The NBA Playoffs are the most exciting and unpredictable part of the basketball season. Every year, 16 teams compete for the ultimate prize: the NBA Championship.
But how can we tell which team has the best chance of winning it all? One way is to look at playoff odds, which are statistical projections that estimate each team’s probability of advancing through each round of the playoffs and ultimately winning the title.
Playoff odds take into account various factors such as regular season performance, injuries, matchups, coaching, and more. Our top three contenders are:
- Milwaukee Bucks: +240
- Boston Celtics: +300
- Denver Nuggets: +400
This means that if you bet $100 on any of these teams to win in the NBA Finals odds, you would win $240 for the Bucks, $300 for the Celtics, or $400 for the Nuggets. But how accurate are these odds, and who has the best chance to win among these three teams?
In this article, we will analyze each team’s strengths and weaknesses, potential matchups and scenarios in each conference, x-factors, and intangibles that could swing the outcome and compare and evaluate their chances based on their playoff odds.
Strengths and weaknesses of each team
The first step to assess each team’s chances of winning is to look at the key factors that make them a contender or a bust in the playoffs.
Let’s unpack this.
The Bucks have been one of the best teams in the league for three consecutive seasons, led by two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is having another dominant year averaging 28.7 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game. They also have a deep roster with players like Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, Brook Lopez, and Bobby Portis, who can contribute on both ends of the floor. Their defense is also elite, as they rank second in defensive rating (106.1) behind only Utah Jazz.
However, they also have some flaws that could hurt them in the playoffs, such as inconsistent shooting (35% from three-point range), lack of clutch play (10-12 record in games decided by five points or less), and coaching adjustments (Mike Budenholzer has been criticized for his rigid rotations and schemes).
The Celtics made a major offseason move by acquiring Malcolm Brogdon from Indiana Pacers, who have been a great fit for their system averaging 19.8 points, 5.6 assists, and shooting 40% from beyond the arc. They also have one of the best young stars in Jayson Tatum, who has emerged as an MVP candidate averaging 26.4 points, 7 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game.
Their experience and chemistry are also valuable assets, as they have reached the conference finals three times in the last four years. However, they also have some injury woes with Kemba Walker missing 18 games due to knee issues, bench production problems with only two players averaging more than eight points per game off the bench, and rebounding issues ranking 25th in rebounding percentage (48%).
The Nuggets have been one of the most balanced teams in the league, with an offense that ranks fourth in offensive rating (114) and a defense that ranks ninth in defensive rating (109)1. They are led by Nikola Jokic, who is having an MVP season averaging 27 points, 11 rebounds, 8.5 assists, and shooting 57% from the field, 42% from three-point range, and 87% from the free throw line. They also have a supporting cast that includes Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, Will Barton, and Monte Morris, who can score, defend and play multiple positions.
Still, they also have a major setback with Jamal Murray tearing his ACL last month, which will sideline him for the rest of the season. Murray was their second-leading scorer with 21 points per game and their clutch performer in last year’s playoffs, where he averaged 26.5 points per game. They also lack playoff experience, as they have never reached beyond the conference finals before, and a size disadvantage, as they rank last in blocks per game (3.9).