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Betting Markets Declare Spurs Largest—And Only—Winners Of NBA Free Agency Period

There’s been much discussion about the San Antonio Spurs’ impending juggernaut given the team’s summer acquisitions of LaMarcus Aldridge and David West, re-signing of Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard to what have widely been considered very team-friendly contracts, and retaining the services of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili from retirement.

Not only were the Spurs the unanimous choice of offseason winner by a panel of ESPN experts and described as “clear cut winners” of the summer by FiveThirtyEight—the betting markets declared them, well, the only winners (or just about).

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*Vegas win probabilities are derived from the implied percentages from betting odds (i.e. 4-1 would convert to 20%) and then dividing these percentages by the sum of the implied percentages on every team (generally around 130%) so that they total to 100 percent.

It’s clear there’s only one real winner according to the futures markets: the Spurs, who made a huge 8.9 percent jump in implied championship probability, nearly tripling their pre-deadline title chances. (Other books had the jump as being even higher.)

A big reason the Spurs were the only team to make such a massive jump was not because they were the only team to sign a star player, but because they were the only team to do so that was not already widely expected to. LeBron James and Kevin Love both re-signed with Cleveland, the team with the best odds both before and after the deadline, but those were highly anticipated deals already baked into the Cavs’ pre-deadline odds. It’s the same situation for Marc Gasol and Memphis.

With the Spurs’ odds improving so much (San Antonio is now ahead of the defending champion Warriors but behind Cleveland for the 2016 title favorite), the perennial contender took percentage points from many other teams in the zero-sum system. Thus, only four of the 30 teams actually improved their title chances during free agency.

The Cavs, who dispelled the tiny amount of uncertainty surrounding their free agents, the Warriors, who re-signed Draymond Green, and the Bucks, who surprisingly landed Greg Monroe on a max contract, all saw minor bumps, though small enough to possibly just be market fluctuation noise. (For example, other books had the Warriors’ odds growing slightly longer after free agency.)

The remaining 26 teams had either zero or small decreases in championship probability.

At the bottom of the list, the team to suffer the greatest drop was the Aldridge-losing Blazers. Though their probability only dropped by 1.4 percent, given that a) their odds were already long with Aldridge, and b) the betting markets clearly had already anticipated the All-Star center would leave Portland—it was simply unclear which lucky suitor would land his services.

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For current NBA futures odds, courtesy of Las Vegas SuperBook, click here