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NBA betting: NBA Finals, MVP odds and best bets to win the title after the break

The NBA got a nice, long break for the All-Star Game. Now they can continue with load management.

There was a wild trade deadline that sets up a fantastic playoff field. It will be a fun six-plus weeks to the end of the regular season as seeding and the play-in tournament field is decided.

The NBA returns from the all-star break on Thursday night, so let's take a glance at some betting trends as the regular season resumes:

The contenders

There are 10 teams with shorter than 30-to-1 odds to win the NBA title as we come out of the all-star break. Here are the odds to win the NBA Finals at BetMGM:

Boston Celtics +300

Phoenix Suns +425

Milwaukee Bucks +550

Denver Nuggets +700

Los Angeles Clippers +1000

Philadelphia 76ers +1100

Dallas Mavericks +1600

Golden State Warriors +1600

Memphis Grizzlies +1600

Cleveland Cavaliers +2500

Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets is having another huge season. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets is having another huge season. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

Who are the MVP favorites?

"Favorites" might be a misnomer. Right now there is just one favorite with everyone chasing, and that favorite is familiar to the award:

Nikola Jokic -250

Joel Embiid +500

Giannis Antetokounmpo +700

Luka Doncic +1600

Jayson Tatum +1600

All other players are at least 50-to-1. With a few weeks left in the season, Jokic is the clear favorite to win his third straight MVP award. Here's the entire list of players to win three MVPs in a row: Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlin, Bill Russell. That's a heck of a group Jokic might be entering. And it's deserving, because Jokic has been unbelievable for a Nuggets team that has taken a big step this season. Jokic has 21 triple-doubles, Luka Doncic is second with 10 and nobody else has more than six.

Who have been the best teams to bet on?

The best team, from a betting perspective, is a bit of a surprise. The Oklahoma City Thunder is 35-21-1 against the spread according to Action Network's standings. That's the best ATS record in the NBA. The 76ers are second at 34-23. The Orlando Magic and Utah Jazz, a couple of big surprises, are third and fourth at 33-25-1 and 33-25-2.

The Thunder, Magic and Jazz are all under .500 straight up this season. That shows that good teams don't always equal good bets.

Who have been the worst teams to bet on?

The Miami Heat were one of the best teams against the spread last season, but hopefully you didn't bank on a repeat of that. The Heat have the NBA's worst ATS record at 21-35-3. The Dallas Mavericks (22-36-2) and Houston Rockets (22-33-3) are right after the Heat on that dubious list.

Who might embrace the tank?

The widespread tanking for the 2023 NBA draft, and generational prospect Victor Wembanyama, didn't really happen in the first half. Some teams that looked primed to tank have been competitive. After the break there are four teams far behind the rest of the league: Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Detroit Pistons and the Charlotte Hornets. There might not be much remaining betting value on any of them, no matter how high the spreads get.

The NBA's lottery rules state the bottom three records each have a 14% shot at the first pick, and the fourth team has a 12.5% chance (it dips to 10.5% for the fifth-best team). Those four teams with fewer than 20 wins and no shot at the playoffs will want to be in the top three and definitely not move to fifth. There could be opportunities to bet against them the rest of the season.

What's the state of the East?

The Celtics and Bucks look like the top two teams in the East, and whoever gets the top seed could decide who advances to the NBA Finals. The Philadelphia 76ers will have a say in that. The top seed will likely avoid the likely No. 3 seed 76ers in the second round, making the top seed even more important than just determining home-court advantage in a potential Eastern Conference Finals. Boston and Milwaukee could play their stars more than normal in chasing that top seed, which is something bettors will need to track.

The East didn't load up at the trade deadline. There was some tinkering, like the New York Knicks getting Josh Hart. The biggest trade deadline news in the East was the Brooklyn Nets going from contender to rebuild by unloading Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. That solidified the top two (three, if you love the 76ers) as the clear class of the East.

What's the state of the West?

The Nuggets couldn't have been happy with the trade deadline. They watched the Suns grab Durant, which makes Phoenix scary. Denver is 41-18 with Jokic playing out of his mind and a much better supporting cast around him. The Nuggets lead the West by five games. But the Suns have the star power to go back to the NBA Finals. Other teams like the Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies and Clippers (who won't be resting their stars come postseason time) will be tough. The West has a deeper playoff field than the East, which will make for more interesting betting opportunities in the first couple rounds of the playoffs.

Who's the best bet to win it all?

In terms of value — the best team with the longest odds — the Cavaliers at 25-to-1 stand out. Cleveland doesn't have playoff experience and the top teams in the East will be tough to beat, but the Cavs are better than the odds say.

But what about last season's champs? The Warriors are 29-29 and haven't been impressive all season. But a championship hangover and terrible injury luck could be to blame. It's the same nucleus that won the 2021-22 championship and has a pedigree beyond last season. The Warriors are a year older and at the moment would be in the play-in tournament, so there are reasons to be skeptical. But assuming the Warriors will be healthy by mid-April, should they really have the fifth-best odds in the West? No chance. Assuming a team will turn it on in the playoffs is a fallacy, but nobody would be surprised if Golden State looked like itself in the postseason. It might be worth a shot on the Warriors to win another title.