Co-Host of THE HERD and FOX Sports Betting Analyst
The NBA postseason is here, and this will be one for the ages as 10 teams are competing for the title. Yes, 10!
The West is wide open this season, with the top seven seeds all realistically expecting to win a championship.
Meanwhile, in the East, you have three strong squads that appear to be leaps and bounds ahead of the rest.
Who will be left standing?
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If you’re looking to get in on the betting action, here are the three teams I feel have the best chance of taking home the Larry O’Brien trophy (all odds at FOX Bet):
Boston Celtics (+350, bet $10 to win $45 total)
The Celtics should be the betting favorites if you’re going by the advanced stats. Boston is second in defensive efficiency and third in offense. No other team is in the top five in each category.
The main reason Boston has surged the past two years is 3-point shooting. They take 42 3-pointers per game (second behind Golden State), make 16 per game (also second) and rank sixth in 3-point percentage (37.7%).
There’s some concern that Joel Embiid eviscerates the Celtics inside (he had 52 points and 13 rebounds, 41-12, 28-7 and 26-15 in four meetings, only one of which the Sixers won), but the reality is this will come down to the matchup with the Bucks, who, without Khris Middleton last year, pushed them to Game 7. The Bucks led 3-2, and Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged 33.9 points, 14.7 rebounds and 7.1 assists in the series.
The C’s might struggle with Nikola Jokic in the Finals, but I have too many questions about the Suns and Warriors to pick either, so the Celtics are my pick to win it all.
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FOX Sports NBA analyst Ric Bucher shares his thoughts on whether the Warriors are in perfect position to make another title run.
Denver Nuggets (+1100, bet $10 to win $120 total)
Not sure that I’ve seen this before, but the top three seeds in the West all have longer odds to win the NBA Finals than teams below them, Phoenix (fourth seed) and Golden State (sixth).
For my money, the Nuggets have the most lethal starting five in the NBA between the offensive firepower in Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., plus the defense of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Aaron Gordon.
The Nuggets are fourth in offensive efficiency but just 18th in defense, and, historically, usually only teams in the Top 10 defensively make the Finals.
I actually like their matchup against the Suns, with Gordon harassing Kevin Durant and Caldwell-Pope at least able to contain Devin Booker at times.
Los Angeles Lakers (was +2100, bet $10 to win $220 total at time of pick)
Yes, the path broke well for the Lakers. They faced a Minnesota team down three of its top seven players and barely survived.
Now they face a Memphis team with its frontcourt depth decimated. The Lakers won the season series 2-1, but don’t read too much into that, given Ja Morant’s suspension and the Lakers’ many trades.
If they can contain Morant – he had a 39-10-10 triple double vs. L.A. in February – and not get caught up in the Dillon Brooks nonsense, the Lakers should advance.
Can they get by the Warriors? They did win the season series 3-1 but Stephen Curry missed two games (LeBron James missed a Lakers win). L.A.’s biggest strength isn’t Anthony Davis or 39-year old LeBron – it’s depth.
You never know who is going to emerge as the third-most pivotal scorer. Dennis Schröder saved them against the Timberwolves; Austin Reaves has shown he’s more than capable; D’Angelo Russell runs hot and cold, but he’s also playing for a contract ahead of free agency.
I’m sitting on some Lakers wagers in the +4000 range from earlier this season, but I’m not holding my breath because Davis can’t stay healthy.
Jason McIntyre is a FOX Sports betting analyst, and he also writes about the NFL and NBA Draft. He joined FS1 in 2016 and has appeared on every show on the network. In 2017, McIntyre began producing gambling content on the NFL, college football and NBA for FOX Sports. He had a gambling podcast for FOX, “Coming Up Winners,” in 2018 and 2019. Before arriving at FOX, he created the website The Big Lead, which he sold in 2010.
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