Denver Nuggets Lead Wide-Open Western Conference as Top Seed
Posted on: February 23, 2023, 02:40h.
Last updated on: February 24, 2023, 12:43h.
The Denver Nuggets have opened a five-game lead in the Western Conference and have little competition for the #1 seed. Yet they’re only the second favorite on the NBA futures board at +390 odds to win the conference.
The Phoenix Suns are in fifth place and 9.5 games behind the Nuggets. Yet, the Suns emerged as the betting favorite to win the Western Conference at +225 odds after they acquired All-Star forward Kevin Durant in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets.
|Western Conference Odds
|Los Angeles Clippers
|Golden State Warriors
|Los Angeles Lakers
|New Orleans Pelicans
|Portland Trail Blazers
|Oklahoma City Thunder
|San Antonio Spurs
Most of the Western Conference playoff seedings are difficult to predict, because 11 teams are within six games of each other heading into the final quarter of the regular season. All but two teams from the West are in playoff contention.
West Tier 1: Nuggets
The Nuggets (41-18) are the only team from the Western Conference to reach 40 wins. They hold the best overall record in the West, along with the best home record in the NBA at 27-4. The Memphis Grizzlies are the closest threat to snatch the #1 seed away from the Nuggets. Home-court advantage in the postseason could be crucial for the Nuggets, considering the addition of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to the Western Conference prior to the trade deadline.
Center Nikola Jokic is the betting favorite to win the NBA MVP for the third straight season. He’s a difficult matchup in the postseason because of his ability to knock down 3-point shots and play a traditional post offense with his back to the rim.
Point guard Jamal Murray missed all of last season while recovering from an ACL injury. It took him almost half of this season before he finally found his groove. The Nuggets’ biggest challenge is keeping him fresh for the postseason and making sure forward Michael Porter, Jr. doesn’t aggravate his back injury.
The Nuggets are +390 odds to win the Western Conference because of all the attention the Suns and Mavs are getting. According to DraftKings, the Nuggets are fourth on the futures board at +750 odds to win the 2022-23 NBA championship.
West Tier 2: Clippers, Suns
The second tier of teams in the Western Conference might not secure the #1 seed, but they’re still betting favorites to win the conference and the NBA championship.
The Phoenix Suns (32-28) are in fifth place in the standings, but they became a popular pick to win the championship after they added Kevin Durant in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets. Durant is unguardable in the postseason, and no one will want to play the Suns in the playoffs.
Just two seasons ago, the red-hot Suns secured a trip to the 2021 NBA Finals. They had the best record in the NBA last season and earned the #1 seed in the Western Conference. The Suns were upset by the Dallas Mavericks in the conference semifinals after an embarrassing implosion in Game 7.
The Suns were on the cusp of greatness over the past two seasons, and the addition of Durant could help put them over the top in the upcoming postseason. The Suns are the second overall favorite to win the championship at +425 odds, and the outright favorite to win the conference at +225 odds.
The Los Angeles Clippers (33-28) are in fourth place in the West. Forward Kawhi Leonard finally looks like his old self after he missed last season while recovering from an ACL injury. Paul George played the best ball of his career when Russell Westbrook was his teammate with the Oklahoma City Thunder, so the Clippers made a huge gamble by adding Westbrook via a contract buyout. The Clippers have 21 games remaining in the regular season to get Westbrook up to speed.
The Clippers are +900 odds to win the NBA championship, and +490 odds to win the Western Conference.
West Tier 3: Grizzlies, Kings, Mavs
The third tier of teams are trying to maintain their current playoff seed while avoiding the Western Conference Play-In Tournament.
The Grizzlies (35-22) haven’t been the same since they had an 11-game winning streak snapped in January. They went 4-9 since then, including a horrible 1-8 stretch. Despite their rough patch before the All-Star break, the Grizzlies are in second place in the Western Conference. They might not catch the Nuggets for the #1 seed, but they could at least secure home-court advantage in the first two rounds if they can hold on to the #2 seed.
The third-place Sacramento Kings (32-25) are the surprise team in the NBA this season. They’ll be happy to just end a 16-season playoff drought. Bookies — and most bettors — don’t have faith in the Kings, except for one die-hard fan who will bank $10 million if the Kings win the NBA championship.
The Dallas Mavericks got hot in last year’s postseason and secured a trip to the 2022 Western Conference finals. However, they looked lost this season after they let point guard Jalen Brunson walk in free agency.
The Mavs (31-29) are currently in sixth place, but they made a massive gamble by acquiring troubled point guard Kyrie Irving from the Nets. If the Mavs can get Irving focused on playing hoops, they could make another deep run with the best backcourt in the conference, thanks to the combination of Luka Dončić and Irving.
The Mavs are +750 odds to win the Western Conference, but they lost three games in a row heading into the All-Star break.
West Tier 4: The 7-Team Cluster
The fourth-tier teams are on the playoff bubble and fighting for four spots in the Western Conference Play-In Tournament. Only three games separate these seven bubble teams, which include the New Orleans Pelicans (30-29), Minnesota Timberwolves (31-30), Golden State Warriors (29-29), Oklahoma City Thunder (28-29), Utah Jazz (29-31), Portland Trail Blazers (28-30), and the Los Angeles Lakers (27-32).
The Pelicans currently occupy seventh place. They’ve been in a tailspin ever since they lost forward Zion Williamson to a hamstring injury in January. Prior to the injury, the Pelicans were fighting for the #1 seed with the Nuggets. At this point, the Pelicans hope Williamson gets healthy before the season ends.
The ninth-place Warriors are hoping they can make a run after Steph Curry returns from a leg injury. Head coach Steve Kerr knows that anything is possible once the Warriors start the postseason. But it’s been a lackluster season for the defending champions.
The Los Angeles Lakers are on the playoff bubble. But they were active at the trade deadline and finally ditched Westbrook. They added six new key players – including D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley – who they hope will help LeBron James and Anthony Davis win enough games to qualify for the Play-In Tournament.
West Tier 5: Spurs, Rockets
The fifth-tier teams in the Western Conference have no shot at the postseason.
The San Antonio Spurs (14-45) and Houston Rockets (13-45) are the two worst teams in the West, and both teams have the worst overall records in the NBA.
The Spurs and Rockets are in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes and hope they can turn around their franchises by hitting it big by grabbing the French center in the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery.
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