The NBA is back, which means there will be plenty of betting opportunities. Our analysts answer questions about some of the season’s most popular bets and offer their picks. We’re talking NBA championships, long shots, award winners, and more. Let’s get started.
What is your best bet to win the championship, conference, or division?
Doug Kezirian has the Los Angeles Clippers at +700 to win the championship. To be honest, they should be the betting favorites – at least on paper. We are aware of this seemingly snake-bitten organization’s track record, as well as Kawhi Leonard and Paul George’s questionable health history. This team, on the other hand, is loaded.
Their second five is better than some teams’ starters, which will be important because they will still win while addressing load management. I like that John Wall is a role player, and that guys like Norman Powell, Robert Covington, Luke Kennard, and Terrance Mann will be able to contribute off the bench. They have a lot of depth, and head coach Ty Lue has done it before.
Andre Snellings: Cleveland Cavaliers (+260) to win Central Division. Last season, the Cavaliers competed for the division title until injuries derailed them after the All-Star break. They return their entire young nucleus from last season, all of whom are healthy, and add Donovan Mitchell as another premier offense creator/finisher to the mix.
My only concerns are whether they will be able to develop chemistry while remaining healthy. If that is the case, the Cavs have the talent to win 55 games. The Milwaukee Bucks are still the best team in the division, but their goals are postseason-oriented, and much of their core is in their 30s and will need to conserve to be ready for the playoffs. The Cavs are all in their early twenties, can run all day, and are looking to prove they’re ready for the big leagues.
Fulghum, Tyler: I’ll bet on the Denver Nuggets to win the Northwest Division (-140). The new-look Minnesota Timberwolves (+140) are the division’s only legitimate threat. The Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder will actively pursue Victor Wembanyama, and the Portland Trail Blazers no longer have enough players around Damian Lillard.
The Nuggets are one of the more formidable teams in the West with Nikola Jokic alone, but this year, PG Jamal Murray and F Michael Porter Jr. return to provide the two-time league MVP with the assistance he requires.
Anita Marks predicts the Bucks to win the championship at +800. This is a low-turnover Bucks team that was a game away from representing the East in the NBA championship last season despite being without Kris Middleton. Giannis Antetokounmpo is 27 years old and is entering his prime. If the Bucks can avoid the injury bug that plagued them last season, these are excellent odds.
Joe Fortenbaugh: Nuggets are 18-1 to win the championship. Those odds imply a 5.2% chance of winning, which I believe is worth a wager. Denver won 48 games last season despite missing Murray and having some of the NBA’s worst depth. So, now that Murray is back and the depth is more than adequate, what happens? This team has the potential to finish in the top three of the Western Conference.
What is your favorite long-shot pick to win the championship, conference, or division?
Snellings: The Toronto Raptors are a +1100 favorite to win the Atlantic, while the Minnesota Timberwolves are a +1600 favorite to win the West. Even though they were expected to rebuild, the Raptors challenged for the Atlantic Division title last season.
They are led by two All-Stars in Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes is only getting better, and they added some depth this offseason to help them prepare for the rigors of the marathon season. They play in a tough division with three other legitimate contenders and a New York Knicks team that is only a season removed from a top-4 seed, but I’d say the Raptors have a better chance of winning than the one in 11 odds suggest.
This season, the East is loaded, with at least nine teams that could be legitimate preseason picks to reach the Conference Finals. In contrast, the West has fewer legitimate contenders. Last season, the Timberwolves made the playoffs as a team on the rise, going 22-10 down the stretch to secure their seed before sitting their players in the final game.
Their offseason acquisition of Rudy Gobert has the potential to be massive. For the past two seasons, Gobert has been a top-10 impact player in the NBA, almost entirely due to his defense – the Timberwolves’ biggest weakness. If Gobert fits in with the new roster and leads them to a strong team defense, Anthony Edwards makes the All-Star leap that many expect in season three, and the team stays relatively healthy, they have a legitimate chance to compete in the West.
The most significant factor working against them is experience, but I still believe they have better than 16-1 odds of it all coming together.
Kezirian: The Detroit Pistons are 100-1 to win the Central Division. First and foremost, this is not going to happen. There is far too much that must happen, such as injuries to other teams’ stars. However, the Cavs led this division last season before succumbing late. Detroit could possibly pull it off, but I prefer the +650 price to make the playoffs.
Cade Cunningham is a rising star who could end up being the second coming of Tracy McGrady. Summer league revealed two more gems in Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren. Last year, shooting was an issue, but they added Bojan Bogdanovic. This team is well-balanced and could cause problems for contenders during the regular season. For me, the +650 is a sure bet.
Fulghum: I believe the Cleveland Cavaliers (+1500) and Atlanta Hawks (+2000) have legitimate chances to finish in the top four in the Eastern Conference. In terms of talent, the East is now the deeper, superior conference in my opinion. Donovan Mitchell’s addition provides Cleveland with a legitimate go-to scorer at the end of games.
Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley form one of the league’s best frontcourt duos, and Darius Garland is one of the players vying for “Best-in-the-NBA-No-One-Knows-About.” With the addition of Dejounte Murray to the Hawks, Atlanta now has the ideal backcourt partner for Trae Young. Young has already demonstrated his ability to carry a team offensively against any team in the league.
Murray’s addition makes this team far more athletic and formidable on defense, which is exactly what they needed. The East is certainly deep, but I can see either of these teams taking advantage of the other contenders’ bad injury luck and winning the conference.
Moody, Eric: I’m drawn to the Lakers as an 18-1 long shot to win the championship like a moth to a flame. LeBron James will be in his 20th NBA season, and he had a fantastic season last year, averaging 30.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 6.2 APG, 1.3 SPG, and 1.1 BPG.
Anthony Davis is known to be capable of great things (he averaged 23.2 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 1.2 SPG, and 2.3 BPG last season), but his biggest issue is his availability. He has appeared in 76 of 154 games over the last two seasons. The Lakers added Patrick Beverley this offseason, who can contribute on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.
However, everyone is wondering if James, Davis, and Russell Westbrook can coexist. Will Westbrook take a step back if that’s what’s best for the team? Westbrook and new Lakers coach Darvin Ham appear to get along well. It’s obvious that James is nearing the end of his career, but at these odds, this team has a chance to win the championship.
What is your favorite total win bet?
Jazz under 23.5 wins, according to Fortenbaugh. Is there anyone on the planet who believes Danny Ainge is trying to win this season after trading Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, especially with Victor Wembanyana waiting in the wings as the first overall pick in the draft?
What’s the point of trading two superstars and stockpiling all of those draft picks if you’re not going all-in on one of the most sought-after prospects in the last two decades?