The NBA playoffs are set. 14 franchises are crossing their fingers ahead of the 14th May Draft Lottery. 16 are readying for the postseason, which gets underway on Saturday evening with the Philadelphia 76ers hosting the Brooklyn Nets.
With only a few days between the close of the regular season and the beginning of the playoffs, now seems a good time for an NBA postseason preview.
NBA Playoffs: Western Conference
For all the drama, the Kevin Durant and Draymond Green spat and uncertainty about where they go from here, the Golden State Warriors are overwhelming 12/25 favourites to threepeat.
Steve Kerr’s team face the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round and are 1/12 to win Game One in Oakland this weekend.
The Clippers are one of the stories of the season, and Doc Rivers deserves to win Coach of the Year, but this is a mismatch and the tie that Golden State will have been hoping for to open their postseason run.
The Houston Rockets slipped to fourth in the West, setting them up with the Utah Jazz. Houston will be pleased to avoid the Thunder, and still have homecourt advantage.
Out at 6/1 as second favourites to come out of the West, Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets are considered by many as the Warriors’ greatest threat.
Assuming both teams avoid first round upsets, they will meet in the Western Conference semi-finals. If you fancy Houston to upset the odds and topple the Warriors, their 10/1 price to win the title is a standout in 888’s sports betting.
Denver claimed the second seed and manufactured an easier path to the Conference Finals with some inventive team selections from Mike Malone.
A loss to Portland this week means the Nuggets avoid Houston and Golden State until the Western Conference Finals, facing the Spurs and then the Thunder or Blazers.
Nikola Jokic’s defence is a concern, and teams will be confident of upsetting him offensively.
Denver are a unique team in that sense, relying on so much of their play going through their centre. San Antonio are 15/8 to win Game One in Colorado, but there’s definitely potential for an upset in that series.
Oklahoma City Thunder are the dark horse of the West. A dire run after the All-Star break saw them drop way off the pace, having been a contender for a top two seeding.
They fought back in the final days of the season, though, winning their last five to secure the sixth seed.
If Paul George can get fully fit and return to his winter form, the Thunder are a very good price at 11/1 to come out of the West. Their 6/5 NBA betting odds to win against Portland on Sunday is excellent value.
For bettors that think the Warriors’ run will end this postseason, the Western Conference is wide open. Injuries, however, still seem the only way that Kerr’s team can be stopped.
NBA Playoffs: Western Conference
The Eastern Conference has a 60-win team, yet it is set to be far more competitive than the West.
Milwaukee Bucks deserve their 17/2 as second favourites for the title. Giannis Antetokounmpo has flourished in Mike Budenholzer’s spaced system and his teammates are knocking down shots at a prolific rate.
Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic are set to miss at least the first round through injuries.
Milwaukee have good depth, and still have Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez and All-Star Khris Middleton, but being without Brogdon and Mirotic for a second-round matchup with the Pacers or Celtics is a concern.
Antetokounmpo and co. will face the Pistons in the first round, who beat the Grizzlies and Knicks on Tuesday and Wednesday to secure the final playoff spot.
The Bucks are overwhelming favourites in the series and are priced at 2/15 to win in Fiserv Forum in Game One. While Milwaukee were praised, Boston were analysed and the Sixers hit the headlines.
Toronto plodded along, finishing second in the East and have the most favourable first round matchup. The Raptors are 11/5 to win the East and should cruise past the Orlando Magic.
Despite Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard missing a lot of games, the Raptors won 58. Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka give them options at centre, while Pascal Siakam has developed into a star. Leonard and Danny Green provide playoff experience.
The Magic ended the season strongly, but they will be no match for Toronto. Nick Nurse will fancy his team’s chances of a sweep, giving them time to put their feet up before a probable second round against Philadelphia.
That moves us nicely onto the Sixers. Avoiding Indiana or Boston by finishing third was always the key. Even while resting Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid, Philly did just that.
A first-round matchup with Brooklyn presents challenges. The Sixers have had a difficult time against guards all season, and the Nets have plenty – led by D’Angelo Russell – who can cause problems.
The talent Elton Brand has put together should be too much for Brooklyn, however. Philadelphia will not cruise this series, but meeting Toronto in the semi-finals seems inevitable.
The Sixers are 13/5 to come out of the West and 12/1 to win their first NBA title since 1983.
Boston, who were tipped at the beginning of the season by Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady to win the Finals, are 3/1 to win the East.
A turbulent season with locker room dispute and fluctuating performances contributes to that, as does a challenging first-round matchup with the Pacers.
We will see in the coming days if the Celtics have figured it out in time for the playoffs. The offence is a concern, but Playoff Kyrie will help with that.
Boston still have a good chance of making the Finals. A long series against Indiana is probable, though, which will put them at a slight disadvantage should they progress to face Milwaukee.
Having seen how the Pacers performed without Victor Oladipo, there will undoubtedly be a few people backing them at 50/1 to win the East. Their 43/20 price to win Game One in TD Garden is a tempter.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*