The closing stretch of the NBA schedule is not unlike the hors d’oeuvres before an excellent dinner. At the time, bacon-wrapped water chestnuts seem like the greatest thing ever, but once the actual beef arrives, you forget all about the existence of aquatic vegetables. Tight playoff races for the final spots in both the East and West give teams like Portland and Miami their moment to shine. When the postseason arrives, it’s time for a heaping helping of filet au LeBron, and whoever grabs those last playoff spots will get cleared off the table quickly.
When it comes to that playoff picture, particularly who will win the Larry O’Brien, not much has changed in the NBA over the last few months. If anything, the Warriors have just become more pronounced favorites with Kevin Durant returning to the lineup this weekend and their expected foe from the East, the Cavaliers, slumping in the second half. Perhaps this will be the first year since 2010 we have an NBA Finals sans Lebron?
But we’re not ready to predict upsets and dark-horses just yet. (That’s what next week is for.) Instead let’s look at the odds for the NBA’s biggest trophies one last time before the season draws to a close.
NBA 2017 Odds
Odds to win 2017 NBA Title
- Golden State Warriors: 4/7
- San Antonio Spurs: 13/2
- Cleveland Cavaliers: 7/1
- Boston Celtics: 20/1
- Houston Rockets: 30/1
- Toronto Raptors: 50/1
- Washington Wizards: 50/1
- Utah Jazz: 50/1
- Los Angeles Clippers: 75/1
- Oklahoma City Thunder: 100/1
- Memphis Grizzlies: 150/1
- Milwaukee Bucks: 200/1
- Portland Trailblazers: 500/1
- Atlanta Hawks: 500/1
- Indiana Pacers: 500/1
- Miami Heat: 750/1
- Chicago Bulls: 750/1
- Denver Nuggets: 1000/1
- Charlotte Hornets: 1000/1
Perhaps part of the reason the Warriors have reached juggernaut status over the past two years is their luck of the draw? This team still hasn’t had to meet the Spurs in a best-of-seven series, and the Spurs could be the only team capable of stopping them this year. San Antonio took two of three against Golden State on the season (although one game saw all the stars in street clothes, so we’ll call it a wash). A Gregg Popovich defense could wear the Warriors down over a seven-game series, and the NBA’s best road team could steal a series in “the Roaracle.”
Either team would be massive favorites over whatever the East offers up for the finals. The odds are still good that it’s Cleveland, but this will be the toughest year for the Cavs to make it out of the East yet. Beating two of Boston, Toronto, and Washington will prove difficult, as each team has excellent guards that can take advantage of Kyrie Irving on the defensive end. The expectation has been that Cleveland will flip the switch once the playoffs arrive, but if they don’t find it soon, someone could pull off the upset.
Slaying one Goliath is hard enough, but with another one almost certainly waiting in the finals, you can’t really give any of these other Eastern Conference teams a chance. In fact, for any team other than the Warriors, Spurs and Cavs, the title-run story likely begins with the word “injuries.”
Odds to win 2016-17 NBA MVP
- Russell Westbrook (Thunder): 1/1
- James Harden (Rockets): 5/4
- Kawhi Leonard (Spurs): 17/1
- LeBron James (Cavaliers): 42/1
- Steph Curry (Warriors): 99/1
Westbrook has swayed the MVP arguments back in his favor with a furious two-week stretch in which he had seven straight triple-doubles, averaging 33.6 points, 12.7 boards and 11.9 assists. In that same time, the Rockets lost three straight and Harden missed a game with the flu. Though some voters will hold firm that an MVP shouldn’t go to a player from a six seed that can’t crack 50 wins, Westbrook’s ability to finish just as strong as he started has to impress you. He was supposed to burn out going this hard every night, yet he continues to prove that he’s not human.
Odds to win 2016-17 NBA Defensive Player of the Year
- Draymond Green (Warriors): 11/10
- Rudy Gobert (Jazz): 9/4
- Kawhi Leonard (Spurs): 4/1
- Paul Millsap (Hawks): 25/1
Gobert, Green and Leonard all have made excellent cases this season, and there’s a particularly small margin between the two bigs. But Green’s versatility, and the fact that he’s been a runner-up each of the past two seasons, makes me think the voters will flock to his corner.
Odds to win 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year
- Dario Saric (76ers): 1/3
- Malcolm Brogdon (Bucks): 5/1
- Joel Embiid (76ers): 15/1
- Buddy Hield (Pelicans/Kings): 28/1
To Saric’s credit, he has been the best rookie in 2017; 2016 belonged to Joel Embiid, who was destroying everyone’s face night in and … well, not night out, because he couldn’t do back-to-backs. But a big part of being the best is staying on the court; ask Derrick Rose and Brandon Roy. Saric may not have been the most impressive, but he’s a lock for this honor.
Odds to win 2016-17 NBA Coach of the Year
- Mike D’Antoni (Rockets): 1/1
- Quin Snyder (Jazz): 5/1
- Scott Brooks (Wizards): 6/1
- Brad Stevens (Celtics): 10/1
- Gregg Popovich (Spurs): 12/1
One of the big reasons Harden is having an MVP-type year is that Mike D’Antoni designed his team’s philosophy around the guard’s strengths. The Rockets offense either drives to the bucket, or rains it down from the 3-point line, with Harden facilitating everything. The elimination of the mid-range game has led to one of the league’s most efficient offenses and a nice bounce back season for the Rockets. It’s also led to D’Antoni being the favorite over other qualified coaches like Snyder and Brooks.
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