The Eastern Conference is, for all intents and purposes, a two horse race between Indiana and Miami but the picture remains relatively muddled in a tightly packed Western Conference. However, there’s a stark difference between being good in the regular season and winning in the playoffs. Which teams have the right mix? Read on to find out.
Miami Heat (+200 updated odds to win NBA Championship)
Indiana Pacers (+410 updated odds to win NBA Championship)
The road to the Eastern Conference title goes through either Miami or Indiana. There’s simply no way around it barring a catastrophic injury to either Paul George, LeBron James and Roy Hibbert. These two teams seem destined to lock horns once again with a berth to the big dance on the line. And if you’re cheering for any other team in th Eastern Conference, then you missed the seven game epic these two teams put together last season.
There are outside reasons to like other teams, like the Knicks or even the Raptors at +10000 but right now the Eastern Conference is a blithering mess. The only team that could’ve given either of these teams a run in the east was Brooklyn, but the injury to Brook Lopez sealed their fate. There are simply no other teams in the Eastern Conference worth banking on unless you like throwing some spare change at some scrub teams, in which case I actually don’t mind Toronto. But keep things simple and bet on either of these teams. If you ask me, I prefer the Pacers with an improved bench.
Oklahoma City Thunder (+700 updated odds to win NBA Championship)
Will Westbrook ever stay healthy long enough to make Oklahoma City a viable contender? My gut feeling says “no”. Not this year anyways. With Westbrook, the Thunder can compete with anyone in a seven game series, but they’re not going to be a lock in any series. Kevin Durant is a phenomenal player, and if he was playing in the 80’s or 90’s, the Thunder would win the west every season. But the NBA is so densely packed with talent right now that a long term bet on the Thunder is a jagged pill to swallow, especially if you suspect that Russell Westbrook won’t be back for very long after his second knee surgery in a year.
San Antonio Spurs (+825 updated odds to win NBA Championship)
There are worse ways to spend $50 in my opinion. Every time this team seems down and out, they rally back and prove us wrong and they seem impervious to the touch of father time. This squad was one, incredible, Ray Allen three-pointer away from winning a fifth title for Tim Duncan. They’ll coast in to the post season again, and fend off the youngsters like they always do. It’s hard to imagine them cresting in to the championship round but these Spurs seem defiant to the non-believers so if you have faith in Popovich, then hand them your money right now. Their odds won’t get any better.
Portland Trail Blazers (+1300 updated odds to win NBA Championship)
There’s an argument that you have to be built a certain way to beat teams in the playoffs. You need a defensively aggressive, hard nosed, tag team in your front court and a dazzling scorer in the back court with an ensemble of support players that know their role and can come to the rescue every now and then. That’s the Portland Trail Blazers in a nutshell. The Batum-Aldridge combo is paying out huge dividends right now, and Damian Lillard is emerging as an assassin in the clutch. Add to the mix a defensively minded shooting guard like Wesley Matthews, and two great bench presences like Lopez and Mo Williams and you have a championship recipe. Outside of San Antonio, this is the most complete team in the Western Conference and they can absolutely go toe-to-toe with either Miami or Indiana. I’m not even kidding.
Golden State Warriors (+1500 updated odds to win NBA Championship)
Stephen Curry is probably the most likeable athlete in the world right now. He’s a great kid, a bit of an underdog, has zero diva qualities and has a lot of flaws (his one-on-one defense, for example). But when he’s riding a hot streak, he’s also one of the most exciting players in the NBA. Curry’s is having his best season ever, averaging 23.4 points and 9.6 assists and is surrounded by a great team that compliments him very well. The Warriors have problems, and I think the Blazers are a better overall team, but I’m not willing to count them out of the race. Neither are the oddsmakers, who have pushed Golden State up in the updated odds to win the NBA Championship.