Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:50 PM
NBA Finals Predictions, Trends & Betting Angles
2021 NBA Finals Historical Angles
Now that the 2021 NBA Finals matchup is set, I thought it best to present some historical angles based on some research I found with the goal of simplifying everything and possibly finding some common denominators between past NBA Finals and this year's series between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns.
The saying “if you don't learn from history then you're doomed to repeat it” didn't come out of thin air, and you can learn a lot from the historical results in any sport if you choose to ask yourself the right questions.
Sure, the NBA Finals results from 10 years ago have next to nothing to do what we will see on the basketball court in the coming days, but those teams all had rankings in every stat category relative to the other teams in the league in those seasons, and when you start to look at those, it's really easy to pick up on plenty of patterns to help in predicting future results.
So let's start there, even if I already know all the bettors that rely on breaking down each individual player's stat lines and metrics will be quick to dismiss this line of thought.
I'm told all the time by my editor(s) here at VegasInsider.com that “there is always more than one way to skin a cat” in this industry, so here's the way my knife works in that regard.
(All historical data goes back to the 2004 NBA Finals as that was as far back as I could find Offensive and Defensive Efficiency numbers for NBA Finals teams, so other data was used from that span for consistency)
Defensive Efficiency Ranking for NBA Finals teams as of date before Game 1
|Defensive Efficiency Ratings|
Opened with a cliche about learning from history, so we might as well start with another one in “defense wins championships”. All of those numbers in the chart were as of the date before Game 1's date that particular year, and this is what I'm talking about with finding the patterns.
Outside of the 2007 NBA Finals when San Antonio and Cleveland were locked in a dead heat in Defensive Efficiency in ranking (tied 2nd in NBA), of the other 16 NBA Finals we've had in this span, 11 times the team that entered the finals ranked better in Defensive Efficiency won the NBA title. Hitting at a 68.75% clip over 16 seasons just betting on that stat alone is something I'm sure every bettor out there would have no problem backing, especially when it eliminates all the headaches of individual player breakdowns etc.
This year we've got Milwaukee ranking 6th in Defensive Efficiency at the moment, and Phoenix ranks 7th, so score one for the Bucks.
Offensive Efficiency Ranking for NBA Finals teams as of date before Game 1
The simplistic nature of the previous point deserves the counter argument in relation to offense. Meaning this chart was formed out of the exact same thought process just using Offensive Efficiency numbers prior to Game 1 instead.
With 9 of the past 17 NBA Champions owning the edge in Offensive Efficiency (or 52.9%), the idea of backing the better offensive team to win the Finals has to be considered, but doesn't bring nearly the success rate that leaning on the Defensive Efficiency numbers bring, but even if every NBA Finals series price had been -110 both ways, a 52.9% success rate would still be about break even.
Now, obviously very few series prices are lined dead even like that, but as a theoretical exercise it's not the worst way to look at things. The problem being, when the defensive numbers are so much more reliable in picking a winner, it can be hard to back the team ranking better in Offensive Efficiency over Defensive Efficiency if they are different.
That's precisely the case for the 2021 NBA Finals, as it's the Phoenix Suns who rank 6th, one spot ahead of Milwaukee's 7th. Slight edge to the Suns.
|Offensive Efficiency Ratings|
Team that finished Conference Finals sooner on the calendar
|Team that finished Conference Finals Sooner|
It doesn't always have to be about stats though when you are searching for common denominators, as something as simple as the timing/scheduling on the calendar can bring patterns as well. After all, the whole “rest vs rust” debate never gets left out when it's applicable for a new playoff series, and given that there was a disparity in rest days for the two teams this year, you know it will be mentioned a lot again, at least heading into Game 1.
Obviously, some of these past results can be argued that it's almost sheer dumb luck based on what the schedule makers did that particular year, but having extra rest heading into the NBA Finals has not historically been the best spot to be in.
Only eight of the past 17 NBA Champions had wrapped up their Conference Championship earlier than their opponent, which is a 47% success rate on the nose. That's probably not what Phoenix Suns backers want to hear heading into this year's Finals, even though the perspective in their case is going to be “the rest was good for Chris Paul to get healthy, something the Bucks didn't have with Giannis”.
It's not like there weren't key injuries in any of those previous 17 NBA Finals though, so to me, it all worked out in the wash to still connect at just 47%.
Score one for the Milwaukee Bucks here as well.
More Rest and Game 1 SU Results
|More Rest and Game 1 SU Results|