What betting markets predict in the NBA playoffs
Wisdom from informed crowds
BY JEFF FOGLE
These days, practically every sports media outlet has a deal with a casino and advice about how to bet. We don’t. At TrueHoop we don’t partner with sportsbooks or recommend “picks.”
But, we do think the betting markets can help in our core mission to figure out what’s true. The idea we’re rolling out for these playoffs: let’s use the betting markets to better understand what’s likely to happen in the NBA postseason.
Sports betting markets tap into the wisdom of crowds, which research shows can be incredibly powerful in making predictions of all kinds. Opening betting lines, created by professional oddsmakers, tend to be pretty good. Then, they’re sharpened by professional bettors, many of whom use state-of-the-art prediction modeling. (It's true that markets also include relatively “dumb” money but—I’ve been in this business a long time and can assure you—sportsbooks don’t often move lines significantly based on public action. They’ve learned to position themselves against the public to maximize profit.) Once point spreads and future prices have settled into place, they arguably represent “the sum of all models.” Though not perfect (nothing could be, in a sampling strongly influenced by shooting and injury variance), betting markets typically provide excellent predictions for how an NBA postseason will unfold.
In the days to come, we will publish both who the betting markets, and David Thorpe, predict will win every series. Both have excellent track records.
In advance, let’s assess the favorites, and a few of the first-round series.