The NBA Playoffs begin this weekend, and there are several teams that can say they have a realistic chance of taking home the championship this season.
But bookmakers are focusing on just three teams as the clear favorites heading into the playoffs, with two in particular seen as having the best chance to win a title.
The Cleveland Cavaliers will enter the playoffs as the favorites in the eyes of most bettors.
Led by LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, the Cavs may not be the top seed in the Eastern Conference, but they have been playing up to their potential as of late.
The second-seeded Cavaliers finished the year going 15-5 in their last 20 games, showing that they may well be the championship-caliber team that experts believed they would be heading into the season.
Cavaliers Considered Class of Eastern Conference
That’s been enough for the Cavaliers to be installed as a 5-2 favorite at many sportsbooks. They are also the overwhelming favorites to emerge from the Eastern Conference, with Bovada pegging them as 1-2 favorites to reach the NBA Finals.
Their biggest challenge should come from the Atlanta Hawks, the number one seed in the East. The Hawks easily finished with the conference’s best record this year, and are listed at 13-4 to reach the final, with most sportsbooks have them at around 9-1 to win the NBA Championship.
The Chicago Bulls are perhaps the only other serious contender in the East, with Bovada giving 11-2 odds on them winning the conference title.
The Bulls will rely heavy on the injury-plagued Derrick Rose, who exited the final game of the regular season with soreness in his left knee.
That uncertainty may lengthen their odds of winning a title, with most oddsmakers pegging them at around 14-1 to emerge as NBA Champions.
Warriors, Spurs Favored to Come Out of West
In the Western Conference, the team to beat is clearly the Golden State Warriors.
Led by Stephen Curry, the Warriors finished the season with an impressive 67-15 record, giving them an 11-game lead over the rest of the conference at the end of the season.
They’ll play the New Orleans Pelicans, who made the playoffs thanks to a final day win over the San Antonio Spurs, in the first round.
The Warriors can be backed to win an NBA Championship at odds of about 11-4 at most bookmakers, and Bovada has them at 11-10 to win the conference title.
The Warriors are expected to face stiff opposition in the West, however, most notably from the Spurs. While a final game loss dropped the Spurs all the way from the second seed to the sixth, they’re still considered one of the main contenders to win a title, being offered at 2-1 to win the Western Conference and about 7-2 to defend their NBA Championship.
Their odds could improve a bit should they manage to escape a tough first round matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers, who are themselves one of the teams given at least a realistic chance to win it all at odds of 14-1.
Other potential contenders include the Houston Rockets (16-1) and the Memphis Grizzlies (18-1), while the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets are all considered approximately 200-1 longshots to win the championship.