The NBA season is in its infant stages right now, and that means that the NBA Championship odds are still being sorted out. The usual contenders are all piled at the top, but the rest of the top teams have gigantic question marks. That leaves the door wide open for an unheralded cast of underdogs in the Western Conference. But before I get to them, let’s take a look at the top teams in the NBA Championship futures market.
1. Miami Heat (+200 to win NBA Championship)
Absolutely no surprise here. Half the battle for the Heat is simply getting to the playoffs at full steam. As long as LeBron is healthy they have a chance to claim yet another title. If you’re banking on King James going down with any type of injury I have some advice – don’t. He’s never been hurt for any significant period of time during his career.
2. Indiana Pacers (+750 to win NBA Championship)
The Pacers know one thing for certain – they have to fend off Chicago for the best record in the Central Division and it will only be a matter of time before Derrick Rose and company finally find that rhythm and chemistry that champions are made of. That’s why they have a business like approach to the 2013-14 NBA season, and why everyone is praising them like they’re contenders.
In the meantime, however, we’re looking at quite possibly the most intriguing team in the league right now. Paul George is a legitimate MVP candidate and on the verge of cementing his superstar status. But the reason that this team is such a great long term bet is because they have a commitment to defense that very few teams can boast. Roy Hibbert, Lance Stevenson and George can bear down at any given moment to give you those game changing stops you need in big games.
This team is for real, and unlike last year, they have a bench that can weather the storm when the starting lineup needs a few minutes of rest. Indiana’s odds are also much more profitable than Miami’s in terms of value. Experts and bookies alike expect the cutthroat Eastern Conference to come down to Pacers-Heat yet again.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (+800 to win NBA Championship)
Oklahoma City is as big of a public bet as there is considering that they’re a small market team, but this team is also either moving sideways or taking steps back. Westbrook and Durant are undeniable forces of nature, but the rest of this team is stagnant in their development (i.e. Serge Ibaka) or a complete waste of time. Say what you will about Miami, but their roster is designed to compliment their superstars. I have no idea how or why the Thunder are assembled the way they are. This team is built on two incredible pillars…but that’s not enough in this year’s NBA.
4. San Antonio Spurs (+1000 to win NBA Championship)
I don’t have enough space to talk about how much I love Popovich and Duncan, nor how interested I am in the career arc of Kawhi Leonard, an under-the-radar superstar if there ever was one. Every season, we expect the Spurs to fall off a cliff because of the combined ages of Duncan-Ginobli-Parker. And every year they surprise us. The Spurs boast a strong value at 10-to-1 because they’re the most reliable commodity in the Western Conference. Every other team either lacks depth, is newly assembled or has very little playoff experience. The Spurs have all those things in spades, and then some.
5. Chicago Bulls (+1100 to win NBA Championship)
Either get on this bandwagon now, jump on these 11-to-1 odds today and order your Rose jersey off of NBA.com or don’t. The second that the Bulls figure out how to play together again, they’ll drop in to that 7-to-1 or 5-to-1 territory. They are built to win championships, and though they have certain problems (like their cheap owners), their on-court product is simply incredible. The odds are what they are because we don’t know how the 2013 Bulls shape up against Indiana or Miami yet. And trust me, they stack up very, very well.
6. Los Angeles Clippers (+1450 to win NBA Championship)
There are always a few playoff games that end up deciding a series, and they usually boil down to which team can shoot free throws better. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan combine to form the worst free throw shooting front court of any contending team. Take that as you will.
7. Golden State Warriors (+1500 to win NBA Championship)
Quite simply the most fun you can have with 15-to-1 odds. This team is electric and only got better by adding a defensive stopper like Andre Igoudala, who has paid off instant dividends. Teams that rely on perimeter shooting can be harrowing long term investments, but that’s really the only negative I can produce about this team. The scary part? We haven’t seen them at their best. Come playoff team, this team could be a juggernaut.
8. Houston Rockets (+1500 to win NBA Championship)
The weirdest thing you’ll ever read about a team built around Dwight Howard: the Rockets simply can’t play defense, and I don’t see how they get better at it as the season goes on. James Harden has some problems in one-on-one matchups, which is inexcusable for the best shooting guards in the modern NBA. But the big elephant in this room is Dwight Howard, who has debuted in Houston as a weird shell of himself. Either he aged ten years in Los Angeles and didn’t tell anyone, or he never really recovered from back surgery. The Rockets don’t have the look of a championship team quite frankly. Hell, they don’t even look like a playoff team right now.
9. Brooklyn Nets (+1700 to win NBA Championship)
Either they’re too talented to fail or to old to succeed. This team hinged on Kevin Garnett being the franchise altering force, and as much as it pains me to say it, I think his second-best days are behind him. To be fair, the Nets have always been a slow starting team but right now I am tepid about their odds. Truthfully, this price won’t get much better or worse until the All-Star break so we have time to figure out whether they’re a worthy play or not.
10. Memphis Grizzlies (+3700 to win NBA Championship)
I wouldn’t touch these odds with a ten foot pole. Everything broke for the Grizzlies last year when a rash of injuries practically cleared a path for them straight to the Western Conference Finals and they still couldn’t get it done. And how did Memphis react? By doing nothing. We’ve seen the best that this Memphis roster can do, and it isn’t anywhere close to championship worthy. Which is why…
HONORABLE MENTION – Minnesota Timberwolves (+5500)
…I’m giving Kevin Love some much needed love here! Minnesota is a forgotten wasteland because they’ve battled some many crazy injuries over the past few years, but this roster is flat out dangerous. Love and Rubio are an ideal pairing in a fast paced offence, and Kevin Martin has returned to form with 23.6 points per game so far. They have defensive stoppers in forward Corey Brewer and center Nikola Pekovic and a stunning bench all things considered. They also have two rookies in Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad who could break out as supporting characters in this underdog story. At 55-to-1, the Timberwolves are hands down my favorite long shot to win the NBA title. As the season goes on, this bandwagon is going to overflow with fairweather fans. Punch your ticket before the masses do because the only direction these odds are going is south.