Bold second-half predictions and bets to make

ByFantasy Staff ESPN logo
Sunday, February 25, 2024

Every team in the NBA has less than 30 games left on their regular-season schedule, but there is still enough time for much to change in the standings and in the awards races.

Here are betting experts André Snellings, Eric Moody, Eric Karabell, Jim McCormick, Tyler Fulghum and Steve Alexander with bold betting predictions and corresponding bets to make.

Bold prediction: The Philadelphia 76ers are going to win the NBA title

This bold outcome clearly rides heavily on the health of one Joel Embiid, but tea leaves suggest his recovery from knee surgery should allow a short regular season runway ahead of the Eastern Conference playoff gauntlet. The premise being that of all of Embiid's ill-timed playoff injuries, this one might actually position him to be healthy in time for the most meaningful minutes. This is also a different version of Embiid in that he's fully morphed into a Durant-like midrange scorer in crunch time, all while still claiming a free throw attempt rate higher than peak Shaq and the rim protection rates of an unquestioned elite defender. Combine this with more spacing and wings around him aligned with Tyrese Maxey's arrival as a co-star, and Nick Nurse has the requisite ingredients to shock the system.

Bet to make: 76ers to win NBA title (+3000)

This bold bet on a Broad Street parade affords 30-1 odds akin to currently betting Chet Holmgren as the DPOY. The payoff is positive enough to consider this outlier outcome worthy of our attention. The Sixers were winning games at a 65-win pace with Embiid at the helm, suggesting this is indeed a sleeping giant of sorts in a parity-driven NBA playoff field. It would require some magic for this to actually unfold, but we shouldn't dismiss the caliber of play the team and Embiid were sustaining before that fateful fall in San Francisco. -- McCormick

Bold prediction: The Golden State Warriors are going to win the Western Conference

The Warriors entered the All-Star break having won eight of 10 games, and the recent lineup change promoting rookie Brandin Podziemski over Klay Thompson is smart. It should energize both players. Stephen Curry is playing great. Jonathan Kuminga is breaking out. Draymond Green is staying out of trouble.

Bets to make: Warriors to win the Western Conference (+2000)

Nobody is going to want to play the Warriors. Watch them win the West. -- Karabell

Bold prediction: The Boston Celtics will finish the season with a sub-.500 ATS record

The Celtics are the best team in the NBA by many objective measures, most importantly, their 43-12 overall record. They're almost unbeatable at home. I don't see this team slowing down in the regular season until they have the #1 overall seed in the East locked up. Despite this dominance, Boston is far from a great bet for the bettor. They're 25-27-3 ATS this season.

Bet to make: Bet the Celtics 1st-Half spread in games

Despite that pedestrian ATS record overall, if you've just been betting the Celtics to cover the first half of games this season, you've been raking it in. Boston is 39-15-1 ATS in the first half this season. I don't see that slowing down anytime soon. -- Fulghum

Bold prediction: The Minnesota Timberwolves will finish as the top seed in the Western Conference and the Oklahoma City Thunder will fall to the No. 3 or 4 seed

I see the Timberwolves continuing their strong play and finishing as the top seed in the West, and I also see at least one team passing the Thunder to push them down a spot or two.

Bets to make: Timberwolves to win the Northwest Division (+105); Chris Finch to win Coach of the Year (+175)

If the Wolves finish higher than the Thunder, it will nudge Finch past OKC's Mark Daigneault in the Coach of the Year race. -- Snellings

Bold prediction: The Miami Heat will win the Eastern Conference

The Heat find themselves eighth in the Eastern Conference, which is impressive considering they've dealt with a ton of injuries so far this season. Jimmy Butler has a habit of elevating his play when the Heat need him the most. Miami will want to avoid the play-in tournament this time around.

Bet to make: Heat to win the Eastern Conference (+1300)

This narrative is what makes the bet on the Heat to win the East so intriguing. Miami has always embraced a strong defensive mentality under Erik Spoelstra, and with players like Butler and Bam Adebayo, it's difficult to bet against them. The Heat aren't intimidated by the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks or Milwaukee Bucks after their epic run to the NBA Finals last season. -- Moody

Bold prediction: The Mavericks will make a late-season run, become a Top 4 seed in the West and Luka Doncic will win his first MVP Award

Along with making Dallas a Top 4 seed in the West, newly acquired big men P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford are going to help Doncic and the Mavericks win the Southwest Division.

Bet to make: Dallas to win the Southwest Division (+135)

They currently trail the Pelicans by 0.5 games and I think Dallas will out-play New Orleans during the final seven weeks of the regular season. This is especially true if the injury bug eventually bites the Pelicans like it has over the past several years. -- Alexander