The Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Los Angeles Clippers are the three consensus co-favorites to win the 2020 NBA championship. The front runners distanced themselves from the “chase pack” that’s seven teams deep. The chase pack offers up tremendous value if you think the front runners will fail to win the title. The value play group includes the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors at 23/1 odds, along with the Miami Heat (19/1), and the Denver Nuggets (15/1).
When the season began, three teams emerged as the triple co-favorites to win the 2020 NBA Championship with the LA Clippers, LA Lakers, and Milwaukee Bucks at the front of the pack.
The three frontrunners were roughly 3/1 odds to win the title until the Bucks finally jumped ahead of the LA-based teams. In the latest update, the Bucks improved to 5/2 title odds, while the Lakers and Clippers remained at 3/1.
If you follow the money, the NBA Finals are shaping up with the Milwaukee Bucks emerging from the Eastern Conference, and either the Lakers or Clippers representing the Western Conference.
Last year at this time, the Golden State Warriors looked like a lock to win the title without a legit contender in the East to pose a threat to them. Alas, no one expected two outcomes: 1) the Golden State Warriors would be gutted with injuries by the time the NBA Finals began, and 2) the Toronto Raptors would get hot at the right time to run the table and win the 2019 NBA title.
So, if the Greek Freak, LeBron, and Kawhi fail to lead their teams to the promised land, who can actually win the NBA championship this year?
Milwaukee Bucks 5/2… The Bucks added Marvin Williams to bolster their bench. So long as the Greek Freak doesn’t disappear in the fourth quarter of playoff games this time around, they’re the team to beat.
LA Lakers 3/1… The Lakers stood pat at the trade deadline, but the sudden death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter sent seismic emotions through the organization. Can LeBron and Anthony Davis rise to the occasion and win one for Mamba?
LA Clippers 3/1… The Clippers were the preseason favorite once they landed Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. If Kawhi carried the Raptors on his back to win a title, why not the Clippers? They key will be PG-13’s nagging injuries. Kawhi will be fresh when the postseason begins, but they’ll only go as far as George’s bill of health.
THE PIPE DREAMERS
Houston Rockets 11/1… The high-octane Rockets have the NBA’s #2 ranked offense (118.2 ppg). They traded center Clint Capela and opted for a small ball lineup. Can James Harden (35.3 ppg) finally get over the playoff hump with Russell Westbrook as his wing man? Time will tell for the Rockets gamble pays off. The Rockets seem like a veritable value play at 11/1 odds, but they’ve had bad luck in the NBA postseason.
Philadelphia 76ers 12/1… The Sixers are a weird team. They’re unbeatable in Philly with a 25-2 record, but atrocious on the road at 9-19. How bad is their away record? The Knicks are also 9-19 away from MSG this season. Joel Embiid (22.9 ppg, 11.9 rebounds) missed 16 games this season with various injuries including torn ligaments in his finger. Philly will ride or die with their big man. But if Ben Simmons disappears in the postseason again, he’ll be run out of the City of Brotherly Love.
NBA VALUE PLAY: NUGGETS, HEAT, RAPTORS
Denver Nuggets 15/1… Nikola Jokic (20.6 ppg, 10.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists) is probably the best big man in the game right now not named Anthony Davis. He’s been carrying the team all season with injuries to key players (Jamal Murray, Will Barton, and Paul Millsap). The Nugs have the fifth-best defense in the NBA allowing only 106.7 ppg, which is impressive for a team out West. With the four-best record in the NBA, the Nuggets are a solid value play at 15/1 odds.
Utah Jazz 17/1… The Jazz (36-18) are streaky this season. They went on a 19-2 heater before hitting the skids with a five-game losing streak. The Jazz bounced back to win four in a row before the All-Star Break. Veteran point guard Mike Conley missed 22 games, but he’s back in the lineup. The Jazz were two-man show with Donovan Mitchell (24.3 ppg) and Bojan Bogdanovic (21.0 ppg) before they traded for sixth-man Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson could not have been more thrilled to bail from depressing Cleveland and he’s averaging 16.2 ppg off the bench for the Jazz. With the addition of Clarkson, the Jazz are a strong value play at 17/1 odds.
Boston Celtics 19/1… The Celtics are not a fancy pick to win the title, but you do not want to face them in the playoffs. Brad Stevens is a stellar coach at making game-to-game adjustments in the postseason. Plus, his Celtics are tied for the second-best defense in the NBA allowing 106.2 ppg. Three starters average 20-plus: Jayson Tatum (22.4 ppg), Kemba Walker (21.8 ppg), and Jaylen Brown (20.2 ppg). You never know which one of them will go off. In addition, they have a sleeping giant with Gordon Hayward. He missed 17 games but he could be a huge weapon in the postseason. The Celtics are a solid value play at 19/1 odds to win the 2020 NBA title.
Miami Heat 19/1… The Heat have been playing above expectations all season. The Heat have the third-best home record (22-3) and Jimmy Butler hates losing home games. Butler (20.6 ppg, 6.8 ppg, 6.1 assists) took a couple rookies under his wing. Kendrick Nunn (15.3 ppg) and Tyler Herro (13.1 ppg) flourished under Butler. If Bam Adebayo (15.8 ppg, 10.4 rebounds) steps up in the postseason, the Heat will be a deep threat. If you’re a value seeker, the most unexpected team in the NBA this season offers up a solid value play with the Heat at 19/1 odds.
Toronto Raptors 23/1… The defending champs are one of three NBA teams with 40-plus wins and the Raptors offer a tremendous value play at 23/1 odds. Sure, the Raptors do not have Kawhi Leonard anymore, but Pascal Siakim (23.5 ppg) quickly filled Kawhi’s void. Nick Nurse’s squad has the fourth best defense allowing only 106.6. The Raptors crush bad teams (31-3 against sub-.500 teams), yet struggled against good teams (9-12).
Dallas Mavericks 24/1… Everyone loves the triple-double machine, Luka Doncic (28.9 ppg, 9.5 rebounds, 8.7 assists). But Kristaps Porzingis hasn’t been the mythical beast they hoped. When Seth Curry is your big third option, you know you’re in trouble.
Indiana Pacers 40/1… The Pacers hit the skids when Victor Oladipo returned to the lineup. As soon as he shakes off the rust, the Pacers will be dangerous, but will it happen in time before the playoffs begin? In meantime, Domantas Sabonis (18.3 ppg, 12.5 rebounds) is the big dog in Indianapolis.
BETTER LUCK NEXT YEAR
Portland Trail Blazers 60/1… Once Damian Lillard tweaked his groin, the Blazers were toast. Then again, you knew times were sad in Rip City when they offered Carmelo Anthony a job when injuries depleted their forwards.
San Antonio Spurs 75/1… Poor Pops. He’s doing the best he can, but you cannot win games when your team fails to play defense. Aside from DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Spurs lack consistent scorers.
Brooklyn Nets 85/1… Kyrie Irving is both moody and frequently injured, which does not bode well for the future of the organization. But hey, once Kevin Durant returns next season, things will look up. Next year will be different, right?
Oklahoma City Thunder 95/1… The fact that Billy Donovan’s squad will make the postseason is impressive after the organization traded away Russell Westbrook and Paul George. OKC’s three-guard lineup is fun to watch with Chris Paul (17.4 ppg), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (18.5 ppg) and Dennis Schroder (19.3 ppg). The Thunder added Danilo Gallinari for some front court scoring, but he’s not enough to make them a threat.
New Orleans Pelicans 125/1… Zion Williamson finally made his debut after missing the first half of the season with a knee injury. In a short sample size of 10 games, Zion lived up to the hype. Brandon Ingram (24.9 ppg) is having a sensational season, but they’re still in rebuilding mode.
Memphis Grizzlies 150/1… The Griz made a wise move selecting Ja Morant in the 2019 NBA Draft. The point guard from Murray State is the runaway favorite to win Rookie of the Year. He’s guided the Griz to the #8 seed in the West, but they’ll be road kill when the playoffs roll around.
Orlando Magic 150/1… The Magic are seven games under .500, yet occupy the #8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They have the best defense in the NBA, but they cannot score to save their lives with the second-worst offense in the league.
Minnesota Timberwolves 150/1… Only three teams have fewer wins than the T-Wolves. They made a big trade with the Warriors and finally dumped Andrew Wiggins in exchange for D’Angelo Russell, but so what? Karl-Anthony Towns and the T-Wolves are still a mess that had a 13-game winning streak and went 7-29 over their last 36 games.
Sacramento Kings 225/1… The young Kings are 7 games behind the Griz, but they’re toast. Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox are a fun backcourt to watch or sweat in fantasy hoops, but that’s about it. At this point, the Kings have a better shot at being sold than making the postseason.
WHEN HELL FREEZES OVER
Detroit Pistons 250/1… Dwane Casey is a great guy, but he cannot win games with banged-up players. Blake Griffin played only 18 games this season and they finally traded away Andre Drummond.
Phoenix Suns 300/1… Devin Booker is the best player you don’t know about. He’ll finally get some attention this weekend after he replaced Damian Lillard at the All-Star Game. But the Suns cannot pull themselves out of the Western Conference basement.
Chicago Bulls 375/1… Da Bulls are da terrible. Zach LaVine (25.3 ppg) is the only high point to another lackluster year in the Windy City.
Charlotte Hornets 500/1… Buzz City shot themselves in the foot by letting Kemba Walker walk in free agency. Without Kemba, the Hornets became the lowest-scoring team in the league.
Golden State Warriors 500/1… Injuries really make or break a team, eh? The Warriors went to the NBA Finals last year and without Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, they’re the worst team in the NBA with a 12-43 record. In his first three seasons coaching the Warriors, Steve Kerr lost 39 combined games. He has 43 losses this season and counting with 27 games remaining.
Washington Wizards 750/1… The Wiz are a victim of their own toxicity. As a result, perennial All-Star Bradley Beal (28.7 ppg) got snubbed despite posting career numbers.
Atlanta Hawks 1000/1… Trae Young (29.7 ppg) is the third-best scorer in the NBA, yet no one can play defense to save their lives down in Hotlanta.
New York Knicks 1500/1… As Forrest Gump said, “Stupid is… stupid does.” Until the most-loathed owner in the NBA (aka James Dolan) sells the Knicks, save your money and avoid betting them to win in any capacity.
Cleveland Cavs 1500/1… Once again, the Cavs are fighting with the Knicks and Hawks for the right to be named the worst team in the East. If these franchises keep this up, the NBA should demote all three to the G-League.
All NBA championship odds are courtesy of William Hill.