National Basketball Association
Best NBA futures bets to make now, including Celtics, Lakers and Heat
National Basketball Association

Best NBA futures bets to make now, including Celtics, Lakers and Heat

Published Mar. 6, 2024 12:34 p.m. ET

The legendary coach Phil Jackson had a 40/20 rule. 

That rule stated that if you win 40 games before you lose 20, you are officially a contender to win the NBA title. 

The last two champs (Denver, Golden State) both fit that criteria. If you skip the two years that were directly impacted by COVID, and the 2011-2012 season that was shortened because of the strike, every NBA champion from 2007 was part of the 40/20 rule.

The last champ that it didn’t apply to was the 2005-2006 Miami Heat. It was in that season that Dwyane Wade took over the Finals to win four straight games and Finals MVP.  


Based on the 40/20 rule, only four teams can win the title this year: Boston, Denver, Minnesota and Oklahoma City.

I have zero faith that the Thunder or Timberwolves can make a run to the Finals. In fact, I’ll look to bet against them with whoever comes out of the play-in, especially if it is the Lakers, Mavericks or Suns

And for what it's worth, I don’t have much confidence in the Warriors.

That leaves the Nuggets and Celtics, who are by far the two best teams in the NBA this season. 

Boston is breaking analytics models, dominating teams in a historic fashion, registering three wins by 50-plus points. The latter is an NBA record. 

It’s hard to see anyone taking down a healthy Celtics team in the playoffs. That’s even if Joel Embiid returns to the 76ers and the Bucks continue to right the ship with Doc Rivers. 

The West, however, is littered with land mines. From the Clippers (if healthy) to the Big Three in Phoenix to Luka’s Mavericks — they're all potentially dangerous squads.

With all this in mind, here are a few NBA futures bets to consider as we approach the final 20 games of the NBA season:

• Celtics vs. Nuggets exact NBA Finals matchup, +450: For about a month now, this has felt like a lock.

• Celtics NBA champions, +300: That's buying at the top of the market, but they’re that good.

• Heat NBA champions, +4000: It’s always great to have Jimmy Butler in your portfolio. He's got the heart of a champion. And he's not afraid of the Celtics at all.

• Lakers NBA champions, +3000: Remember, they got to the Western Conference Finals last year. Yes, they were swept by Denver, but as we’ve seen in the playoffs, injuries happen. If something happens in Denver, the Lakers are in play to get LeBron that fifth title.

Jason McIntyre is the co-host of The Herd and a FOX Sports gambling analyst, and he also writes about the NFL and NBA Draft. He joined FS1 in 2016 and has appeared on every show on the network. In 2017, McIntyre began producing gambling content on the NFL, college football and NBA for FOX Sports. He had a gambling podcast for FOX, "Coming Up Winners," in 2018 and 2019. Before arriving at FOX, he created the website The Big Lead, which he sold in 2010. You can find him on Twitter @JasonRMcIntyre.


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