Atop the Eastern Conference standings, Chicago is getting 5/1 to win the NBA title.
The Boston Celtics in the East and the San Antonio Spurs in the West have been the front runners in the NBA for the better part of the season. Now, with less than three weeks to go before the playoffs fire up, things appear to be as wide open as ever in both conferences.
Boston has lost five of its last 10 games and the Celtics suddenly find themselves in second place in the Eastern Conference standings, two games behind Chicago and just a half-game ahead of Miami. The Spurs have lost three straight with Tim Duncan out of the lineup nursing an ankle injury and are now just four games ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers in the Westestern Conference.
Stepping up to the plate to fill the void have been the Bulls and Lakers, who are both 9-1 SU in their last 10 games. Also making their presence felt are the Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder who are a combined 17-3 SU in their last 20 games.
Looking at the current odds to win this year’s title, it is time to sort through the numbers to find where the value is.
The defending world champion Lakers remain the odds-on favorite at plus 250 to successfully defend their title. A few weeks back there was absolutely no value in these odds given the way LA was stumbling through the regular season. The wake-up call was a 104-99 loss to Cleveland as an 11-point road favorite right before the All-Star break.
Since that point the Lakers have gone 17-1 SU to leave little doubt that they are still the team to beat in the NBA. Phil Jackson's squad now has its sights set on the top spot in the Western Conference and the best record in the league to ensure home field advantage throughout the playoffs. With everyone happy and healthy in LA, it is hard to bet against the Lakers no matter how thin the odds.
Miami is the second favorite at plus 325 and remains the most intriguing team in the league. Just when you think that all the star power in South Beach is ready to implode, these guys get their act together and start playing up to their incredible capabilities.
The Heat bounced back from a five-game skid to start the month of March to win eight of their last nine games, including five straight victories in which they scored 100 points or more. This team will certainly be a factor in the postseason, but has yet to show a consistency that is needed to win it all. This may develop in the early rounds of the playoffs, but the value is just not there at the current odds.
The value in the Eastern Conference has to be with Chicago at plus 500. The Bulls have vaulted to the top spot in the conference with 15 wins in their last 17 games. They are 53-19 SU overall and 32-4 SU at home.
If Chicago can hold onto the No.1 seed in the East, it will be very hard to beat with home-court advantage clearly in its favor. Derrick Rose continues a strong campaign for league MVP and as long as Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah remain healthy, this team has a great chance to compete for a title.
If you are looking for a bit of a reach, then go with Oklahoma City at plus 1800 as your dark horse to win it all. The Thunder have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook which is enough to keep them competitive against any other team in the league.
Oklahoma City also looks ready for the postseason with 12 wins in its last 14 games. It will most likely start the postseason as the fourth seed in the West and would easily qualify as the team that nobody would want to face in the early rounds. The Thunder took the Lakers to six games in last year’s playoffs and are a much better team this time around.