The Impact of Ben Simmons Uncertainty on Oddsmakers

Ben Simmons
PHILADELPHIA, PA – MAY 05: Philadelphia 76ers Guard Ben Simmons (25) looks on during warmups before the Eastern Conference Semifinal Game between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers on May 05, 2018 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

It feels as if the Ben Simmons drama has taken a toll on everyone. With the 25-year-old set on forcing his way out of Philadelphia after frustrations with his time with the Sixers, the relationship seems broken beyond repair. While there has been a ton of talk about the impact on the Sixers and Simmons, there has not been as much thought to the impact that the state of flux has on betting lines. To get an understanding of the situation, I sat down with national sportsbook expert and Editor-in-Chief at Sports Betting Dime, Matt McEwan.

As the Editor-in-Chief, Matt McEwan wears several hats in his job, including content, SEO strategy, and maintaining social presences. He also plays a major hand in the future trackers, which monitor line movement for long-term bets. Given the uncertainty of Ben Simmons playing career with the Sixers, this has become an interesting way to see the impact the situation has on the team.

What kind of impact has been seen in the betting lines due to the Ben Simmons drama?

“This is really interesting. We have two really interesting cases in the NBA, and the Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons situations are both kind’ve being treated the same way that is the sportsbooks don’t really know yet. They don’t fully know how to address this yet because there are so many possible outcomes that could happen with both of these situations. With Ben Simmons, is he actually going to play? Even when he is not suspended, if he does stop keeping his cell phone in his pocket and maybe somewhat buys into the team, is he going to play? If you are the coach of the team, how do you put that guy on the floor? He is not here for the team, he’s obviously not checked in and doesn’t want to be here. There has been very minimal movement so far in the 76ers futures. They opened the season at 16/1 championship odds, and that came with what we saw with Ben Simmons in the playoffs last year, so everyone was already kind’ve down on him already. They have gone from 16/1 to 20/1, and they’ve essentially lost Ben Simmons, even though he is still on their roster.

The books at this point just do not know what they’re going to get in return for him. If you’re the Sixers, you have to be looking for a piece that helps now, like this is a roster that wants to win now. But I just don’t know which team is going to give that up right now. The general rule of sportsbooks is they’ll always leave a team with shorter odds versus leaving them with longer odds. If they leave the Sixers at 20/1 odds here, no one is gonna break their bank with the Sixers right now. If they were to go with more true odds, which are probably more like 25/1 or 30/1 based on everything going on with the team, they could see a lot more money pouring in, which sets up this exposure for them.

What if Ben Simmons all of a sudden decides, ‘I better play one more season, I better play really well, and I’ll have my ticket out of Philadelphia’ right? So we haven’t really seen much movement in the NBA futures for the Sixers. Where we have seen more movement is in the opening game against the Pelicans. So this game opened at Philadelphia -1.5, and that was when we thought everyone was playing and healthy. When Zion was ruled out, the line jumped quickly to Philadelphia -4.5, and with the news of the Simmons suspension that it went back to -3.5. Now we are back up -4, so if there is one clear thing here, it is the sportsbooks think Zion has a lot more value than Ben Simmons does.”

That is really interesting. The future aspect was what I was most interested in as it is tough setting expectations for a team that you don’t know what the status of one of the main contributors is. It looks like sportsbooks are in the same state of flux as the rest of us.

“Absolutely. That’s why they will keep them with these shorter odds, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they leave them there for a while. Until they know what the outcome will be, I don’t see the odds getting much longer than 25/1 or 30/1, but if that is the case, it would because they look awful or something else dramatic happens. Who know what they are going to get back from Ben Simmons.”

As of now, Simmons is expected to return to the team following the one-game suspension. If and when he does return to the lineup, do you think this impacts the line just as if it was any other player, or does this situation hold a different weight because of the circumstances?

“We don’t have a ton of great examples for this exact scenario. There are going to be opportunities for you to expose a bad line here. If you can be quick to that information on ‘Is Ben Simmons play?’ ‘How many minutes is he playing? ‘What is his role going to be?’ you could exploit it. The most difficult thing a sportsbook has to do is open a line. Basically, they are just trying to split the public so that 50% is on one side and 50% is on the other- which rarely happens. They are going to be so focused on these Sixers lines and so afraid of sharp action coming in here. If they aren’t sure, that is where they get scared, and they are going to be scared opening up these Sixers lines. As a 76ers bettor, you better be ready and don’t be waiting for an hour before tipoff and make sure you are on those opening lines the night before. There is gonna be opportunities for you to expose them because they are going to set a line, and I foresee a lot of Sixers games this year seeing a lot of movement-based off money coming in.”

To put you on the spot, how do you think the Simmons situation is resolved?

“There is a part of me that says I don’t know how you can play him. Like, I have no idea how you can put that guy on the floor and expect anything from him, and if you don’t expect anything from him, how can you play him? So I think the suspension has to be the nail in the coffin for “We are trading Ben Simmons.” I am leaning towards Simmons has to be traded in this next week or two weeks, or the team is just going to sit him. They will sit him until they can trade him because if they play him and he continues to have this negative attitude, it will continue to drive his price down, which only hurts the Sixers. I foresee him being gone in a week, maybe two weeks, and I believe they are going to find a team willing to offer a piece back that will help this team. I don’t think they are going to get nearly the value they were hoping out of this, but I do think we’ll have a conclusion very soon.”

Obviously, the circumstances make it so hard to give a concrete answer here, but once Simmons is traded to a new team, do you expect that team to take a leap in championship odds or amount of games won?

“Generally, when you see this type of big-name player traded, the books like to react quickly to it, and they want to protect themselves. All they are looking to for is to make sure they have no liability on any team. Obviously, like you said, it’s going to depend on the team he gets traded to. If he gets traded to a real bottom-feeder, sure, maybe the odds move from 100/1 to 90/1, but its going to be very minimal. But if he goes to any of these mid-level to possible contenders, I am confident you’ll see those odds move drastically and very quickly. Now, if you are a bettor, hold off unless you have beat the books. A lot of time, what you see is a quick movement by the books followed by some kind of movement in the opposite direction because they are going to overreact to it to protect themselves. We saw the exact same thing with the Nets last year when they acquired James Harden, and I said the same thing. If you like the team he goes to, you have to either beat the books or give it some time and allow the lines to show some value again. Our future tracker at Sports Betting Dime is a great way to keep an eye on this.”

What are your thought’s on the Sixers’ championship odds this season?

“Just looking at the board right now, I think Philadelphia’s odds (20/1)are maybe the worst there. There is a huge edge for the books, in my opinion. They’re the same odds as the Nuggets right now, which I disagree with, and the Suns are 17/1. Looking at the East, I think the Heat is where the value is right now. The Nets are just way too short at 2/1 to win the championship, and you got Milwaukee in there. They looked very good last night, but even then, 9/1 is still a really short price. I like the Heat at 25/1, and I think that’s where the value is at in the East.”

One more bet that I do really like this season is Joel Embiid for MVP. What are your thoughts on this?

“I agree with you. I think if there is a bet to be had here, it is Joel Embiid for MVP. He has been pretty short all offseason he opened at like 7/1 you can still get him at +850. This is the longest his odds have been, which, to me, is surprising. You’reYou’re moving Simmons out of here, and this becomes Embiid’s team, and I think this is still a team that can win a good number of games. If there is any bet to be made on the Sixers, I think that might be it. He’s gotta do something spectacular, which Embiid is certainly capable of.”

Who knows when this Simmons situation will finally conclude, but finding a way to take advantage of some oddsmaking mistakes is in everyone’s best interest. You can check out the rest of Matt’s work to exploit these here.