Will the Spurs Make the Playoffs? Oddsmakers Still Unsure

The San Antonio Spurs have been out of action since beginning the 2021 Rodeo Road Trip with a pair of victories. After defeating the Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets, the NBA postponed San Antonio’s last four games due to COVID-19 protocols. 

With a record of 16-11, the Spurs have the fifth best record in the Western Conference, even though they haven’t played since Valentine’s Day. Before they return to action, let’s take advantage of the break in the action to take a look at how oddsmakers are interpreting the team’s early-season success.

First, let’s begin with the big pictures. The best way to do that is to look at the San Antonio Spurs odds to win the championship. At sidelines.io, we can see that San Antonio’s chances to win a championship are currently between 150-to-1 and 200-to-1. To put those numbers into context, the Spurs had 130-to-1 odds to win a champion before the start of the season.

If we just look at championship odds, the picture that is painted by oddsmakers isn’t a rosy one. Even though the Spurs have been impressive to begin their campaign, their championship odds have actually gotten worse. However, if we drill down further into the numbers, there are signs that the Spurs are getting more respect from the oddsmakers.

When it comes to the Spurs odds of winning the Western Conference, the Spurs began the season with 100-to-1 odds. Today, even though they’re sitting with the fifth seed in the West, they’re odds are still 100-to-1. 

While that doesn’t sound like an impressive feat, it’s important to note that four teams now have worse odds of winning the West: the Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder and Sacramento Kings. Prior to the beginning of the season, only the Timberwolves and the Kings had worse odds. Thus, it’s fair to say the Spurs are trending in the right direction, comparatively speaking.

That said, oddsmakers aren’t exactly jumping on San Antonio’s playoff bandwagon, as nine teams have better odds of coming out of the West. The Spurs are tied in the tenth spot with the Memphis Grizzlies, who also boast 100-to-1 odds.

Analytics View: San Antonio Spurs Playoff Chances

Another way to gauge San Antonio’s chances of making it to the postseason is to take a look at analytics-powered playoff forecasts. Interestingly, the forecasts published by FiveThirtyEight and ESPN see the Spurs odds differently. 

At FiveThirtyEight, the Spurs were given a 28% chance of making the playoffs on December 23rd, the day their season began. At the time, the Spurs were tied with the Grizzlies for 11th best odds in the West. 

On February 17th, three days after the Spurs were forced to go on hiatus, San Antonio’s odds to make the postseason were sitting at 68% according to FiveThirtyEight. That was good enough to be the seventh highest percentage in the conference. 

Today, after being forced to skip four games, the FiveThirtyEight forecast has lowered the Spurs chances to 57%, which is the eighth best odds in the West. Compared to where the Spurs were in their forecast before the season started, San Antonio’s chances have doubled.

Unfortunately, ESPN’s model isn’t as bullish about the Spurs. Currently, ESPN gives the Spurs only a 36.5% chance of making the playoffs. Nine teams in the Western Conference have a better chance of making the playoffs, according to their model. 

Even though FiveThirtyEight and ESPN see San Antonio’s playoff chances very differently, they actually agree when it comes to predicting the Spurs final record. In this 72-game season, FiveThirtyEight currently predicts the Spurs to finish 37-35, while ESPN currently predicts a record of 36-36. That means both models think the Spurs will have a below .500 record from today until the end of the regular season. 

NBA Playoff Rule Changes to Keep in Mind

Last season, the Spurs missed the playoffs for the first time in 23 seasons. That streak tied the mark for the longest in the history of the league.

This season, it’s important to remember the additional rule changes that the Spurs will need to factor in during their attempt to make it back to the postseason. In recent decades, finishing with a top eight record in the conference was all you needed to do to make the playoffs. That changed last year and the NBA is keeping that rule change around. This season, there will be a play-in tournament that features the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth seeds. At the end of the play-in tournament, two of those four teams will officially advance to the postseason. 

For the Spurs to make the playoffs outright, they will need to finish as one of the top six seeds in the West. Since they are currently fifth, that could be considered unlikely but it’s far from impossible.

Which Team is Favored to Win the 2021 NBA Championship?

The Los Angeles Lakers won the championship last season and oddsmakers believe they are the favorites to win it all again this season. Beyond the Lakers, the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers are seen as the main contenders. In a tier below that, you’ll find the Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz. 

The models produced by FiveThirtyEight and ESPN see it differently, though. FiveThirtyEight gives the Clippers the best odds at 19% to win the championship. In second place are the Jazz and Bucks at 17%. The Lakers are fifth at 10%.

According to the model by ESPN, the Bucks hold the best championship odds at 24.5%. The Lakers are next at 21.4%, while the Jazz round out the top three at 17.9%.

If you’re wondering, the Spurs are given less than a 1% chance of winning a championship by both FiveThirtyEight and ESPN.