The Warriors and Wizards (yes, the ones from Washington) stand atop their respective conferences five weeks into the NBA season. Now that there’s enough games to parse, especially given Tuesday night’s potential NBA Finals preview between Golden State and Brooklyn, we’re starting to look ahead to June.
The Nets and Lakers, despite their struggles, have the two best odds on SI Sportsbook to win the Finals. So, which long shots have a chance of coming out of left field, taking the trophy and earning you a big pay day?
Our writers discussed their picks in Wednesday’s roundtable and there was no common response.
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SI Betting Editor Matt Ehalt’s Take:
I'm taking the Heat (+1400). There potentially may be an easier path getting through Brooklyn (sans Kyrie Irving) and Milwaukee than one of the Western teams that could have to go through that gauntlet. The East has quality teams, but I'm not sure how many of them are championship material. The Bulls (+2800) and Hawks (+6000) tempted me, especially the latter, but I went with the safer option. It's easy to forget the Heat is only two years removed from a Finals appearance. Having a good coach, a good roster and an aggressive front office usually leads to good things.
SI Betting Editor Dave Scipione’s Take:
When I look at the odds and see the Suns at +1400, I have to just shake my head as I lay $100 on them. The winner of the NBA Finals will be coming out of the Western Conference, so I’m not even looking at the East. With Klay Thompson nearing a return, it’s going to be a team that can defend the arc—and I think the Suns have enough perimeter defenders to stifle the Dubs.
Let’s face it, we’re talking “sleeper” teams, so give me the team who was just fighting for the title. The Suns are making it to the playoffs, you just need to hope CP3 and the rest of the squad can stay healthy enough to fend off Golden State and whoever emerges from the East. +1400 is hammer time all day.
Dallasbasketball.com Writer Grant Asfeth’s Take:
The L.A. Clippers (+1700) have experienced a bout of bad luck since the formation of the Kawhi Leonard, Paul George superstar duo. Between the small ball capabilities the team has shown with Nicolas Batum at the five and the vast collection of shooters, there’s a lot to like about this team when Leonard is back in the fold. Of course, much will depend upon his return and ability to gain rhythm at the right time. Serge Ibaka wasn’t able to be a factor last playoff run due to injuries but he’s another under-the-radar element to take into consideration if healthy.
SI Betting Writer Kyle Wood’s Take:
I like the Nuggets (+1700). The key to making it to June (thankfully this season the Finals will take place in their rightful month after a two-year hiatus) is having the best player on the floor for three rounds. Nikola Jokić, Denver's massive but magnificent big man, is that player. The reigning MVP is keeping the Nuggets well within the playoff picture with Jamaal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. sidelined. Their potential late-season returns could very well damage Denver's accrued chemistry. Or, the Nuggets getting back their second- and third-best players prior to the postseason could help them slay the dragons out West, finally advance beyond the Conference Finals and win the whole thing on the back of Jokić's broad shoulders.
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