This year’s NBA season has been moving faster than a Denver Broncos playoff meltdown (sorry Peyton). It seems like only yesterday the Los Angeles Lakers were panicking five games into the season and handing coach Mike Brown his walking papers. But, if we were to take a our attention off of the all consuming NFL season for one second and have a look around sports landscape, we would notice that the NBA is so far from the beginning of the season that we might not even know what’s going on anymore.
The Los Angeles Clippers might be the best team in the league, the Lakers might not make the playoffs and the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies are legitimate NBA Finals contenders (what is going on here?). Most teams have played 36 games, and a few others are already at the half-way point of the season. Since there are only three football games left in the season (wow that may be the saddest sentence ever written), let’s turn out attention to basketball and take a look at the top 2013 NBA Finals contenders and see which teams have the best value to bet on.
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(All odds come from Bovada)
Miami Heat: -180 (to make NBA Finals)
The Miami Heat are a substantial favorite to make the NBA Finals, especially when you consider they are the only team to have a negative moneyline on the wager. The Heat are currently the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference but are only a half game ahead of the New York Knicks and three games ahead of next three teams. The East is far more competitive than in years past, and, considering that Miami has been coasting through the season, there is a real possibility that they do not end the season with the best record in the Conference.
Worth a bet?: Yes. The honest truth here is that the Heat are probably going to win the East and make the NBA Finals, but the odds are not that great. Miami might have to go through the Knicks without home-court advantage.
Oklahoma City Thunder: +180
The Oklahoma City Thunder are the favorites to make the Finals in the Western Conference and are getting a decent price as well. The West is far more difficult to navigate through than the East, which is why they are getting a much better price than the Heat. The West has no less than four different teams that could be considered the best in the conference on any given day. Oklahoma will probably have a difficult road to the Finals but matchup well against every team in the West, and have the young legs and drive to make another deep playoff run.
Worth a bet?: Yes. But, Oklahoma City is not getting great value at all, especially if they don’t have the No. 1 seed in the West.
Los Angeles Clippers: +300
As crazy as this might sound, the Los Angeles Clippers are getting excellent value to make the NBA Finals. Yes, the same Los Angeles Clippers that were the laughing stock of the league only a few short years ago. The Clippers have been completely transformed through the draft, trades, and a few key free agent signings last summer. The team is young, confident, and even has a bit of experience after winning a grueling seven-game series against the Grizzlies during last years playoffs.
Worth a bet?: An empathic yes. Wagering on the Clippers to make the NBA Finals has the best value on the board in my mind. Los Angeles has a great shot at having the best record in the league, and, to be honest, they match up perfectly against the Thunder.
San Antonio Spurs: +400
The Spurs are one of those teams — similar to the Denver Broncos or Houston Texans — that will have a great regular season and be a high seed entering the playoffs, but, unfortunately, are not a true title contender. San Antonio is built for the regular season, largely because of how well coached they are. However, they are too old, and they do not have enough firepower to beat a Western Conference powerhouse in a seven-game series.
Worth a bet?: No. The odds would have to reach +1000 before I would consider this wager to have any real value. The Spurs were 2-0 with home-court advantage against the Thunder last year and still lost the series in six games. If they couldn’t make the finals last year, how are they going to do it this year?
New York Knicks: +450
The New York Knicks are a contender this year and have a real shot at getting the No. 1 seed in the East this season — they trail Miami by only half a game. If New York can manage to have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, their chances at beating Miami improve considerably. But the only question is whether they can keep up their excellent start to the year during the second half of the season. Staying motivated in February and March will be the real difference-maker tor the Knicks.
Worth a bet?: Maybe. Carmelo has been playing MVP-caliber basketball, and the Knicks are actually playing defense this season. However, it is difficult to imagine the Knicks actually making the Finals. I would like this number a lot better at +700.
Chicago Bulls: +750
Wagering on the Chicago Bulls to make the NBA Finals is contingent on one thing: Derrick Rose’s health. There have been conflicting reports and rumors all season that Rose is behind schedule or that he is expected to return by April. Either way, the Bulls are still a very good team without its superstar point guard. Chicago has a 21-15 record and is currently sitting in the five spot in the East.
Worth a bet?: Yes. It would be a gamble to wager on whether or not Derrick Rose will return to full form in time for the playoffs. However, if he does, getting the Bulls at +750 is an excellent value bet because the team would be a serious contender.
Read more articles by George Monroy