NBA division titles do not carry as much meaning and playoff importance as they do in other sports, and most times each division is already decided before a single game has even been played. The NBA can be that transparent at times. However, injuries, accidents and other random occurrences can throw a wrench into any team's season plans and drop a title contender into the eighth seed or even out of the playoffs at a moment's notice-just ask Oklahoma City about last year. Let's take a look at the 2015-16 NBA Division odds and figure out which underdogs have the best shot at making a surprise run during the season.
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Eastern Conference Division Odds
Toronto Raptors: -220
Boston Celtics: +200
New York Knicks: +1800
Brooklyn Nets: +3500
Philadelphia 76ers: +20000
Long-shot value : Toronto is a solid favorite here after winning 49 games in 2014, but there is no reason to think the Raptors are a shoe-in for the Atlantic Division title in 2016. Boston is a well-coached team that managed to win 40 games while trading away most of their assets for two straight years. New York has a little value as well at +1800. The squad tanked last year but wasn't necessarily a 17-win group. Carmelo Anthony will be back to full health and rookie Kristaps Porzingis could turn out to be the steal of the draft. Prediction: if you are looking to take a shot, go with the Knicks, who might be ready to surprise some people.
Cleveland Cavaliers: -400
Chicago Bulls: +500
Milwaukee Bucks: +1700
Indiana Pacers: +2200
Detroit Pistons: +10000
Long-shot value : Let's be honest, there isn't much long shot value here. Chicago let go of its coach, Derrick Rose is hurt, and the team doesn't play much defense any more. Cleveland, on the other hand, "only" won 53 games last year and will probably increase that number somewhere close to 60 in 2016. The only team with any value in the Central Division is a young Milwaukee squad that is filled with talent and an excellent coach in Jason Kidd. The Bucks surprised many NBA insiders last season and could be on course for a 50-win season. Prediction: If Cleveland gets unlucky and has another year filled with injuries and turmoil, then Milwaukee is the pick. However, the pick is probably not worth a bet.
Atlanta Hawks: +160
Miami Heat: +220
Washington Wizards: +220
Charlotte Hornets: +2500
Orlando Magic: +3500
Long-shot value : Since there is not a traditional favorite-everyone is receiving positive payouts-in this division, there isn't really a long-shot team with value. Both Charlotte and Orlando have very little chance of winning the division, particularly since the Hawks might be on course for another 60-win season. If Atlanta regresses, expect Miami to jump into the top spot in the division. Pat Riley quietly had another fantastic offseason with draft picks and free-agent signings (they nabbed Goran Dragic) and those additions along with the return of Chris Bosh could make Miami a contender: Prediction: +220 isn't necessarily a long shot, but Miami is probably the way to go in Southeast Division.
Western Conference Division Odds
San Antonio Spurs: -110
Houston Rockets: +200
Memphis Grizzlies: +750
New Orleans Pelicans: +1000
Dallas Mavericks: +10000
Long-shot value : If you want value, then Memphis is the only way to bet. The Grizzlies won 55 games last season and were one win away from actually winning the Southwest, but with all the fanfare going to Houston and San Antonio the team is once again being drastically underrated. Memphis creates matchup problems all over the court and plays a low-post, bang-the-board style that few teams can match. Memphis also took a 2-1 lead over Golden State during the second round of last season's playoffs. Prediction: The Grizzlies added Matt Barnes and a few other solid role players and should not be receiving +750 to win the division. Even if you were a Spurs fan, you'd still have to go Memphis because the price is so juicy.
Oklahoma City Thunder: -4000
Utah Jazz: +1200
Portland Trail Blazers: +7500
Denver Nuggets: +10000
Minnesota Timberwolves: +10000
Long-shot value : OKC is a huge favorite here and has little value at -4000. We saw last season how the team has become injury prone and one wrong movement could destroy its season once gain. And that is not even mentioning that Kevin Durant may not be fully recovered from last year's foot issues. The trouble with this division is finding a team that could take advantage if the Thunder struggle. Prediction: Utah has been stockpiling talent over the last few seasons and may be ready for a breakout year. The squad did win 38 games last year and could be a playoff contender in 2016.
Golden State Warriors: -200
Los Angeles Clippers: +175
Sacramento Kings: +7500
Phoenix Suns: +8000
Los Angeles Lakers: +20000
Long-shot value : The bottom three teams in this division will probably struggle to win 35 games, so let's just count them out right now. The only option to win the Pacific beside Golden State is the Los Angeles Clippers, who have managed to win 56 or 57 games consistently for the last few seasons. The Warriors would probably need to be 10 games worse this year, but with essentially the same roster returning to the court, that seems unlikely. Prediction : Los Angeles is a decent wager if you are partial to the Clippers, but taking the favorite here is the easiest way to bet,
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Read more articles by George Monroy
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