Only a couple of games remain in the NBA’s regular season. That means the NBA odds market is nearly locked in for the first round of the playoffs.
Some of the teams at the top of the table, like 2021 Finals opponents Phoenix and Milwaukee, are unsurprising. They’ve been strong contenders throughout the season.
Others, like Dallas and Golden State, remain inside the odds table’s top 10 teams despite real historical warning signs.
Milwaukee Seizes Control
The Bucks have floated near the top of the odds table throughout most of the season, opening at 8-to-1 behind Golden State, Boston, Brooklyn and the Clippers. They were +500 on Jan. 1 and remained in that range through the trade deadline and into March.
Milwaukee (+300) finally surged to the top of the board over the last few weeks, posting an 11-5 record that was among the NBA’s best marks in March. Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged 30/11/7 on 60% shooting and is looking very much like the 2021 Finals MVP.
As of Tuesday, April 4, the Bucks accounted for 10.3% of the overall championship ticket market at the BetMGM online sportsbook — an overall volume still trailing the Suns (11%), Nuggets (12.8%), and Celtics (13.3%).
Curiously, sharp bettors may be more interested in betting the Bucks just to win the East. There’s a noticeable gap between ticket count (14.9%) and handle (21%). Milwaukee is currently +115 to win the East.
The Battle of Los Angeles
Back in December, the Lakers were in real longshot territory. They were priced at 50-to-1, and bettors faced lingering questions about how good the Lakers actually were. Everyone knows how good a healthy LeBron James and Anthony Davis are, but a shallow bench and sub-.500 record seemingly had the Lakers on the path to miss the playoffs for a second straight season.
The Clippers, meanwhile, were near the top of the board. Sure, they had dipped a bit from their market-opening position of +700, but they were still fifth in the table at +1000. On Dec. 17, Kawhi Leonard scored 30 points in a game for the first time since the 2021 playoffs. The needle was pointing up in a big way.
December feels like a long time ago. The Lakers added to their bench at the trade deadline and are playing well — only four teams (Philadelphia, Sacramento, Milwaukee, and Memphis) bested their 10-5 record in March.
As a result, the Lakers (+1700) have shot up to eighth in the odds table, just enough to overtake the Clippers (+2000), who are in the ninth position.
One thing is eternally true: NBA bettors love to bet on the Lakers. That’s especially true for the LeBron Lakers, who are currently the third-biggest liability in the championship odds market at BetMGM.
The late-season NBA schedule is adding to the drama. The Lakers (41-38) and Clippers (41-38) will play one another for the final time (during the regular season) on Wednesday, with huge implications for playoff seeding.
Because the sixth-place Clippers are separated from the ninth-place Timberwolves by just 1.5 games — with the Lakers jammed in the middle in seventh place — a win on Wednesday could mean the difference between a locked-in playoff berth and a play-in game.
And here’s the good news for Clippers fans: Since Ty Lue became head coach of the Clippers in October 2020, the Lakers are 0-10 against their roommate rivals.
A Tough Stretch for the Playoff Heroes of 2022
The Boston Celtics — last year’s NBA runner-up — have enjoyed a fruitful year as reigning Eastern Conference champions. They opened the market at +650 and are +350 today. There hasn’t been much fluctuation outside of that general zone.
The other three members of last year’s NBA Final Four have had a much harder go of it in 2023.
At the top, there’s the Warriors (+1200), significantly down from their market-opening position of +550. And while Golden State is trending up the board after a +1600 price last month, the Warriors are only 9-30 on the road this season, which is among the worst marks in the entire NBA. Only the Pistons, Spurs, and Rockets have a worse road record.
Championship pedigree or not, bettors are unlikely to back a Warriors team that can’t win on the road. And with only two games left in the regular season, Golden State has run out of road to play itself into form.
Dallas and Miami were on the losing end of last year’s conference championship series, but deep playoff runs raised the expectations for 2023 in both cities. Now, both are limping toward the end of the regular season. Neither has a .500 record since the All-Star Break.
The Mavericks (+4000) have been particularly bad, winning only six of their 19 games since the stoppage. Only Washington, Houston, Portland, and Detroit have worse records over the same stretch.
Miami (+8000) appears on track for the No. 7 seed slot in the play-in tournament. Dallas is currently outside of the play-in structure by half a game, but it could crack the No. 10 spot with a three-game homestand to end the regular season.
Bettors Don’t Believe in Sacramento
The Kings (+5000) remain an extremely valuable commodity down the board. With two games to go, Sacramento is all but locked into the No. 3 seed, with potential intra-state, first-round playoff matchups looming against the Warriors, Clippers, or Lakers.
Traditional playoff wisdom might look skeptically upon the Kings franchise, which has exactly zero experience in playoff games over the last 15 years. But in a season where nearly every Western playoff team comes with real reasons to be doubtful, the Kings have real upside potential at an outstanding price.
Outside of the championship market, the Kings are +2200 to win the West.
You can view updated NBA championship odds and more online sports betting opportunities at the BetMGM online sportsbook.