With the 2015-2016 NBA regular season finally over, 16 teams are still in the hunt to win this year’s title. But as the playoffs begin, only a handful of teams have a realistic chance of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June.
More so than in any other sport, the NBA usually ends with an elite regular-season team winning the championship. A No.1 seed has won it all in each of the last three years, and only one team has ever won the NBA Finals despite being seeded lower than third in their conference.
After winning a record-setting 73 games this year, the defending champs are the overwhelming favorites to win the 2016 NBA Finals, and only a few teams have a chance to give them a real challenge.
The Favorites: Golden State Warriors (-150)
Not only do the Warriors have the best betting odds to win the title, via Bovada.lv, but they are an odds-on favorite to win the championship. After winning more games than any team in history, a loss for Golden State would be the biggest upset since the Miami Heat failed to win it all in LeBron James’ first year with the team in 2011. Golden State went 39-2 at home, failing to lose two games in a row or two games to any team in the NBA, and they probably have the first ever unanimous MVP in Stephen Curry.
In the last 30 years, defending champions have gone 10-5 in the finals. With the Warriors getting even better after winning 67 games and the title last year, they are expected to repeat.
The Contenders: San Antonio Spurs (+375), Cleveland Cavaliers (+400), Oklahoma City Thunder (+1000)
Another championship for the San Antonio Spurs would be considered an upset, though plenty of gamblers will be putting their money on the Spurs. San Antonio won 67 games in the regular season, and a 40-1 record at home will make it difficult for any team to beat them before the Western Conference Finals. They defeated the Warriors 87-79 last month, and they would likely be favored in any game in which they host the Warriors.
Cleveland’s odds are nearly as good as San Antonio’s because the Eastern Conference is considered to be so weak. The Cavs went 0-2 against the Warriors this season, but they took Golden State to six games in the 2015 NBA Finals without Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love. Oklahoma City doesn’t have a good chance at 10/1, but they nearly beat Golden State twice and went 2-2 against San Antonio.
The Longshots: Los Angeles Clippers (+2800), Toronto Raptors (+3300), Boston Celtics (+6600), Miami Heat (+7500), Atlanta Hawks (+7500)
The Clippers arguably have two of the NBA’s top 10 players in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and they managed to beat the Spurs in last year’s playoffs. Toronto finished the regular season just one game behind Cleveland, and they are the biggest threat to the Cavs in the East. Neither the Clippers nor the Raptors, however, have favorable odds, considering a few elite teams stand in their way.
Boston, Miami and Atlanta all won 48 games in the regular season, and they could all be competitive with Cleveland. But even if one of them managed to reach the NBA Finals, they would be heavy underdogs against either the Warriors or Spurs.
No Chance For a Title: Charlotte Hornets (+15000), Portland Trail Blazers (+15000), Indiana Pacers (+20000), Detroit Pistons (+20000), Dallas Mavericks (+25000), Houston Rockets (+30000), Memphis Grizzlies (+50000)
The Houston Rockets won the 1995 NBA Finals as a No.6 seed, becoming the only team to win the championship while ranked fourth or worse in their conference. They were the defending champs, and none of the teams with odds of +15000 or greater have a realistic chance at winning the title.
Charlotte had the best season of the group with 48 wins, while Indiana and Detroit won 45 and 44 games, respectively. Portland won 44 games, and the bottom three seeds in the West all had between 42 and 41 wins.
Conference Championship Odds
Cleveland (-260) Golden State (-190)
Toronto (+500) San Antonio (+230)
Miami (+1400) Oklahoma City (+800)
Boston (+1400) Los Angeles (+1600)
Atlanta (+1400) Portland (+7500)
Charlotte (+3300) Houston (+12500)
Detroit (+5000) Dallas (+12500)
Indiana (+6600) Memphis (+25000)