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Bookmakers Assess Betting Impact Of Giannis Antetokounmpo Injury

James Murphy
by in NBA on
  • 2020 NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo went down hard in the second half of Milwaukee’s Game 4 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night.
  • The immediate diagnosis was a hyperextended knee though Antetokounmpo thankfully avoided any structural damage.
  • Despite the good news his status for the rest of the Eastern Conference Finals is unclear. He is listed as ‘doubtful’ for Game 5 on Thursday night.

The Milwaukee Bucks may have avoided ‘worst case scenario’ in the knee injury suffered by two time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo but the situation they’re in is far from desirable. Antetokounmpo suffered a knee hyperextension in the third quarter of Milwaukee’s 110-88 road loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night which has the series tied 2-2 with Game 5 set for the Bucks’ home court on Thursday, July 1. The major concern at the time of Antetokounmpo’s injury was that the ‘Greek Freak’ had suffered structural damage–particularly to the ligaments–in addition to the hyperextension. Fortunately, a MRI revealed no structural damage or injury to the ligaments.

The absence of structural damage puts the injury into the category of a ‘mild’ hyperextension and even so the news isn’t good for the Bucks. Mild cases have a recovery time of ‘two to four weeks’ which is definitely better than the six months plus that it could have been–but the Bucks don’t have time on their side. There’s also some risk of more severe injury should Antetokounmpo return prematurely. Currently, he’s listed as ‘Doubtful’ for Game 5 and presumably the Bucks will ‘play it by ear’ after that.

Even with Antetokounmpo avoiding structural damage to his knee, the injury has made a significant impact on betting lines for Game 5. The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Todd Dewey spoke to bookmakers around town about how they priced in the injury and how the betting public has reacted. Generally speaking, most books made a six point adjustment in the line for likely absence of Antetokounmpo. Milwaukee closed as a favorite of -8 or -8.5 in Games 1 and 2 at home and they’re -2 point favorites currently at most sportsbooks in Nevada and elsewhere. William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich explained how he set the number:

“We opened it -3. The sharps took 3, and we went to 2½, so they obviously think he’s going to be ou. It’s really a guess. You throw it up there and move it off of money. But if you were assigning a point value to people, Giannis is worth about six points. Trae Young is probably worth about four or five points, too.”

Money continued to show for Atlanta since the LVRJ story was published. In Southern Nevada, William Hill/Caesars, South Point, Circa, Golden Nugget, Westgate, Wynn and the Mirage are all showing Milwaukee as a -2 point favorite. The total is at 215 or 215.5. Stations Casino is still at Milwaukee -2.5. The line is at -2 all over Colorado including Bally Bet, PointsBet, Rivers, DraftKings, FanDuel, Betfred, Barstool, TheScoreBet, EliteSportsbook, PlayUp, BetWildwood, BetMonarch, PlayMaverick and FoxBet. BetMGM, TwinSpires and BetWay are dealing Milwaukee -1.5 while Smarkets/SBK has Milwaukee -2.5 +102. Sportsbetting.com is dealing an outlier line of Milwaukee -3.5 +115. Every other major book in New Jersey, Indiana and Iowa not mentioned elsewhere is dealing Milwaukee -2 with the exception of Tipico showing Milwaukee -1.5 -115.

The Review-Journal also spoke to Westgate VP of risk Jeff Sherman who isn’t optimistic about Antetokounmpo returning during this series:

“I’d be surprised if he’s back in this series. It doesn’t look like something he’ll be able to overcome in a couple days.”

Sherman also said that if Trae Young is able to return for Atlanta in Game 5 he expects the line to move to Milwaukee -1 or PK. He also thinks that Milwaukee can make the finals without Antetokounmpo:

“The series is now 2-2 with Giannis not being there and, at the same time, Young is expected to return at some point. The Bucks can do it. They’ve got (Khris) Middleton and (Jrue) Holiday and a couple other pieces, and they’ve got two of three chances at home. They’re definitely winnable games.”

Bogdanovich concurs:

“Normally I’d say no. But I didn’t think Atlanta would win without Trae Young, either. Stranger things have happened this postseason.”

Speaking of stranger things–Sherman also pointed out the insane slew of injuries during the playoffs that have sidelined Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden and Kyrie Irving among others:

“When I updated the odds this morning on Twitter, I wrote NBA ‘Attrition’ Championship winner. I’ve never seen a compilation of injuries like this in all my years of making NBA odds.”

“It opens it up now to a shell of a team winning the championship, not a traditional champion.”

William Hill has taken the 2021 NBA Championship futures off the board due to all of the injuries–Bogdanovich calls the situation ‘a mess’:

“There’s no Young, no (Giannis), no Kawhi. It’s just a mess. Just stay tuned. The next game will bring a different result and another injury. That’s how it’s been for the entire playoffs.”

It’ll be interesting to see how the betting public responds to the situation. For Game 5, the ‘squares’ were all over Milwaukee–at VSIN, they offered this rundown of betting from DraftKings showing 61% of spread bets and 71% of the handle were on the Bucks. The moneyline showed a similar breakdown with 63% of bets and 66% of handle on Milwaukee.

On balance, the public tends to overreact to player injuries in every sport–the bigger the ‘name’, the bigger the overreaction. Had Antetokounmpo not been injured you would have likely seen similar splits for Game 5. Now it’s hard to say–my guess is that the public would perceive the Giannis injury as a ‘bigger deal’ than the Trae Young injury and might come back the other way. If Young can play, a public move to Atlanta is all the more likely.

Stay tuned for a theory article looking at playoff pricing and how to take advantage of inflated ‘public’ lines with and without injuries.

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