Playoff Odds for Each of the NBA’s Fringe Postseason Teams
NBA championship odds come via Sportsbetting.ag and are accurate as of Thursday, March 22. Please be sure to recheck these lines right up until placing your wager. Ditto for the playoff odds presented. These things swing often and significantly this time of year. Also note: Teams will be presented in order of increasing postseason-appearance odds, based off FiveThirtyEight’s statistical probability tools.
Denver Nuggets (+12500)
Playoff Odds: 14 percent
Paul Millsap’s return to the Denver Nuggets following a months-long absence with a wrist injury was supposed to stabilize their playoff odds. It’s done the exact opposite
Balancing the dynamic between him and Nikola Jokic on the offensive end remains a chore, but the Nuggets are still posting solid numbers with them on that side of the ball. The defense has been the bigger problem. They’re 23rd in points allowed per 100 possessions since he re-entered the rotation.
That’s not going to cut it. Millsap is supposed to be the Nuggets’ bridge to at least an average defense. If he doesn’t become that over the next few days, they’re screwed. After all, they close the year on the NBA’s toughest schedule, bar none.
Los Angeles Clippers (+25000)
Playoff Odds: 23 percent
The Los Angeles Clippers called a team meeting after losing four straight, a confab that helped spur a gutsy win over the Milwaukee Bucks. Unfortunately for them, their efforts may be too little, too late.
Strike that: They’re almost definitely too little, too late.
Three games separate the Clippers in the win column from the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot. They may be able to leapfrog the ninth-place Nuggets, who face a hellacious schedule from here on, but passing a scorching-hot team like the Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs or New Orleans Pelicans feels like a stretch.
Even with the Nuggets struggling, the Clippers have always been the easiest team to displace from the postseason. That hasn’t really changed. They’re an upstart-y bunch, with a troika of fringe stars in DeAndre Jordan, Lou Williams and Tobias Harris. But they lack the two-way talent to overcome the deficit their most recent skid built up.
Utah Jazz (+25000)
Playoff Odds: 84 percent
Don’t be fooled into underestimating the Jazz. They may be clinging to the West’s final postseason spot, but they’re 10 games over .500 with a top-five point differential per 100 possessions for the entire season.
Oh, and on top of that, they’re an indomitable 23-4, with the league’s best defense, since Rudy Gobert returned from his knee sprain.
Getting out of the first round could be tough for them. Donovan Mitchell is their lone reliable face-up scorer. They’ll drop some close games in crunch time against styming defenses.
Then again, they may also surprise us. That’s what they’ve been doing since Gordon Hayward left last summer, and there’s no telling what happens if they snag home-court advantage through the first round—a distinct possibility given they’re a mere game-and-a-half behind the fourth-place Pelicans.
San Antonio Spurs (+1400)
Playoff Odds: 91 percent
Kawhi Leonard’s continued absence shouldn’t prevent the Spurs from sneaking into the postseason. Their recent five-game winning streak has brought their playoff odds back into the 90th percentile, while their brutal post-All-Star-break schedule is starting to even out just in time for the regular season’s final turn.
This comes as great news, because it’s looking more and more like Leonard won’t play again this year. He’s been nursing a right quad injury all season, appearing in just nine total games, and his return date has been pushed back like a zillion times.
Not having him will torpedo the Spurs’ stock once they get to the playoffs. LaMarcus Aldridge’s diet of mid-rangers and post-ups and fallaways won’t cut it against superior competition.
In terms of extending their postseason-appearance streak to a ridiculous 21 years, though, the Spurs are in good shape. And they’ll be even better off if, against all logic, Leonard returns in time for the playoffs and recaptures anything close to his usual form.
New Orleans Pelicans (+20000)
Playoff Odds: 94 percent
Anthony Davis’ performance in the aftermath of DeMarcus Cousins’ season-ending Achilles injury is going to garner him serious MVP consideration. He won’t beat out James Harden, who remains the heavyweight consensus pick, but a top-three finish is hardly out of the question.
Davis deserves every vote he receives. The Pelicans now sit in fourth place in the Western Conference, putting them on course to own home-court advantage through the first best-of-seven series.
The Jazz, Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder are all nipping at their heels. The same can be said for the Minnesota Timberwolves, though their situation is statistically overstated with Jimmy Butler on the sidelines. But the Pelicans are grinding out enough stops and generating enough offense and spacing with Davis and Jrue Holiday as fulcrums to tread water right where they are.
Heck, even if they don’t wind up in fourth place, they figure to be a tough out in the first round.
Minnesota Timberwolves (+2500)
Playoff Odds: 96 percent
Most are inclined to remove the Nuggets and Clippers from the West’s eight-team free-for-all. We shouldn’t be that quick to settle on them as the odd squads out.
Yes, statistically speaking, things don’t look particularly great for the Nuggets or Clippers. But they don’t look all that rosy for the Timberwolves either. They have the Western Conference’s second-easiest schedule to close the regular season, but they still don’t know when Butler will return from his torn meniscus.
As long as he remains on the shelf, the Timberwolves are candidates to lose every game, no matter who they’re matched up against. And with only a two-game lead on one of the West’s final two postseason seeds, they’re far from inoculated against an additional drop.
Oklahoma City Thunder (+1600)
Playoff Odds: 98 percent
The Thunder’s playoff odds feel a little high on the surface. They aren’t the same defensive team following Andre Roberson’s season-ending patellar injury.
At the same time, they’ve rebounded from an initially terrible stretch without him. They’re now 14th in points allowed per 100 possessions since he went down. That’ll do so long as their offense continues its current tear.
Plunging down the standings remains a legitimate danger. The Thunder have the second-hardest schedule remaining in the Western Conference, and both Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook are putting forth uneven performances down the stretch of tightly contested tilts.
Still, with four games separating them from lottery territory in the win column entering their final nine matchups, the Thunder are, at long last, closer to a postseason formality than not.
Portland Trail Blazers (+12500)
Playoff Odds: 99 percent
The Portland Trail Blazers almost didn’t make this list—not because they’re at risk of falling outside the West’s playoff bubble, but because they’re technically not.
The Blazers have won 14 of their last 15 games, during which time they’re 10th in offensive efficiency and fifth in points allowed per 100 possessions. Midseason stretches can always be construed as a mirage, but their rise is for real. They’ve been defending at a high level since basically the second half of last season, and their offensive surge coincides with an improved shot profile.
Damian Lillard won’t go supernova every game, and the Blazers, despite having a semi-firm hold on the No. 3 seed, aren’t assured of getting past the first round. But their playoff candidacy isn’t up for debate.
They’re headed to NBA’s springtime show.
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