The top three favorites to win the NBA Finals all hail from the Eastern Conference.
The Boston Celtics are still the favorites to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the midway point of the season. The Celtics were at +500 to win the Finals before the season began at BetMGM and are now at +400 as they sit in first place in the East.
The two teams that followed the Celtics before the season were in the West. The defending champion Warriors were +600 to go back-to-back. Golden State is now the No. 5 favorite at +900 after some early season struggles and depth issues.
The Clippers were the No. 3 favorites at +700 and now sit at +1100 as they look to have a run of games with a healthy lineup. Los Angeles has hovered around .500 for much of the season as Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and others have dealt with myriad injuries over the course of the season. The Clippers may be the most talented team in the NBA from top to bottom. But that doesn’t matter much if injuries make it impossible for the team to develop any continuity.
The Bucks and Nets have taken the place of the Warriors and Clippers at the halfway point. Milwaukee is at +550 to win the title while Brooklyn is a bit further back at +800.
Milwaukee is four games back of the Celtics and has played 38 of 45 games without Khris Middleton. Middleton is inching closer and closer to a return from knee soreness that has kept him out for over a month. The Bucks’ odds are clearly banking on Middleton being healthy for the playoffs. If he’s not available for all or part of the postseason like he was a season ago, Milwaukee’s chances to get a second Finals win in three seasons are a lot slimmer.
Brooklyn, meanwhile, is hoping that Kevin Durant won’t have any long-term effects from the MCL injury he suffered earlier this season. Durant is likely out another few weeks but a pre-All Star Game return would be huge for a Nets team that sorely misses his 30 points per game. Brooklyn is fourth in the East and has lost the three games it's played since Durant left a 102-101 win against the Heat on Jan. 8.
Most divisions have clear favorites
There aren’t too many competitive divisions when you look at BetMGM’s odds. While there are three divisions with a gap of fewer than four games between first and second, just one division has a favorite with bigger odds than -250.
That division is the Pacific, where four teams have odds of +500 or better to win. The Kings currently have a 3.5-game lead on the Warriors as they’ve been one of the most surprising teams in the NBA. Sacramento is currently 25-18 and sits third in the West behind the Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies. Yet the Kings and Warriors are tied at +175 to win the division.
The Clippers are four games back of the Kings and are at +500 to win the division. Oddly enough, LA has the same odds to win the Western Conference. The Suns are five games back of Sacramento at 21-24 and are at +400 to win the division. The Lakers are just two games back of the Clippers and a game back of the Suns, yet their division odds are at +2000.
Who are the best value plays?
If you want to look past the top three teams in the East and the Clippers and Warriors to make a Finals bet, you should immediately take a look at the Denver Nuggets. Denver is first in the West and is at +850 to win the Finals and +400 to win the conference. Those are tantalizing odds if you think the additions of Bruce Brown and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will bolster the Nuggets’ defense in the playoffs. There’s no question that Denver can and will be able to score on anyone.
The 76ers are also worth a look at +1600, especially relative to the teams around them. The Phoenix Suns have the same title odds despite sitting three games under .500 and with Chris Paul looking to have taken a step back this season. The Cavaliers may also be worth a flier at +2000 given the immediate success Cleveland has found with Donovan Mitchell. The Cavs look like a much better bet than Dallas at +2500 given the lack of support Luka Doncic currently has.
NBA Finals favorites
Boston Celtics (+400)
Milwaukee Bucks (+550)
Brooklyn Nets (+800)
Denver Nuggets (+850)
Golden State Warriors (+900)
Memphis Grizzlies (+1000)
Los Angeles Clippers (+1100)
Philadelphia 76ers (+1600)
Phoenix Suns (+1600)
New Orleans Pelicans (+1800)
Cleveland Cavaliers (+2000)
Eastern Conference favorites
Boston Celtics (+180)
Milwaukee Bucks (+260)
Brooklyn Nets (+400)
Philadelphia 76ers (+800)
Cleveland Cavaliers (+1000)
Western Conference favorites
Denver Nuggets (+400)
Golden State Warriors (+400)
Memphis Grizzlies (+450)
Los Angeles Clippers (+500)
Phoenix Suns (+750)
New Orleans Pelicans (+900)