenty of bettors like the Miami Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals, which has caused the Game 1 line to shrink by a point and prompted one sportsbook to drop the odds of a Heat sweep from 100-1 to 45-1.

Suddenly, a bunch of folks are starting to believe the same thing that Jimmy Butler was saying inside the bubble Tuesday: “Not going to say that we’re any better than anybody else, but I just don’t think that we’re underdogs. I don’t.”

Here is a look at who bettors are liking ahead of Game 1 of the Finals, which tip off Wednesday at 9 p.m., and how the top sportsbooks have been reacting.


Time to get ‘Iggy’ wit’ it?

Here is the thing with the Finals: Watching LeBron James play basketball is exciting.

Betting on LeBron? Not quite so much, at least when it comes to maximizing payoffs.

The guy is back in the NBA Finals for the ninth time in 10 years, and if you think he will be the MVP, you can win $100 by wagering $155.

That’s a safe bet, for sure, but not too thrilling.

How about the guy who will be playing in the NBA Finals for the sixth consecutive season? Andre Iguodala, who shot 5-for-5 in Miami’s Game 6 victory eliminating the Boston Celtics, is the man who along with Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler will have the defensive assignment on LeBron. The big question on this, though, is how much Erik Spoelstra will use Iguodala.

Let’s just say for argument’s sake that Miami wins the series – in large part – because of Iguodala’s defense, and Iggy contributes somewhat consistently on offense. If the media voters (there are usually 10 of them) decide that Iggy’s defense was the most important individual contribution to the Heat’s four victories, he might just get a few MVP votes. And if he gets more than anyone else, he’ll win it again (he was Finals MVP in 2015) at odds of anywhere from +10000 to +25000.

Herro, Butler a liability for books

Nobody on the Heat is lower than +900 for Finals MVP right now at DraftKings Sportsbook, a reflection of the oddmakers’ belief that the Lakers will win. But the Heat are drawing most of the action.

At FanDuel Sportsbook, there is considerable exposure on Tyler Herro for MVP, and 75% of the Over/Under wagers are on the over. The Lakers are drawing 71% of the handle and 60% of the spread money, and the Heat are drawing 55% of the wagers and 34% of the dollars on moneyline bets.

“Tyler Herro is our biggest liability in the Finals MVP market at 30/1,” said John Sheeran, director of risk and trading at FanDuel. “Obviously given his performance in Game 4 (against Boston), being a key contributor, and bettors are honing in on expecting a big Finals performance from the 20-year-old. LeBron is a deserving favorite but the most money has come in on Anthony Davis at +300 where he has taken almost 40% of the action. The Lakers would be a bad result with some bettors sitting on nice tickets from last June at odds of 9/1, now all the way down to -360. The Heat would be a really good result and were largely unsupported at odds of 100-1 last June.”

Herro is carrying close to the same odds as Goran Dragic (+3000 at DraftKings), who is a sleeper MVP candidate because he is the floor general for the Heat, will log heavy minutes and is a consistent scorer.

Jimmy Butler has the shortest odds of any Heat player, +750 at FanDuel and +900 at DraftKings. Bam Adebayo is around +900 at most books..

“We’re most exposed on Jimmy Butler,” said Andrew Mannino of PointsBet. “We’ve been hit hard by him in different ways throughout the playoffs. Bettors are looking to the Heat for value, and what they did in the past two rounds was not only a great story, it got everyone’s attention.”

Mannino said 77% of the handle on who would win the series was on Miami. PointsBet also was seeing 70% of bets and 60% of handle on the Over.

DraftKings was the book that opened with the Heat at 100-1 to sweep the series, but that was lowered to 45-1 on Tuesday after Miami backers jumped on it.

Don’t forget The King

At DraftKings, 55% of the wagers but 81% of the handle was on the Over, and their biggest LeBron James exposure was on LeBron for MVP, which was at -109 on Monday before rising.

“Our exposure is still LeBron,” said Johnny Avello of DraftKings Sportsbook. “The bettors are thinking that in order to bet the series price you have to lay $3.75 on the Lakers but only $1.55 on LeBron, and probably the only guy he has to beat out is Anthony Davis. That’s how they’re playing it.”

William Hill’s Adrienne Prather-Marcos said Bam Adebayo is their most popular bet for Finals MVP, accounting for 35% of NBA Finals MVP wagers, and LeBron has the majority of money wagered at 77%.

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