Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:56 PM
NBA Divisional Predictions
2019-20 Divisional Odds
Psst, want to make some money?
I've got the best bets for NBA division winners. Some of them won't even win and you'll still be on the right side.
Warren Buffett wouldn't be able to cash in on the Bucks winning the Central, but he'd appreciate a Pacers' carpet ride. Who should you choose if the Rockets crash? What favorites should you swallow the juice for?
The answers have arrived.
(Odds courtesy of the Westgate Superbook)
The Raptors are going to relinquish control of the Atlantic this season and don’t offer enough value at (+600) to get behind their ability to collectively replace Kawhi Leonard’s impact. Brooklyn (+1400) has a chance to finish ahead of the defending champs if Kyrie Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie can feed off one another in the backcourt instead of disrupting each other’s rhythm.
The Celtics (+400) have too many question marks surrounding them given Al Horford’s leadership void, a brand new dynamic at the point with Kemba Walker on board and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown still hunting opportunities as they progress. I’d ride the favored the 76ers (-225) despite concerns over Joel Embiid being able to play more than 64 games for the first time. Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Josh Richardson and Horford would keep Philly atop the division even without the benefit of their All-Star center, who is eyeing an MVP trophy after losing weight in the offseason, pledging to improve as a leader and teammate.
Milwaukee (-2000) is the overwhelming favorite in the Central, sparking memories of when the Bulls used to be this heavy a Central Division favorite. LeBron James and the Cavs finished 25 games up on the rest of the field in ’08-’09 and Michael Jordan’s Bulls had their fun terrorizing the division back in the day, but it remains to be seen whether Giannis Antetokounmpo is capable of producing similar results with these Bucks. After winning 60 games in ending a 17-year drought between division titles, this group should repeat as Central champs but offers no value.
The Cavs (+50000) are probably going to be the league’s worst team, so we’re picking between the Pacers (+700), Pistons (+8000) and Bulls (+10000) to try and cash a big payday. Indiana has the most complete group and will get a significant boost when Victor Oladipo returns in a few months after completing his rehab and turn on FOX’s Masked Singer. Sure, he’s Thingamajig. No, I don’t watch the show, but lots of people apparently do.
The Wizards (+10000) and Hornets (+20000) are longshots in the Southeast for a reason. Even though Bradley Beal re-signed and won’t be traded, Washington figures to beat only Charlotte in the division. Since the Magic (+110) and Heat (+110) are again expected to vie for the title, taking a shot with the Hawks (+650) is your only viable option if you want to cash in and pay some bills via divisional investment.
Although they’re already young and thrusting rookies DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish into key roles, leaders Trae Young and John Collins could make the type of leap necessary to get the Hawks over .500. My expectation is that Jimmy Butler’s arrival in South Florida will close out a dominant 10-year span for the Heat with a seventh division title.
Houston (-400) is too heavily favored to consider as the best betting choice in the Southwest. There will likely be an adjustment period ahead for the Rockets in meshing the talents of James Harden and Russell Westbrook effectively, so we’re looking at their Texas-based brethren to sneak in ahead of them.
The Spurs are going to be strong again, regaining the services of top defender Dejounte Murray to pair with Derrick White, Bryn Forbes and veteran Patty Mills next to DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay and LaMarcus Aldridge. San Antonio (+600) hasn’t failed to win its division in three straight years since 1991-94, back when it was still called the Midwest. Dallas (+1000) and New Orleans (+1400) is still probably another season away from being consistent enough to trust in a Southwest chase, while Memphis (+10000) looks a year away from being two years away.
The Northwest surpassed the Southwest as the NBA’s most competitive division over the past two seasons but thins out some with Westbrook in Houston and the Thunder (+10000) set to take a step back. The Nuggets (+100) are the favorite after winning last season but the Jazz (+125) and Trail Blazers (+700) each won 50 games last season. After losing by a single game last season and bringing the likes of Rodney Hood, Hassan Whiteside and Kent Bazemore into training camp, this might be the most talented Portland group once Jusuf Nurkic returns.
The Timberwolves (+4000) aren’t worth backing since they don’t defend well enough, which might also be the reason Portland falls short. My choice here is Utah, which has added Mike Conley to relieve pressure off Donovan Mitchell and should reap the benefits of their decision-making and Rudy Gobert’s game-changing defense to make the difference late in games.
The Clippers (+220) are listed slightly ahead of their Staples Center roommates (+250) as the team to beat in the Western Conference but are expected to have a much better regular season. The Clippers (-200) are the clear Pacific Division favorite over the Lakers (+300) and their projected win total has been set at 52.5, four victories higher. The rationale is that Doc Rivers’ team will likely bring a higher intensity level to work down the stretch since they’re projected to be the best defensive team in basketball given the presence of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Patrick Beverley and Montrezl Harrell.
First-year Lakers head coach Frank Vogel will be coaching everyone on his roster for the first time and will be deferring to LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ desire to get their bodies ready for the playoffs by sitting out games in March and April. Golden State (+350) is appealing since Stephen Curry and Draymond Green are defiant in their insistence that they expect to compete for a championship again and aren’t the types you typically want to fade. Klay Thompson will return early in 2020, but it’s the early absence of Kevon Looney that worries me more since it could add to a rocky start on the defensive end.
Sacramento (+8000) should be a .500 team this season but will remain fourth in the pecking order, while the Suns (+50000) have a shot at adding another No. 1 overall pick to the arsenal. Given the likelihood that Rivers gets his Clips to defend consistently, you would be a fool to go in another direction.
Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA