Is It a Four-horse Race for the 2023-24 NBA Title?
NBA Championship odds have shifted considerably throughout the offseason, with several of the leading contenders making big moves. With only days until the season tips off, bookmakers have four teams well ahead of the chasing pack.
No other team is shorter than 16/1. Despite reaching the Finals earlier this year, the Miami Heat are as long as 30/1 with Coral. When it comes to betting on basketball, where does the value lie for the 2023-24 NBA title?
NBA Season 23-24 – The Favourites
Milwaukee got Damian Lillard, Boston got Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis, Phoenix got Bradley Beal, and Denver has kept all five of its starters after dominating the 2023 postseason. Anything less than a Finals appearance would be a disappointment for any of these teams.
The Bucks’ halfcourt offensive woes should be solved by Lillard. His two-man game with Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to be unstoppable. Denver already has an all-conquering two-man game, though, and a proven formula for winning in the postseason. Milwaukee’s perimeter defence is naturally a concern with Holiday being replaced by Lillard.
Phoenix will be a potent offence, but are they going to get enough stops? A lot will be asked of Kevin Durant on the defensive end. What we’ve seen on Jusuf Nurkic over the last couple of years makes their involvement in the Lillard trade pretty puzzling.
While Boston has overhauled its roster, and is relying heavily on Porzingis and Al Horford to stay healthy, they look like the best two-way team heading into the season. There are things to be figured out, and their depth took a hit with their offseason moves, but their top six is the most complete in the Association. At 5/1 with Coral and Ladbrokes, they are the best bet of the favourites, closely followed by the somehow-under-the-radar Nuggets at 13/2 with Betfred.
Bookies seem to be overvaluing Phoenix – we would put them closer to the Warriors and Lakers, leaving the Celtics, Nuggets and Bucks as the three inner-circle title contenders.
It’s a massive ask for any team to overcome the Celtics and Bucks in the Eastern Conference, which is reflected in all best NBA bookmakers not having any team shorter than 13/1. Perhaps there’s a scenario where Daryl Morey gets a James Harden trade to his liking and the Sixers are on the right side of injury luck for once. Maybe Evan Mobley takes a leap, and the Cavs’ busy offseason pushes them in the right direction. Still, we’d stay away from the chasing pack in the East.
“I thank my stars every day. Literally every day. The ability to coach Steph right from the beginning is the only reason I’m still here… The guy’s incredible.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr giving Steph Curry his flowers 💐
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) October 17, 2023
There’s more to think about in the Western Conference. As a real longshot, the Minnesota Timberwolves at 125/1 are at least worth thinking about with Anthony Edwards set to take a leap towards an MVP challenge. The extra time to work on the frontcourt fit could pay make a difference.
After reaching the Conference Finals last season, the Lakers at 14/1 definitely have some value, and are possibly the value bet in the West. The Warriors at 14s is going to be appealing if you believe in Jonathan Kuminga breaking out and Chris Paul slotting in to a sixth man role eventually.
While a Harden trade seems a way off, we’d also think about the Clippers at 22/1 with Unibet. Yes, this team has been almost exclusively theoretical since going all-in in 2019, but the tandem of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George could still be a real problem in the Playoffs, particularly in a matchup with Phoenix.
It’s Three Teams, Then the Rest
To answer the original question: No, it’s not a four-team race. It’s a three-team team race, with the Celtics and Nuggets holding a narrow advantage over the Bucks.
Phoenix belongs in the stacked second group in the Western Conference alongside both Los Angeles teams and Golden State. In the East, there’s a chasm between the top two and the rest.
If we had to pick, we’d back the Nuggets and Celtics to meet in the 2024 NBA Finals with Boston coming out on top in six or seven games.