With the NFL season set to conclude in less than two weeks, a lot of bettors will be left with a football field-sized hole that can only be mended when football season kicks off anew. But after the Super Bowl, the next relevant football game will be months away, giving all of you a lot of time to indulge your winnings or lick your financial wounds.
Or you could just hop onboard the NBA bandwagon.
The NFL’s conclusion actually coincides with the halfway point of the NBA season and if you were to start getting into basketball, now would be an appropriate time to do so. At the very least, you’ll have an idea on where the teams stand, giving you insight on who could be the favorites to win the NBA title come June.
Not much has changed since November at the top because the two favorites heading into the season, the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder, are still considered as the big favorites to return to the NBA Finals for a Heat-Thunder sequel. The defending champs opened the season at 9/4 odds to make it back-to-back and now those odds have been slashed to 2/1. Likewise, the Thunder are 3/1 to win the title after beginning the season at 9/2.
Incidentally, oddsmakers had three teams that were considered as runaway favorites to hoist the O’Brien trophy in June. The Los Angeles Lakers actually opened as the second favorite at 5/2 odds, trailing only the defending champs. But after half-a-season’s worth of ridiculously awful basketball, the Lakers now sit 12th in the Western Conference with an embarrassing 17-24 record, trailing the 8th seed Houston Rockets by a full four games. Compounding matters is a tough schedule the rest of the season and it’s easy to see why bookmakers now have the Lakers at 40/1 odds to win the title. That’s as precipitous a drop as we’ve seen in the NBA since the ’99 Bulls completely fell off the map after the retirement of Michael Jordan. Out West, the Thunder are battling the Clippers for the No. 1 seed, but remain the clear top choice, at 8-to-5, to get back to the Finals, and are 3-to-1 to earn their first championship rings this season.
Next to the Heat and the Thunder are two teams – the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers – competing with Oklahoma City for the best record in the Western Conference with both getting 9/2 odds after opening the year at 18/1 and 25/1, respectively. Meanwhile, the team that bookmakers are expecting to challenge the Heat for Eastern Conference supremacy are the Chicago Bulls, who have managed to keep their heads above water in the first half of the season without superstar Derrick Rose. Once Rose comes back – and he’s rumored to be close to returning – the Bulls’ 15/1 odds, a line it shares with the New York Knicks, could still go down.
From there, the odds for the rest of the teams in the league drop significantly with the Memphis Grizzlies now priced at 20/1, followed by the Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets, both of whom are at 30/1 odds. The Lakers’ 40/1 odds are also being given to the Indiana Pacers and the Denver Nuggets while the surprising Golden State Warriors are at 80/1 odds.
As for the rest of the teams in the league, everybody’s at 100/1 odds or higher, including the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Charlotte Bobcats, both of whom have been priced to win the title at 9,999/1 odds.