Sports Betting Lessons: Making Sense Of The Early Playoff Picture

As the playoff picture clears up just 3 weeks removed from the start of the NBA play-in tournament, we are entering crunch time. This can be an exciting time for bettors, because teams are trying hard to finalize playoff seeding and we can marry narratives with what our models may be spitting out. Let’s take a look at how the playoffs look at of today:


  1. Milwaukee 50-20 (East) – Denver 47-24 (West)
  2. Philadelphia 48-22 (East) – Sacramento 43-27 (West)
  3. Boston 49-23 (East) – Memphis 43-27 (West)
  4. Cleveland 45-28 (East) – Phoenix 38-32 (West)
  5. New York 42-30 (East) – LA Clippers 37-34 (West)
  6. Brooklyn 39-31 (East) – Dallas 36-35 (West)


7. Miami 38-34 (East) – Golden State 36-36 (West)

8. Atlanta 35-35 (East) – Minnesota 35-37 (West)

9. Toronto 35-36 (East) – Oklahoma City 34-36 (West)

10. Chicago 33-37 (East) – Utah 34-36 (West)

Play-In Contenders

In the East, Indiana (32-39) and Washington (32-39) are both 1.5 games back from 10th place. And out West, the dominant storyline has been the Lakers quest to sneak into the play-in. At 34-37, they are only 1/2 game from 10th place, whereas the Pelicans at 33-37 are a full game back.

With three weeks to go, it is guaranteed that this picture will look completely different. Sacramento and Memphis are jockeying for the second seed out West. Golden State could leapfrog Dallas to secure the 6th seed, or even the 5th if the Clippers don’t tighten up. This is where the tracker comes into play, to help make sense of it all as the season winds down.

Real Playoff Contenders – Eastern Conference

I’ll be honest. I am a 2022-23 Miami Heat hater. Since tracking began – February 8 if you recall – Miami is second lowest amongst the play-in teams and the contenders. Of their 11 home games, they’ve only covered 3 of 9 home favorites and are 0-2 as home dogs. A veteran-laden team with a great coach, they’ll make the playoffs. But I see a first round exit or a play-in elimination in their future.

Atlanta, Toronto and Chicago are all healthy. They rank 14th, 12th and 10th in point differential.

Atlanta does a great job at home. They’ve covered 5 of 9 home favorites and are scrappy on the road. They have a new voice in Quinn Snyder, who can help come playoff time.

Toronto has been a pleasant surprise as I was not a believer. Not a great road team but they’re only second to Golden State in home favorite covers. General Manager Masai Ujiri deserves credit for keeping their team together, but a rebuild may be on the horizon soon.

And Chicago made a splash picking up noted gnat and local legend Patrick Beverley. With the Lonzo Ball news, having a veteran presence at point can help this playoff caliber team hold steady. Vegas has a good handle on the Bulls. They are 5 of 8 in games they’re favored in, while 2 of 8 in games they’re the underdog in.

Real Playoff Contenders – Western Conference

Golden State is at a perfect 0 in point differential. It’s a number I like to see because it just screams chaos. And Golden State is that. They’re the best home team, covering 8 of 9. But as a road team, favorite or underdog?

That tweet was after they lost to Atlanta on Friday. They went on lose to hated rival Memphis as a road favorite on Saturday. The market opened with Memphis as a home favorite by 4.5. The line was bet so much for Golden State, Memphis closed as a 1.5 point dog. Please stop believing in this team as a road anything. Just stop.

Minnesota and Utah are both in the negative in point differential, so that tells you what I think about them. But Oklahoma City has been impressive. I was happy to see they were in the playoff hunt even as a play-in squad. I’ll be rooting for them to secure a playoff berth. They’re a cool young team and Sam Presti’s wizardry should be applauded.

But let’s be real, what we need to happen is for Golden State to jump to 6th. The Grizzlies-Warriors beef has been keeping the league drama-filled. And we are better for it!

The rings bit is a little corny especially when losing but I do agree with Klay on Dillon’s legacy. It’s funny that Dillon’s issue is mostly with Draymond and their roles are similar. The role is quite ironic where at best you’re Draymond: you have the rings but very little respect. Or you’re Dillon where you’re just a pest who won’t be remembered in history. Yikes.

Who To Target Moving Forward?

Another good part of playoff time with betting is the narratives that can help you with plays. Here are some teams to target based off how they’ve done lately and what they have to gain.


Since the last iteration they’ve gone from 2nd place at +100 to a comfortable 1st place with +168. They are 9 of 12 as faves and 3 of 5 as away dogs. Embiid is fiercely going after the MVP award too. Whether it’s Philly to cover or a prop on Embiid – tune in for WYE Bets’ player props – neither are bad plays.

Golden State

If they’re at home, take them. They’re 8 of 9 at home and 0 for 9 on the road. A veteran group, they’re not going to settle for a play-in spot. Chef Curry and company will be gunning for that 6th seed. After Monday and Wednesday in Texas taking on the Rockets and Mavs, they’ll be home for their remaining March games.

Indiana and the Lakers

If anyone from the contender list is going to end up in the play-in tournament, I like these two teams. Both are great underdog teams. Indiana being 5 of 6 as road dogs and Los Angeles at 4 of 6. At home is more of the same. The Pacers are 2 of 3 as home dogs and the Lakers are 3 of 5. Neither are lighting it up as favorites, but there could be good value with both covering as underdogs.


Yes, they are -37 in point differential, but that only tells part of the story. Here aret their last 5 games:

Won as a home dog against Boston. Covered as a road dog against Miami. Won as a road favorite in Charlotte> Won as a road dog versus Orlando. And covered as a double-digit dog on the road facing the Mavs.

As all the focus will be on the Lakers, Utah could be valuable bet as we learn more about what the playoffs will look like.