This is a unique week in the NBA, with only two games Monday and Tuesday to decide the next round of In-Season Tournament games. That still gives us some chances to stare at NBA bet lines each night, with action picking up later this week. Today is a great time to size up the top teams in the Western Conference.
1. Denver Nuggets (+235 to Win Western Conference)
With a healthy Jamal Murray, nobody’s better one through five. Unfortunately, Murray is struggling to stay healthy, first missing 11 straight with a hamstring issue (Denver was 6-5) and now sitting out two in a row (1-1).
Nikola Jokic is the two-time MVP but this team goes as Murray goes. He is day-to-day and should be back soon for a squad that had won four straight before a tough loss at Sacramento on Saturday.
The recent four-game run was Denver’s third this season. Each one has ended with road losses against quality opponents (Minnesota, Houston, Sacramento). Entering Tuesday, nobody had played more road games than the Nuggets (12) and three of their next four are away from home, beginning with Wednesday night at the Los Angeles Clippers.
A soft spot is coming and it should coincide with some improved health for a team that has had to weather some physical issues. You just might look up in mid-January and see this team on a 60-win pace.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves (+1200)
Their Las Vegas odds to win the Western Conference are improving at the sportsbook, but this is still an incredible option at +1200. The Timberwolves have the best record in the league, it’s legit and other big dogs in the West have their flaws. This team, when healthy and clicking, might not have any.
It also might be a godsend that they didn’t qualify for the In-Season Tournament’s knockout round, for it gave the Wolves games against San Antonio and Memphis to fill out the schedule, a pretty nice development for Chris Finch’s crew. Nothing is a gimme in this league, but that’s just about as close as you can get to adding two more victories to Minnesota’s already-stout 15-4 mark.
THAT’S OUR COACH. pic.twitter.com/r4rf21etmN
— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) December 4, 2023
In fact, with extra games against the two worst teams in the West added on, the Timberwolves now have the easiest remaining schedule in the West, according to Tankathon.
Many saw Minnesota as a 55- or 60-win team going into last season. Karl-Anthony Towns’ early injury sent the train off the tracks, but they’re running it back this season with great efficiency and a little extra motivation under their belts.
You can do a lot worse with your NBA picks than picking this dominant defensive squad with plenty of scoring options to win the West.
3. Phoenix Suns (+325)
The Suns haven’t necessarily done anything to deserve being knocked down a spot. We just can’t deny the best record in the NBA in Minnesota.
Phoenix does have those injury concerns. When healthy, they’ll be a favorite in the eyes of many, but Kevin Durant’s incredible workload will be an issue, Bradley Beal remains sidelined and Devin Booker is on pace for 45 games.
The Suns have more wins against sub-.500 teams (10) than anyone in the West. They have losses to Denver and Oklahoma City – two teams on this top five report – and are just 2-5 against teams over .500.
If and when they get completely healthy and start picking off some quality opponents on a more regular basis, we’ll vault them up again. By the way, if you’re betting NBA tonight, Phoenix is in Los Angeles for an In-Season quarterfinals matchup with the Lakers.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (+2000)
They have the second-best record in the West and the conference’s best offense (119.7 points per game). Like Minnesota, missing out on the In-Season Tournament’s knockout round gave them dates with a pair of sub-.500 teams (barely) in Houston and Golden State, two opportunities to pad that win total.
The Thunder are a young team and you want to see examples of growth and maturity in groups like this, not just high-scoring totals and fun highlights. We were given just one such example Saturday in Dallas when Oklahoma City saw the Mavericks reel off a 30-0 run (yes, 30-0!!!) in the fourth quarter to take the lead at home in front of a raucous crowd.
Most teams, especially young ones, would wave the white flag. The Thunder, though, put forth a rally of their own to erase a late six-point deficit. They scored the game’s final eight points, stunning fans who just moments earlier had witnessed their team put forth the best in-game run in the play-by-play era.
That’s the type of scenario that this team can draw from in April and May, and it’s one reason why we’re tempted to move them up the ladder next week if all goes well.
5. Sacramento Kings (+2000)
They were knocked out of the In-Season Tournament by New Orleans on Tuesday night, but had a win over Denver two days earlier and a recent triumph at Minnesota. That’s enough to keep this crew, one of the best on the defensive glass in the game, clinging to the fifth spot.
An upcoming six-game homestand that includes matchups with Boston, Minnesota, Phoenix, and Oklahoma City will be a great measuring stick for the Kings.
Questions Of The Day
Which team is most likely to win by a margin of over 15 points in their upcoming matchup?
If you’re making such a wager, find a game that works on Oklahoma City’s schedule. The Thunder are 14-4-1 against the spread and 9-1 in games decided by 10 points or more.
Which Western Conference Top 5 team offers the best betting props this week?
Check out Minnesota’s numbers against the Spurs and Grizzlies. There should be some interesting figures in there.