As the NBA regular season hurtles towards the finish line, the playoffs picture is taking shape and amongst those that have made the cut at least five teams leap off the page as legitimate contenders to earn their place in the history books by clinching the 2021 NBA Championships. Those are: (as things currently stand with one week to go before the play-in tournament begins): the Philadelphia Sixers, Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Utah Jazz and LA Clippers. The five top teams in the league that are also tipped as the top bets across multiple sports betting platforms, listed with the shortest NBA odds on the board.
Based on how these five teams have played over the course of the regular season, anyone of these would be fitting champions when all is said and done. They’re deservedly in the top six of their respective conferences with a realistic shot in sight.
In the broader spectrum of the regular season, the Brooklyn Nets emerge as the team to beat in the race for the NBA Championship. From the start of the season, the Nets have been one of the most offensive-minded outfits, tearing up a storm from game-to-game. Their undeniable verve and swagger was only enhanced in the midst of the season with the addition of James Harden, who seems to be perfectly compliment the striking duo of Kevin Durant and Kyle Irving.
James Harden made no secret about the reasons behind his desire to part ways with the Houston Rockets, even if it did ruffle some feathers. He maintained the Rockets “didn’t have a chance” to win an NBA title.” Adding that the Brooklyn Nets by comparison “now have a legit chance to win a ring” with his addition to the roster.
Interestingly, the Big Three haven’t had many opportunities to play together at the same time for various reasons – from injuries to covid-19 related setbacks. However, they’re nevertheless in fine form behind a 46-24 mark, sat pretty in second place and just 1.5 games behind the Philadelphia 76ers in the standings.
The Milwaukee Bucks have come alive late in the season, surging in the East conference table to third-place behind a 44-25 mark. They have three games left on the season and, at the same time, they’re also three games back of the Brooklyn Nets. Importantly, Giannis Antetokounmpo is enjoying imperious form at the perfect time, just as the postseason looms on the horizon. His play has gone up notch, lifting him once again into MVP contention this season. When the ‘Greek Freak’ plays well, it’s infectious, permeating throughout the team and elevates all around him.
The Philadelphia 76ers have occupied the top spot for the better part of the regular season, but for some reason few are buying what they’re selling right. It might be a case of lack of experience and bona fide star power in the same mould of household names such as: LeBron James, Steven Curry, Kawhi Leonard….just some of the few that have proven championship pedigree. Nevertheless, it would be foolish to overlook the Sixers entirely because whatever their perceived quality they’re still going to be tough to take down in the postseason.
Similarly, the Utah Jazz have been an elite team in the Western Conference during the regular season and yet few are taking them as seriously as some of the more established outfits. Not unlike the underestimation of the Sixers in NBA futures, the Jazz are faced with the same doubtfulness. Moreover, in the event of a matchup against an established foe such as the Lakers or Clippers, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Jazz tipped as the underdogs even though they’re clearly coming off a much better regular season campaign.
Separately, the best online sportsbooks include the defending champions Los Angeles Lakers amongst the top bets, but they’re intentionally absent from the aforementioned list. Of course, it’s risky to write off a proven champion in LeBron James and the Lakers. in the postseason, but the reality is that the Lakers are well under the cosh this season and wholly off pace. Thus, their probability of winning is less than the actual odds would suggest.
LA Lakers Under Pressure
A play-in berth wasn’t what anyone would have predicted at the start of the 2020-21 NBA season but that’s how the landscape stacks up now with the Lakers sitting just outside of the top six cut-off line. The Lakers may be merely a game off the Dallas Mavericks (41-29) but with two games left on the season they’ll need a bit of help to leapfrog the Mavs into the coveted sixth spot. For instance a total collapse by their rivals as they win out down the stretch.
Of course, anything can happen. It’s not over yet and there is a sliver of hope for the Lakers to avoid the play-in tournament. But that hope is complicated. It doesn’t help their cause that the status of LeBron James and Anthony Davis is up in the air, both side-lined with injuries and uncertain to return for the last two games of the season. The other concern though is if they do return, how healthy will they be? After all, they’ve spent much of the second half of the season on the bench nursing various ailments.