The Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors are the creme de la creme of the NBA this season. The Suns are third in offensive efficiency while the Warriors are tied for eighth. More importantly, the Warriors are first in defensive efficiency (and that’s without Draymond Green for much of the season) while the Suns are third. Golden State has slowly been reincorporating Klay Thompson into the mix, they’ve developed some role players who could pay dividends down the road and they should be getting back Green at some point. Oh, they also have that Stephen Curry guy.
The Suns were dealt a blow with the Chris Paul injury, but all indications point to him being back for the playoff run. It’s a right thumb injury, so there is some concern that it could affect his shooting, but that’s not as devastating as a knee injury would have been. As a result, I knocked the Suns down below the Warriors but Phoenix should be potent if Paul is able to return. I’m a big believer in having to traverse the levels and steps in order to reach the pinnacle. The Suns have made the journey over the last few years and are primed to finally beat the final boss.
DraftKings Sportsbook still has the Suns as favorites to win it all at +380. The Warriors are at +450.
I know that I’m going to get a lot of “Heat” for putting Miami third, but it’s my piece and my mind keeps leading me in that direction. Miami is top 10 in both defensive and offensive efficiency. They have experience, as they made the playoff run in The Bubble, have a bonafide superstar in Jimmy Butler and acquired Kyle Lowry, who has championship pedigree. Bam Adebayo is a problem at both ends of the court and his defensive versatility is such an advantageous chess piece. The Heat have tons of shooting as well. They are middle-of-the-pack in three-point attempts at 35.8 per game, but convert at the third-highest rate (37.3%). Against the top teams in the East, Miami is 2-1 against the Bucks, 2-0 against the 76ers, 0-2 against the Celtics and 2-0 against the Nets. DK Sportsbook has Miami at +1000 to win it all.
The 76ers are somewhat of an enigma due to the acquisition of James Harden. How will he fit in? Will he be 100% engaged? If it’s a seamless addition, then it’s a huge boost to the offensive capabilities of Philadelphia since they already have an MVP candidate in Joel Embiid. Currently, they reside in the third position in the Eastern Conference and they certainly have the pieces to make a deep run. DK Sportsbook has them at +700 to win it all.
The defending champs are fifth? Yeah, this was a tough one, especially since Milwaukee still has their big three in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. That said, it’s very difficult to repeat and they’ve suffered some injuries and changes. Plus, they have Grayson Allen on the squad, which is an automatic drop in the rankings. I kid. Brook Lopez has been out all season, and while Bobby Portis has filled in admirably and the Bucks signed Serge Ibaka, Lopez provided an interior presence that neither of those two have. DK Sportsbook has the Bucks at +750 to win it all.
Does Utah have what it takes to win it all? Or are they just a great regular-season team? They have a superstar in Donovan Mitchell who can get his own shot and the offensive system has posted the top ranking in terms of efficiency on the season. They hoist up the second-most three-pointers and convert at the sixth-best rate. Defensively, they are ninth in efficiency but have they learned from past experiences when teams would just hunt Rudy Gobert and make him defend in space against smaller, quicker guards? DK Sportsbook has Utah at +1700 to win it all.
I really wanted to put the Grizzlies up higher, and they probably deserve to be higher, but I just couldn’t. Yes, they have 41 wins on the season, only the third team above 40 wins, and are in the top 10 for both defensive and offensive efficiency. That said, they are such a young team, and while I think they could win a series or two, more experience is needed. As the Suns have traversed up the stairs for glory without jumping any floors, so must the Grizzlies embark on their own journey. In addition, in order to even get to the finals, they’d have to likely beat the Warriors or the Suns. They are 0-3 against the Warriors this season and 0-2 against the Suns. DK Sportsbook has Memphis at +2500 to win it all.
The Celtics are second in defensive efficiency and acquired Derrick White at the deadline, which could make them more deadly. Offensively is where there are some issues. They are 15th in offensive efficiency and there are nights when both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are inefficient from the field. With their defense, they always have a puncher’s chance but the ultimate object of the game is to put the orange ball into the basket. DK Sportsbook has Boston at +2500 to win it all.
The Denver Nuggets are the biggest wildcard with the most upside. They have all-world Nikola Jokic leading them but there’s a chance that Jamal Murray and/or Michael Porter Jr. return. The chances are low that both return to peak form but what if they do? They would be huge additions to a team that is already eighth in offensive efficiency. DK Sportsbook has them at +3500 to win it all but if Murray and Porter Jr. return, that number shrinks significantly. The main issue for Denver, though, is the defense as they are only 18th in efficiency.
DK Sportsbook has the Nets at +450 to win it all. I just can’t get behind that. There’s just so much uncertainty with the health of Kevin Durant and the availability of Kyrie Irving for home games. In addition, Andre Drummond is manning the center position. He’s a great fantasy asset but a terrible real-life player. He’d get absolutely exposed on the defensive end in the playoffs.
NBA Power Rankings: Week 24
|13||Golden State Warriors||12|
|17||Los Angeles Clippers||18|
|19||San Antonio Spurs||19|
|20||New Orleans Pelicans||21|
|22||New York Knicks||20|
|27||Los Angeles Lakers||24|
|29||Oklahoma City Thunder||29|
|30||Portland Trail Blazers||30|
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