- The NBA postseason kicks off Tuesday with play-in action
- We look at the odds of all the playoff and play-in teams
- Read below to see who we like when picking an NBA champion this season
It’s hard to believe, but finally, after a regular season that was equal parts slog, uncertainty and wildness, coupled with multiple dashes of brilliance, the NBA postseason is upon us, beginning Tuesday with play-in action.
Lots got settled on this final weekend, up until the final games of the year.
The Utah Jazz’s final win of the season locked up the top seed in the West, outlasting the Phoenix Suns. The 76ers will be the top seed in the East.
The Portland Trail Blazers needed a win in game 72 to finally clinch a playoff spot, pushing the Lakers to the play-in, where they’ll host NBA scoring leader Steph Curry and the Warriors for the win-and-in game for the seventh seed.
And what about the Knicks? Nobody picked anything but dreary for Gotham this year, but not only are they in the playoffs, they’re hosting a first-round series against the Hawks.
So who should you be targeting in this playoffs? Glad you asked: let’s have a look ahead now that the dust has settled.
2021 NBA Championship Odds
|Team||Odds at DraftKings|
|Los Angeles Lakers||+400|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+550|
|Portland Trail Blazers||+6000|
|New York Knicks||+10000|
|Golden State Warriors||+15000|
|San Antonio Spurs||+50000|
Odds as of May 16th
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BK to the Fullest?
The Brooklyn Nets enter the playoffs as the betting favorites to hoist the Larry O, and their numbers are staggering. They were second in the league in scoring at 118.5 points a game, led the NBA in shooting at 49.3% and were third from long range at a 39.1% clip.
An absolutely wild sequence from the Brooklyn Nets… pic.twitter.com/GxKvy5hDz2
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) May 17, 2021
All this despite the fact that Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden played in eight games together this season. On paper, they should march to the Finals.
If continuity concerns you, consider the 76ers at +750 odds to take it all. Joel Embiid probably had the best season of anyone in the conference and has the interior heft to make life miserable for the Nets. Philly is also tied for first in defensive rating in the NBA. While Embiid batters the paint on one end, he anchors an impressive and lengthy D that could make getting buckets tough.
Doc Rivers said when he first got to Philadelphia he didn't understand why people though Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons couldn't play together.
— Kevin McCormick (@KevinMcCNBA) May 16, 2021
If you believe losing is learning, maybe the Bucks at +750 is your play. This team sacrificed wins and the top overall seed in the East to experiment on defense and offense, increasing their tool bag so as to not disappoint for a third straight year. Jrue Holiday makes them that much better, and Giannis Antetokounmpo locking down top players on the other end is not just for late games.
Los Angeles or Bust
Out West, it’s the LA story. The Lakers went into the tank when they lost both Anthony Davis and LeBron James to lengthy injuries, dropping them to seventh and having to play for their playoff spot. The lowest seed to ever win a ‘chip are the 1994 Houston Rockets, who were a 6-seed.
Flight 23, you are cleared for takeoff ✈️ pic.twitter.com/zzAjwmzmii
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) May 17, 2021
Even through their struggles, the Lakers still kept their top-ranking defensive rating, tied with Philly. They’ll need that to travel with a healthy roster. At +400, it’s not a bad play.
For the Clippers, it’s their long-awaited redemption tour. They are better equipped this time around, with a roster that makes more sense. Serge Ibaka is back from a back injury and his shooting will keep defenses from sagging. That let’s Kawhi work the midrange to death and Paul George can shred in the pick-and-roll.
THE CLIPPERS HAVE DONE IT!
They lose back-to-back games to end the season to the 17-53 Rockets and 21-50 Thunder, who have won 1 total game in the months of April/May, and will now avoid the Lakers until the west finals unless the Warriors beat them in LA in the play-in tourney.
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) May 17, 2021
The Clips’ biggest weapon is the money ball: they led the league with an impressive 41.4% team average, with no other team hitting that 40% plateau. They boast eight players who hit better than 40% from three-point range this year.
Middle of the Pack
In my eyes, there are three teams that present monster value.
The Phoenix Suns own the second-best record in basketball, and are one of only two teams to crack 50+ wins this year. They also seem to have all the tools to make noise, with a killer backcourt of Devin Booker and Chris Paul, rising youngsters Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton, and vets like Jae Crowder, Dario Saric and Cam Payne dotting the roster. Hard to believe they’re at +1400.
Thank you Suns fans for your support this season! As we say, "that was fun, but we ain't done."
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) May 16, 2021
The Miami Heat are literally the boogeyman of the Eastern Conference. No one wants to have to deal with them. After a slow start with COVID, injuries and just a general Finals’ hangover, the Heat are not your average 6-seed. They enter the playoffs on a 12-4 tear over their final 16. Taking a flier at +4000 is not a bad play.
It can be a bright sunny day on South Beach and I’m looking over my shoulder for DEM GOONS! My sleeper once again and the playoffs for the Miami Heat is Ski Mask season! Last year it got them to the NBA finals, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they made it back! Carry the hell on.. pic.twitter.com/1xK5yUr1VC
— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) May 14, 2021
Can I interest you in the Portland Trail Blazers (+6000)? Sure, they can’t defend — 29th in defensive rating and 23rd in points allowed per game — but they have figured out their rotation and are playing their best hoops at the right time.
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) May 17, 2021
They ripped off 10 wins in their last 12 games to lock in the 6-seed and send the Lakers into the play-in. Dame Lillard might have his most competitive group yet to make a run.
If you’ve come this far then you’re ready to venture into crazy town (or you’re a die-hard homer).
There’s two teams that make me think: why not? The Washington Wizards are not your typical 8-seed. They’ve played excellent ball over a long stretch, going on a 17-6 run over their final 23 games to secure an 8-seed, and there are few backcourts better than Brad Beal and Russ Westbrook.
Julius Randle is FEELING IT today pic.twitter.com/CGAuxPsH2d
— x – KNICKS ON MSG (@KnicksMSGN) May 16, 2021
And the New York Knicks are the modern-day grindhouse. With the 4th-best defensive rating in the league, and holding teams to an NBA-leading 104.7 points a game, they should be in every game they play. With all-star Julius Randle basically already playing unconscious-level hoops, what could be crazier than the Knicks winning a chip?
Thanks to COVID, injuries and just general wackiness of results on a nightly basis, we gleaned the least intel on NBA teams heading into the playoffs ever. That makes for potential chaos.
However, I’ll revert back to a tried and true, old-school theory: never underestimate the heart of a champion. Until someone dethrones the Lakers, barring any major injuries, I think LeBron goes back-to-back in LA.
The pick: Lakers (+400)