The NBA playoffs tip off Saturday, April 14, and when they do, 16 teams will wake up with a chance to take home the title.
They’ll all have a shot of course, but scanning the latest odds posted by online sportsbook Bovada tells a different tale. Per the site’s linemakers, only four squads hold a 10 to 1 or better chance of winning it all. And just half of the field offers odds of 50 to 1 or better.
All things considered, the NBA Championship will almost surely be contested by a small handful of super-teams.
As always, the defending champion Golden State Warriors (+135) lead the way as title favorites.
But with superstar scoring sensation Steph Curry sidelined for the #2-seed Warriors’ first-round series against the #7-seed San Antonio Spurs (+6000), the odds have narrowed considerably. Before the regular season was underway, Bovada had Golden State at even money to repeat, followed by the Cleveland Cavaliers at (+500), and the Houston Rockets at (+700).
Fast forward to April, and the same trio tops the betting board entering the playoffs.
Only now, the Rockets (+165) are nearly dead even with the Warriors, while the Cavs (+650) have slipped into third overall.
One reason for the Rockets’ rapid rise through the ranks was their regular season performance. Sparked by the arrival of point guard Chris Paul, who has paired perfectly with sniper James Harden, the Rockets sprinted out to a 65-17 record – seven games better than Golden State.
Under the direction of head coach Mike D’Antoni, the famed run-and-gun artist who once led the “7 seconds or less” offense in Phoenix, the top-seeded Rockets put up a league-best +8.5 point differential. They also beat the Warriors twice in three tries, so Houston’s ascension in terms of title odds makes sense.
They’ll get the #8-seed Minnesota Timberwolves (+9000) in the first round, and based on the odds, Houston’s only real challenge will come against the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
Over in the East, the revamped Cavaliers roster was carried to the #4 seed by LeBron James. Despite a disappointing 50-32 regular season record, however, Cleveland is still a favorite to make its fourth straight Finals appearance.
They probably won’t be tested by the #5-seed Indiana Pacers (+10000), but basketball fans had been dreaming of a postseason clash between former teammates James and Kyrie Irving, who lobbied for a trade to the Boston Celtics (+7000).
At 55-27, Boston had a resurgent year, leading the East for much of the year until Irving suffered a season-ending injury. Their odds plummeted from 20 to 1 before Irving’s surgery to 70 to 1, meaning bookmakers have little faith in Boston going forward.
According to the lines, the most likely team to replace Cleveland as the East’s representative in the Finals hails from the Great White North. The #1-seed Toronto Raptors rolled to a 59-23 record, setting up a softball first-round matchup with the fading Washington Wizards (+10000) – losers of seven of their last 10 games.
As for the dark horse candidates to upset everybody and steal an improbable championship, bettors who trust the process should look at the Philadelphia 76ers (+1500). Tanking for years finally panned out, and this year’s 76ers squad is young and hungry – as evidenced by their 52-30 record.
See the table below for odds on all 16 teams contending for the NBA Championship this summer, as currently found on Bovada:
2018 NBA Title Odds on Bovada
|Team||NBA Title Odds on 4/13|
|Golden State Warriors||+135|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+2500|
|Portland Trail Blazers||+3300|
|San Antonio Spurs||+6000|
|New Orleans Pelicans||+10000|