A blockbuster NBA Trade Deadline delivered a dump truck of showstopping news, dramatically realigning team rosters and superstar affiliations.
Suns, Mavericks Win Big at the Deadline
The Suns and Mavericks had the two biggest deadline deals of the season, acquiring Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, respectively, from the Brooklyn Nets.
Naturally, those acquisitions created a torrent of new betting action in Dallas and Phoenix, reshaping the balance of power in the West.
Phoenix – which made the NBA Finals just two seasons ago without Durant – has been the more popular betting target of the two. As of February 21, about 14% of all Western Conference champion tickets at BetMGM were backing Phoenix; 10% of all NBA championship tickets were also on the Suns.
The Suns were +1600 to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy just one month ago, sliding to their lowest position since before the 2021 Finals appearance. Today, they are +450.
Dallas has been a less popular target than Phoenix but is still one of the top four favorites in the West. The addition of Irving has given Dallas an elite second-scoring option behind Luka Doncic. That’s a dangerous upgrade for a team that made last year’s Western Conference Finals.
Dallas is currently +1600 to win the championship – a significant upgrade from +2500, where they were before the trade. About six percent of bettors at BetMGM favor Dallas to win the West.
At the moment, Dallas is priced identically to Golden State and Memphis in both the Western Conference odds (+800) and the overall championship odds (+1600) markets. Of the three, Memphis is the most popular ticket to win the West, but Golden State is the most popular ticket to win the championship.
Los Angeles Rising
Denver and Phoenix might be the favorites in the West, but expect resistance from the City of Angels. Both the Lakers and Clippers made moves up the NBA odds table in February and are now on a positive trajectory toward the playoffs.
That wasn’t necessarily the case for either team a few weeks ago. The Clippers began the season as one of the title favorites at +700, but a slow start dropped them in the table to +1400 at the end of January.
At the deadline, the Clippers added Mason Plumlee, Eric Gordon and Bones Hyland in exchange for aging John Wall and Luke Kennard. They also brought in Russell Westbrook after Utah bought him out.
The result is a Clippers team deep with effective role players that should be very dangerous in the Western Conference. They’re back up to fifth in the championship odds table at +1100, behind only the Celtics, Suns, Bucks and Nuggets.
A big part of that resurgence has also been the play of Kawhi Leonard, who is once again reminding the league that he is one of the best players of this generation when at the top of his game. His 27.5 points per game in February ranks eighth among all players.
The Clippers aren’t the only team in town that made moves.
The Lakers conjured a three-team trade of their own that netted D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt for LeBron James and Co.
There’s still quite a bit of work to be done, as the Lakers (29-32) are currently 12th in the West. But the market is bullish on a Lakers team that appears to be more rounded out, with the Lakers ascending up the table from +5000 at the end of January to +2800 immediately after the deadline moves.
Stability in the East
Much of the deadline drama focused on Western Conference teams adding key pieces and moving into the fray near the top of the odds board.
The East has been much more stable, as contenders seem content with the core rosters they assembled prior to the start of the season.
Boston (+300) and Milwaukee (+500) have been two of the top contenders throughout the season, with a combined 18.9% of the NBA championship ticket market, and they remain in a strong position now.
There is some historical wisdom behind minimalism at the deadline. There are a handful of famous exceptions, like Detroit adding the final piece it needed with Rasheed Wallace in 2004. But in the modern era of basketball, deadline trades are much more effective in acquiring talent for future championship runs than they are in setting up short-term, immediate success.
If that’s the case, then teams that remained mostly quiet or added role players in small trades may be best positioned in this year’s championship market.
One surprise team that fits the bill is the Cleveland Cavaliers, who elected to make no moves at the deadline. It appears the organization trusts the core they’ve built around Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley.
That’s a core that NBA bettors really seem to like, too. At the BetMGM online sportsbook, the Cleveland Cavaliers currently have more conference championship tickets and handle than any other team in the East.
So yes, a pretty good case exists that splashy deadline trades often aren’t the best way to win a championship. This seems to be the approach taken by most Eastern Conference contenders.
The big exception is the Nets, whose odds market imploded when the team spun off Durant and Irving. The Nets were 8-to-1 to win the title at the end of January; now, they’re 150-to-1.
Middle Class Movement
If you’re hunting for long shots, there’s plenty of interesting shuffling happening in the middle of the table.
Sacramento has been on a slow rise throughout the season, with the Kings now available in the championship market at 100-to-1. It would be extremely unusual for the Kings to snap a historic playoff drought by winning the title with virtually no playoff experience. But it’s now clear Sacramento’s lofty position in the West is not a magic trick.
As a result, bettors have become more comfortable buying Sacramento positions. The Kings have moved up 12 spots in the table since the beginning of the season and two from a month ago.
The New York Knicks are also moving up the table, though the numbers are still pretty long. The East’s current fifth-place team is available at an astonishing +15000 in the championship odds table and +5000 in the Eastern Conference market.
Perhaps the most interesting move is the Atlanta Hawks, who have moved closer to the top of the table despite firing their coach this month. Nate McMillan was dismissed in Atlanta on Feb. 21 and replaced by former Jazz coach Quin Snyder.
The Hawks’ odds themselves have collapsed, dropping from +8000 a month ago to +15000 after the coaching change. But bettors may not mind the coaching shuffle. After all, the last time Atlanta fired its coach in the middle of the season, it went to the Eastern Conference Finals.
You can view updated NBA championship odds and more online sports betting opportunities at the BetMGM online sportsbook.