Dan Favale | Thu 22/03/2018 - 05:02 EDT

Updated Championship Odds for Every NBA Team Still in the Postseason Hunt

Updated Championship Odds for Every NBA Team Still in the Postseason Hunt
Making sense of the NBA's championship picture can be a little difficult this time of year. Indeed, you have the clear favorites. You also have the obviously nonessential options. But there exists this gray area between the two, in which you must discern long shots and fringe contenders from squads that aren't worth your time. That's where we come in. We're taking stock of the championship odds for every team left in the playoff hunt. We're talking realistic postseason hopefuls, not just everyone who is mathematically still in it (R.I.P. Detroit Pistons). And we're separating them into tiers, so you have a firm hold on how to bet as the NBA closes out its stretch run.

Championship odds are taken from Sportsbetting.ag and are accurate as of Thursday, March 21. Like always, make sure you’re going over these numbers with a fine tooth comb before deciding on or submitting a wager. They are subject to change, especially for fringe-playoff squads who see their stock ebb and flow with each and every loss or victory.

Playoff Locks: Championship Favorites

tier 1

Cleveland Cavaliers (+500)

Having faith in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ defense is akin to trusting a toddler around unprotected outlets. They continue to botch pick-and-roll coverages, they don’t get back consistently in transition, and LeBron James only closes out on spot-up shooters these days when he feels like it.

LeBron remains the best basketball player alive anyway. He’s basically averaging a triple-double over the past one-third of the season, and he’s piloted the Cavaliers to two statement victories over the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors in recent days. Their case isn’t perfect, but they still belong in this tier.

Golden State Warriors (-150)

Injuries have hit pretty much everyone on the Golden State Warriors in recent weeks—including Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala. This would be cause for concern if it didn’t seem like they’d be healthy by the start of the playoffs, but that’s not the case.

Green essentially said everyone would be playing if the postseason started right now. Curry, for his part, is slated to return Friday against the Atlanta Hawks. Thompson’s broken thumb on his shooting hand is something to monitor, but even so, the Warriors aren’t a team to worry about—unless, you know, you’re one of the NBA’s championship hopefuls.

Houston Rockets (+1000)

With a firm chokehold on the Association’s best record, the Houston Rockets pose a legitimate threat to the reigning-champion Warriors. Their iso-heavy offensive style isn’t typically sustainable in a postseason setting, but rolling out both Chris Paul and James Harden at the same time figures to make this one an exception.

Defending the Warriors in a hypothetical Western Conference Finals matchup is something the Rockets must worry about. They have the wings to match up with the most versatile lineups, but they’ve only trotted out those combinations in small doses. They still need to see how their wing-heavy arrangements react to more extensive run.

Toronto Raptors (+5000)

In losing to the Cavaliers on Wednesday, the Raptors proved they may not yet be Eastern Conference favorites, despite what their ownership of the No. 1 seed implies. But that’s hardly a monumental failure on their parts. LeBron has owned the Eastern Conference for almost a decade now. You can’t fault anyone for losing to him, no matter how disappointing his team has been.

It’s safe to buy into the Raptors overall. They’ve completely revamped their shot selection, while their defensive stands are switchier than anyone initially anticipated. 

Playoff Locks: Fringe Contenders Division

tier 2

Boston Celtics (+1000)

The Boston Celtics would have a case to crack the previous tier if not for Kyrie Irving’s most recent knee injury. He’s missed the past few games while tending to his left knee—the same one he injured during the 2015 NBA Finals with the Cavaliers—and didn’t travel with the team on their current road trip in order to seek a second opinion on the soreness from which he’s suffering.

This news comes on the heels of franchise president Danny Ainge saying that Irving will eventually need surgery on said knee. Talk about your bad timing. While Ainge also said Irving should be fine for this year after some rest, the need to get a second opinion infers something more sinister or damning could be at play.

Oklahoma City Thunder (+1600)

The Oklahoma City Thunder are another team that comes oh-so-close to moving up a tier. Alas, Andre Roberson’s season-ending patellar injury holds them back in a big way.

Oklahoma City ranks a so-so 14th in points allowed per 100 possessions since he went down and doesn’t have the personnel for a full-scale rebound. Corey Brewer’s arrival doesn’t begin to mitigate the damage, and giving minutes to Josh Huestis, Jerami Grant, Terrance Ferguson or Alex Abrines invariably hurts the collective performance on one side of the floor. Carmelo Anthony’s and Russell Westbrook’s struggles in the clutch don’t help their case either.

Philadelphia 76ers (+12500)

Do the Philadelphia 76ers belong in the tier above this one? Absolutely not. Is it tempting to put them there anyway? Most definitely.

The Sixers are deconstructing opponents by more than 16 points per 100 possessions when Joel Embiid, Robert Covington and Ben Simmons play together, and they have a top-five net rating since Jan. 1. If not for their lack of true face-up scorers, they’d have a case to claw their way into favorite status—particularly after deepening their bench via the buyout market.

Portland Trail Blazers (+12500)

Everyone is pitching in for the Portland Trail Blazers these days. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are doing their thing, but they’re getting help from Jusuf Nurkic, Maurice Harkless, Ed Davis, Shabazz Napier, Zach Collins and Al-Farouq Aminu.

Even the much-maligned Evan Turner is making his presence felt. He’s always been a solid defender, but he’s shooting close to 40 percent on a steady volume of three-pointers over his last 30 games. 

All of this doesn’t give the Blazers enough pull to guarantee more than a first-round cameo, but they’re most certainly a team none of their other Western Conference peers want to face in a best-of-seven set. 

San Antonio Spurs (+1400)

Perhaps the San Antonio Spurs shouldn’t be here. After all, they weren’t even inside the West’s playoff bubble just a week ago.

This is us, not caring.

The Spurs have run off five consecutive victories since briefly dropping into lottery territory, a few of which have come against quality teams. LaMarcus Aldridge continues to float the hopes of the entire offense, while the defense almost always lives up to its top-three billing.

Putting the Spurs here is a hedge against Kawhi Leonard’s health. If he plays again this season, they’ll have a case to move up to the favorites bracket. If he misses the rest of the year, they’ll have a chance of dropping to the long-shot division. And so, we compromise with the middle ground. 

Playoff Locks: Long-Shot Dark Horses Division

tier 3

Indiana Pacers (+12500)

Taking a stab on the Indiana Pacers’ championship odds isn’t the worst idea in the world. They own a top-10 offense per 100 possessions and have recently snuck up near the top 10 of defensive efficiency as well.

No team, in fact, notches a better defensive rating in crunch time. So if the Pacers can increase their three-point volume while cutting down on their junky long mid-range attempts, they’ll have a real chance to make some noise. One only needs to look at their 3-1 season-series victory over the Cavaliers to understand that. 

Miami Heat (+6600)

The Miami Heat are weird. 

One night, they look like a team no one in the Eastern Conference should want to face in the first round. The next, they’re making you wonder how they never ceded more ground to the ninth-place Detroit Pistons.

Speaking of which, the swift demises of both the Pistons and Charlotte Hornets have ensured the Heat will reach the playoffs. It’s tough to view them as anything more than a first-round stepping stone, though. 

Milwaukee Bucks (+4000)

Take everything we just said about the Heat, and apply it to the Milwaukee Bucks. 

They have the Eastern Conference’s eighth-best record at this writing, which is inexcusable. They’ve dealt with a coaching change and various injuries, and they’re neither especially deep nor spacey. But some of their most-used lineups are statistical juggernauts, and Giannis Antetokounmpo has played like a top-five star for much of the year. They shouldn’t be residing in eighth place.

At the very least, the Bucks should have at least made a commitment to showing more offensive creativity down the stretch of close games. Instead, they’ve wilted, dropping a couple of highly important nail-biters. 

New Orleans Pelicans (+20000)

What the New Orleans Pelicans have been able to do in the absence of DeMarcus Cousins’ is inspiring. Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday have carried them to playoff-lock consideration. That in itself is a big-time accolade.

It’s also all she wrote for this team. They might be able to steal a playoff series, provided they avoid the Rockets and Warriors through Round 1, but both the spacing and defense are still too shaky for us to earmark them as anything more. 

Utah Jazz (+25000)

Check out the Utah Jazz’s statistical ranks since Rudy Gobert returned from his second knee injury this season, a stretch that spans 27 games:

  • Offensive Rating: 15th
  • Defensive Rating: 1st
  • Net Rating: 2nd
  • Winning Percentage: 2nd

Make no mistake, the Jazz’s offense operates on fragile ground. They have a plethora of talented scorers, but Donovan Mitchell is really their only from-scratch maestro. They can get into trouble real quick when his shot isn’t falling.

Still, the Jazz have one of the best point differentials per 100 possessions in the league. Not merely since Gobert returned, but overall (fifth). 

Washington Wizards (+6600)

Go figure: The Washington Wizards are starting to implode on the offensive end without a healthy John Wall.

Getting him back is pivotal to improving their immediate outlook. They’re guaranteed to get in the playoffs, but they’re far from assured of a first-round victory. Even if he returns in time for the postseason, the Wizards still have to see whether he’s fully healthy and can be re-integrated into the offense on a relative whim.

Playoff Hopefuls: Non-Guaranteed Long-Shot Division

tier 4

Denver Nuggets (+12500)

The Denver Nuggets picked a bad time to go limp. They’re very obviously struggling to re-incorporate Paul Millsap into the offense. And while that hasn’t affected their output by much, if at all, his return has not galvanized their defensive performance.

These struggles are reflected in their playoff odds. FiveThirtyEight gives them just a 16 percent chance of making the postseason now—the lowest among this three-squad fray.

Ironically enough, though, they’re still a team the Western Conference’s top dogs won’t want to face in Round 1. Ask the Warriors or Rockets…off the record. They’ll tell you they’d prefer either of the two alternatives in this tier.

Los Angeles Clippers (+25000)

After dropping four straight games, the Los Angeles Clippers held a team meeting to get their minds right. And it worked. They came out the next night and blasted the Bucks in time to salvage their playoff hopes.

Still, FiveThirtyEight only gives them a 26 percent shot at being invited to the spring dance. There’s plenty of season left to play, but their loss to the shorthanded Minnesota Timberwolves during their most recent malaise could come back to haunt them when all’s said and done.

Minnesota Timberwolves (+2500)

Beating the Clippers this past week was huge for the Timberwolves. They still don’t know for sure when Jimmy Butler will return from his meniscus surgery, and even if he does return before the end of the regular season, they’ll have no idea whether he can recapture even half of his previous form. 

Stealing a win from a team competing for one of the West’s final playoff spots is straight up huge. The Timberwolves don’t look like a team ready to climb back into the race for home-court advantage, but they do have a two-game lead over the ninth place Nuggets.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference, FiveThirtyEight or NBA.com and are accurate leading into games being played on Thursday, March 22.

Category : Sports Betting News

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