Now that the All-Star break is done, it’s time to look ahead. The playoffs are only a couple months away and some teams are separating themselves from the pack. These are my favorite bets to make it the NBA Finals.
I am surprised the Milwaukee Bucks aren’t getting more hype this year. Maybe it’s the size of the market and the amount of media attention given to the Los Angeles teams, but the Bucks have been head and shoulders the best regular season team in the NBA. Giannis Antetokounmpo appears headed to back-to-back MVP seasons and Milwaukee could end up winning over 70 games. The -139 odds may seem short, but it’s hard to envision any playoff series against an Eastern Conference team that the Bucks wouldn’t be a massive favorite against. As good as they have been in the regular season, there is added room for upside in the playoffs. Due to how one-sided many of their regular season games have been, the Bucks core players aren’t playing a ton of minutes. Giannis averages 30.9 minutes per game, Khris Middleton is at 29.6 minutes per game and Eric Bledsoe is playing 27.1 minutes per game. All of these guys could see a big uptick in playing time for the postseason.
The West is much tougher to call. It looks like the Los Angeles Lakers are going to finish the regular season as the top seed since they currently are sitting on four-game lead, but they have much tougher competition than what the Bucks face in the East. The Lakers are the current favorites at +175, while the Los Angeles Clippers are slightly behind them at +180. Between these teams, I lean slightly towards the Lakers. Not only are they going to likely be a higher seed in the playoffs, I think the home court advantage could be pretty significant for the Lakers if these teams meet in the playoffs. Even though both teams play in Los Angeles and share the Staples Center, it isn’t a secret that the Lakers have the much bigger fanbase. This could lead the Lakers drawing more fans in all seven games of a series between these two teams. This combined with shaky play from Paul George this season should be enough to put the Lakers over the top.
For longer odds, I think the Denver Nuggets make some sense at +1200. They aren’t anywhere near as likely to win the West as the Laker or Clippers, but the price is right. Denver has been in the mix all season and are actually second in the Western Conference. The Nuggets have one of the best home court advantages in the league, which figures to be a massive benefit if they can finish the season as a higher seed than the Clippers. After a slow start to the season, Nikola Jokic has been fantastic over the last couple of months and we shouldn’t forget that Denver is a young team that got a lot of playoff experience last year.
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