It’s been a very turbulent year for some NBA teams, and although the regular season is nearing an end, there is still enough time for twists and turns on both coasts.
Looking at the current standings, I can’t help but point out some things that caught me by surprise.
I actually expected the Eastern Conference to bore us to death this season. However, a few of the franchises really stepped up their game. I was very impressed with the Nets right from the start
and am definitely rooting for them to go as far as possible in the playoffs.
The Pacers have been terrific as well. Losing their star player Victor Oladipo has not harmed their playoff credentials one bit, and they continue to be one of the most consistent forces in the
East. Further down the table, Orlando has shown big progress from last year.
I can’t say that the top five seeds in the conference are surprising, but I have to say that the Bucks have shown much more resilience than I thought they would. The Celtics are probably
expecting a bit more from themselves, while the Raptors are pretty much going according to plan.
Probably the most exciting thing in the East was the player activity over in Philadelphia. They got a couple of very talented guys to accompany Embiid and Simmons, and I for one can’t wait to see
how their stacked roster will fare in the playoffs.
There were a few surprises in the Western Conference as well. The big one for any NBA fan is the fact that LeBron James is practically out of the playoffs. Few people expected it, but as the
season went on, the Lakers’ weaknesses far outweighed their talents.
LA’s failure to achieve something this year will probably dominate the headlines, but I want to highlight two teams that definitely deserve a mention among the pleasant surprises. Most of all,
the San Antonio Spurs have done it again!
After trading their star player and losing what would have been their starting point guard for the whole season, Pep’s men have found a way to be relevant again. Seeing how they are performing
down the stretch, they might well surprise a few people in the playoffs as well.
The other overachievers for me are the Denver Nuggets. The team has been around the top of the Conference right from the start. Their main man Nikola Jokic got his first All-Star appearance, and
there will be many more to come if he manages to maintain his level of play.
But since I want to concentrate on who can realistically win their respective conferences, let’s pause the season review for a bit and see what the leading NBA betting sites are offering.
2019 NBA Conference Winners Odds
Here’s a look at both conferences and the odds courtesy of BetOnline.ag.
Eastern Conference Odds
Western Conference Odds
Golden State Warriors-325
Oklahoma City Thunder+1200
San Antonio Spurs+4000
Los Angeles Lakers+5000
Los Angeles Clippers+15000
New Orleans Pelicans+15000
Eastern Conference Contenders
With LeBron James leaving the Conference, it was expected that things would be evened out a bit. Everyone thought that the team to benefit the most would be the Celtics, but this season has shown
us there are other teams hungrier for success.
I think there are still four legitimate contenders in the East and will talk about their chances of winning it below.
It’s no surprise the Bucks are the frontrunners here. They have been a devastating force both home and away ever since the season started. To be honest, I did think that they would have a better
season with Giannis growing in his role and talents like Middleton and Brogdon supporting him.
However, their rise has been much bigger than that. They managed to effectively keep their important pieces and added some league veterans like Brook Lopez, Ilyasova, and Mirotic to the fold.
They are quite possibly the best team in the NBA right now, and if they manage to stay healthy for the remaining regular-season games, it will be very hard to dethrone them.
Nobody was quite sure how Toronto would perform this season. On paper, getting Kawhi Leonard was a huge deal, but he hadn’t played for nine months, and who knew whether he would actually want to
play for Toronto at all?
However, it looks like the coaching staff has found the right formula. Kyle Lowry is back to his best, and the ever-reliable Danny Green gives them a bit of everything. Pascal Siakam is among the
most improved players this season, and Kawhi has shown glimpses of the beast form he had with the Spurs.
There have been some problems on the court when injuries struck and load management had to come into play, but overall, the Raptors have been stable. They still have a bit of work to do to catch
the Bucks but have been building momentum recently, and they’re not letting it go.
I don’t think Boston’s regular season turned out the way they planned it. A lot was expected of young star Jayson Tatum and of Gordon Hayward, and Kyrie Irving was intended to lead the team to
the next level. Although there were definitely some patches where the C’s looked like a legitimate contender, they were also pretty average in some games.
I get why the bookies are giving those odds. The team is more experienced than others, and they’ve shown that they can up their defensive game in crunch times. The playoffs are a different
animal, but while I do believe Boston can be better there, the fact that they can’t seem to find their balance is worrying.
Now, this may sound like a bit of a stretch, possibly because it is, but hear me out. Philly is currently on the best run in the Eastern Conference, and they are healthy. This is now a team that
can field four All-Star level players and J.J. Redick alongside them.
It is evident that they can be a formidable force, but it’s a question of whether they can get the most out of that talent in time to challenge the Bucks and Raptors. I think that we are getting
a taste of what they can accomplish, but it might be a bit early for them this year.
For now, they will be happy enough to enter the playoffs with all their main pieces in good shape and will give it their best go, but I feel they will come up short.
Looking at how it’s all shaping up, I think that the Bucks will be able to fend off the competition. They might be lacking in experience but are definitely the best team in the East and have the
confidence to overpower any opponent.
I still suspect the Raptors and the Celtics will put up a fight but ultimately fall at some stage. The odds for the Bucks will only drop from here, so I think it’s the perfect time to back them.
There were a lot of turning points in the West, and the current standings suggest that the drama may not be over yet. The eight playoff seeds look to have found their respective owners, but
there’s no telling who will win the conference.
It’s been very tight at the top, and I am going to look at the three teams that can eventually go on and win it.
Golden State Warriors
The reigning NBA champions were always going to be in the mix. Not only did they keep their four All-Stars, but they also added a fifth in DeMarcus Cousins. So, yeah, nobody was expecting that
Golden State would have any problems challenging once again.
However, there have been moments when the team didn’t look like the unstoppable force we have grown accustomed to. Klay Thompson wasn’t hitting his shots early in the season, and the defense was
not good. There were also injuries to Steph Curry and Kevin Durant.
The team looks healthy now, but there are still worries when they play on the road. The Warriors have already lost the same number of away games they did in the entire regular season last year.
They are still the favorite to win the conference, but ever since the All-Star weekend, they have definitely lost a bit of their spark. It will be down to them to recreate it once the big games
I’m only considering the Rockets here because I’m not sure that Harden is human anymore. There seems to be no limit to his superpower, so what’s another 40-odd games, right?
On a more serious note, I have to give props to the Houston organization. They were able to turn around what could have been a disastrous season. Yes, Harden played a big role in that, but they
also made some very shrewd acquisitions in crunch times.
Most important were Kenneth Faried and Austin Rivers, who held the fort while Chris Paul and Clint Capela were out injured. Although I don’t think they have fuel in the tank to actually win the
conference, they are looking very positive and will be a very tough opponent in the playoffs.
The Nuggets have been amazing all season and are right up there with the Warriors despite most people predicting that they will fade at some point. It’s a great testament to the coaches and
players that they were able to achieve this with their current roster.
In a conference where the franchises are stacked with top-level talent, Denver was able to put forth a selection that can play like a real basketball team. Nobody expects players like Jamal
Murray, Gary Harris, and Will Barton to contest the likes of Harden, Curry, and Durant.
But alongside star Jokic, they have all upped their game and are finally getting the recognition they deserve for that. They are almost impregnable at home and have shown they enjoy beating the
top teams on the road as well. The guys have a very serious chance of shocking us all!
Golden State is rightfully the bookies’ strong favorite. The team looks a bit shaken at the moment, but they also come up with the goods in the playoffs. It might well be this roster’s last year
together, so I expect that Steve Kerr and the players will be fired up to end the dynasty in style.
The Rockets came close last year, but they are not a better team now, and the Warriors now possess an All-Star level center in Boogie Cousins. Any way I look at it, I just don’t see a team that
can challenge the champions in seven games.
That is why despite the really short odds, I will have to go with them here.
PICKGolden State Warriors-325
There is still plenty of time before we go into playoff mode, but I hope that this early look at the conference winners market will give you some insight and perspective.
I believe the Bucks represent great value and that now is the best time to back them. Don’t be surprised if the odds for them are much lower soon! The situation in the West does not look as
profitable, but a bet for the Warriors seems like the best way to go, even in these circumstances.
Let me know if you agree with me on this one. I would love for you to leave a comment below and join the debate.