This article is part of our Handicapping the NBA series.
The long grind of the NBA regular season is over. Now, it's time for the playoffs! We have plenty of wagering opportunities to consider before we tip off the first round, but before we do that, let's check in on where my record ended for the regular season.
Player Props: 20-12
Spread Picks: 4-4
For this article, we'll focus on some series and conference wagers that stand out as potentially profitable opportunities. As per usual, all odds are obtained from the FanDuel Sportsbook.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER VS. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
The Bet: Thunder win series (-170)
The Western Conference playoff seeding came down to the final day of the regular season. When the smoke cleared, the Blazers had overtaken the Rockets for the third seed. Unfortunately for them, they are now stuck with a tough series against the Thunder. Even though C.J. McCollum is back from his knee injury, the loss of Jusuf Nurkic (lower leg) can't be understated. Luckily, Portland had Enes Kanter waiting in the wings, but Nurkic will still be sorely missed. The Thunder swept the season series against the Blazers, and I think the duo of Russell Westbrook and Paul George will be too much for them to overcome in the playoffs, as well.
DETROIT PISTONS VS. MILWAUKEE BUCKS
The Bet: Series ends in four games (+170)
It wasn't pretty, but the Pistons found a way to get into the playoffs. Even with Blake Griffin (knee) on the sidelines Wednesday, they managed to lock up their spot with a blowout win over the Knicks. Griffin only played 18 minutes Tuesday and ended up sitting out four of their final seven games, which is concerning.
Either way, I don't think it really matters. The Bucks steamrolled the league this year on their way to 60 wins and a +8.9 point differential. It should come as no surprise that they swept the Pistons during the regular season, winning their four matchups by an average of 14.8 points. With plus odds and a well-rested Giannis Antetokounmpo, I'll take my chances on them pulling off a first-round sweep.
BROOKLYN NETS VS. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
The Bet: Series ends in six games (+250)
The job that coach Kenny Atkinson did to get the Nets into the playoffs as the sixth seed is impressive, especially considering how long Caris LeVert was out. D'Angelo Russell had a monster breakout campaign and finished with the sixth-highest usage rate (31.9 percent) in the league.
Meanwhile, Sixers' general manager Elton Brand said it's possible that Joel Embiid (knee) might not be ready to play in Game 1. If he misses any time, that's obviously a huge advantage for the Nets, who don't have a big man on the roster who can match up with Embiid, defensively. As it is, these two teams split the season series at two games apiece. While I don't think the Nets will advance, I do believe they will give the Sixers a run for their money. Take the favorable plus odds here.
The Bet: Bucks win the Eastern Conference (+165)
Without question, the Bucks are the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. They won't have an easy path, though, especially with the potential of having to face the Celtics in the second round. The good news is that Nikola Mirotic (thumb) could be back for the start of the first round and Malcolm Brogdon (foot) could return for the conference semifinals. If that is the case, that would provide them with a significant boost. The addition of Brook Lopez has been huge and Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to be a man possessed during their playoff run, so, again, it's hard to pass up plus odds here. I do think the Raptors can give them trouble, but this is a risk that still might be worth taking.
The Bet: Rockets win the NBA title (+1200)
Can the Warriors win it all yet again this season? Well, they are the clear favorites with -210 odds. The next closest team is the Bucks at +600. I think that says it all. However, if you want to take a long shot on another team to bring home the title, the Rockets could provide a huge financial windfall.
It's well-documented that they had the Warriors on the brink of elimination last year before Chris Paul went down with an injury. If there is a downside with choosing the Rockets, it's that falling down to the fourth seed in the West lines them up to face the Warriors in the second round. That's not ideal, but they will likely have to get through the Warriors at some point, anyway. If they can avoid injuries, I think Houston has the best shot at dethroning Golden State, though even if they do get past the Warriors, whichever team they'd meet in the Finals would represent another significant challenge.