4 teams to consider taking to win it all

The NBA playoffs are in full swing as the home court shifts for Games 3 and 4. While higher seeds like Denver and Boston are in full control, the rest of the field remains up in the air. We all questioned the stability of the Western Conference, and the first few games haven’t disappointed for those who thirst for upsets. The unpredictability opens up opportunities for bettors in the futures market. The volatility fuels the odds to swing drastically, making it important to monitor the different markets so you’re prepared to capitalize when a good number becomes available.

Let’s head over to BetMGM and look for a team that’s been over or under adjusted based on the first two games. The Celtics (+275) and Bucks (+400) lead the way, while the Suns (+550) and 76ers (+650) round out the top four. You can argue there is a little value in Milwaukee, but I am not touching the Bucks until I see Giannis Antetokounmpo play a few times. Let’s move down the board and take a swing at some long shots whose odds might be too wide, considering where they currently stand in the NBA playoff picture.

OK, it’s a stretch to use the term long shot when discussing a team that won the most games in the Western Conference. All that considered, they have the fifth-best odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets are 35-7 at home, where they boast the league’s third-best net rating (9.6). Historically, a team’s road performance is a more predictive marker of its likelihood of becoming an NBA champion. However, Denver will enjoy home-court advantage throughout Western Conference play. That matters as playing at altitude will become more of a factor as teams wear down the deeper we get into the playoffs.

If you like the value, you are better off playing Nikola Jokic to win Finals MVP at better odds (+900) since he is highly probable to win the award in any scenario where Denver is the champion. I don’t think Denver has it in them to win the whole thing, but after watching Phoenix and Memphis slip, you can’t deny there is value. Plus, if the Nuggets can get through the West, you will also likely have hedging opportunities to ensure profit in the NBA Finals. That’s always a benefit of playing a team with longer odds, in case you don’t like the matchup against the Eastern Conference representative.

The Lakers have a tsunami of momentum right now. The second you start to count them out, they conquer another challenge. They finished the regular season on a 9-2 run, and we all questioned whether it would carry over to the postseason. They beat Minnesota in the play-in tournament, as we were waiting to see how they would handle Memphis. The injury to Ja Morant was impactful, but the Lakers are in a position to take a 2-0 series lead tonight before heading back to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4. They are now heavy favorites (-275) to advance to the Western Conference semifinals. With Sacramento currently in a position to be the likely opponent, the Lakers would have the two best players on the court in that series. Since March 1, the Lakers are fifth in net rating and posted the third-best defensive rating among teams left in the field.

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James stands with Anthony Davis during the second half of an NBA basketball game. (AP file photo)

We heard it all season long as bettors continuously put the Sacramento Kings in the friend zone. We were happy for them. They are fun and deserve their newfound success more than anyone. But, we were never going to seriously commit to the good guys. After frustrating Golden State to the point where Draymond Green got himself ejected and suspended for Game 3, the Kings have the defending champions on the ropes, down 2-0, heading back to Bay. Sacramento is the highest-scoring team in basketball, so nobody will question its ability to get buckets, but you have to get stops to make it through the gauntlet of the NBA playoffs. Can the Kings crank up the defensive intensity when they need to? It sure looked like it on Monday night. Sacramento held Golden State to 13-of-40 from beyond the arc and pressured relentlessly at the point of attack. Per VSiN’s Jonathan Von Tobel, the Kings also have the sixth-best net rating (+1.3) in non-garbage time minutes on the road this season. Mike Brown has been phenomenal, making Sacramento as live as anyone in a wide-open West. At 22-1 odds, it might be time to settle down with the Beam Team.

We have all been here before with Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers. Once they suck you back in, they let you down. Also, I still think they have a monumental task ahead of them in getting past the Phoenix Suns. That being said, if they can get past Phoenix without Paul George, 40 to 1 quickly becomes a valuable ticket in your pocket. Much like the Nuggets, you will want to look at Leonard in the Finals MVP market since it’s highly correlated to this outcome. In a conference without a runaway favorite, the Clippers have the star power with Leonard, George and Russell Westbrook and a solid coach with experience in leading a team to an NBA title. Besides, Leonard has been the most consistent player on the court in the first two games. We wouldn’t be getting 40-1 if it were likely, but the Clippers check more boxes than most teams at these odds. Recency bias from last night’s loss pushed LA’s odds from +2500 to +4000, but the Clippers splitting in Phoenix and stealing home-court advantage has to be considered a win.