While conference standings undoubtedly mean more than division standings, three teams from the West will be crowned next April. For basketball betting fans that means some exciting division-based markets with top sportsbooks to take advantage of.
There isn’t another division in the NBA that could have any of its five members take home the crown. Each team won at least 46 games and finished within three games of each other; the next best fifth place team in any other division was the 28-win Nets. So it’s not surprising that these odds, like the five teams, are all bunched together.
All five teams kept the core of their teams intact, too, meaning they’re all threats to return to the postseason. And we’ll begin our analysis, ironically, with the one team that failed to make the postseason. The Nuggets won 46 games despite free-agent newcomer Paul Millsap missing three months with a wrist injury. They have arguably the best young backcourt in the league with Jamal Murray and Gary Harris, and Nikola Jokic has serious dark horse MVP potential). They managed to keep Will Barton in free agency and added Isaiah Thomas on a veteran’s minimum deal.
Utah finished tied for second in the conference, but it’s hard to overlook the second-half tear they went on, finishing the year 28-6 and disposing of the Thunder in six games. Their entire core is back after they re-signed Derrick Favors and Dante Exum, while rookie Grayson Allen should make an immediate impact. Donovan Mitchell looks ready to make an All-Star jump after averaging 24.4 points in 11 postseason games, and a healthy season from Rudy Gobert will only improve their odds; Utah was 37-19 in the 56 games Gobert played, a 55-win pace.
The Jazz showed in the postseason what their healthy, clicking group can do. They’ve got youth, veteran leadership, talent and athleticism. They’re our pick at 5/2 odds at 888sport. And if you need a dark horse, Denver is getting odds of 5/1 at Ladbrokes. They could make the kind of jump Utah did a year ago.
Leave it to the Warriors to be attached to some of the most outrageous odds in NBA history. But with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and eventually DeMarcus Cousins on board, there’s not a whole lot to break down. They’ve won this division by 11, 20, 16 and 16 games the past four seasons, and the rest of the division is trending in the opposite direction. Expect for one team.
LeBron James and his cast of misfit toys (Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley) join a supremely talented young core. Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma all have star potential and it can’t be underestimated just how much better players get playing with LeBron. Then again, James’ teams tend to underperform in the regular season, as they’ve finished with the East’s best record twice since 2010. Topping the Warriors will mean finishing with the top record in the West, and that feels unreasonable. The Lakers will be good; the Warriors will be great.
It’s the safe pick, it’s the obvious pick, and it’s the right pick. The Warriors have absurd 1/20 odds of winning the Pacific division. If you believe James will find magic after teaming up with Magic, your best odds are 11/1 at 888sport.
An MVP season from James Harden helped the Rockets to a franchise-best 65 wins and the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. That broke a two-year run by the Spurs, and there could be a third team to enter the fray after Houston lost a pair of valuable role players during the offseason.
The Pelicans caught fire after DeMarcus Cousins tore his ACL and the team traded for Nikola Mirotic, going 21-11, a 54-win season pace. Anthony Davis posted MVP-type numbers in that stretch – and he’s our favorite to win the award next season (Top 5 MVP Odds LINK), and New Orleans kept their core and added Julius Randle in free agency. Perhaps Elfrid Payton will feel more comfortable playing closer to home and find a resurgence in New Orleans as he takes on the tall order of replacing Rajon Rondo. Don’t underestimate what Davis is capable of.
Of course, the Rockets remain the favorite. Though Trevor Ariza and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute are gone (and replaced by a shell of Carmelo Anthony), Harden, Chris Paul, Clint Capela and Eric Gordon is more than enough of a core to win the division. Some regression is to be expected – they won’t win 65 games again – but the Spurs’ turmoil and New Orleans’ thin bench still gives them the clear upper hand, barring unforeseen injuries.
It’s why we like them at 1/5 on Ladbrokes. But if Davis continues his otherworldly progression, and both Randle and Payton jell with an already impressive supporting cast, the Pelicans’ 9/1 odds at Ladbrokes will look like a steal.