The Milwaukee Bucks keep winning, as do the Cleveland Cavaliers. Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors look like a lost team and make their first entry into our bottom five squads. Read on if you need some help with a bet online.
1. Milwaukee Bucks
They actually seem to be getting better, as odd as that sounds for an undefeated squad. After a two-point win at home over the lowly Detroit Pistons on Monday, the Bucks won their next three by an average of 17.3 points, including both ends of a road/home back-to-back against some dangerous teams.
Their league-leading defense allowed 95.7 points in those three most recent wins as the squad continued the best start in franchise history. The Bucks became the first team to slow down Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who averaged 32.3 points per game before being held to a season-low 18 at Milwaukee on Saturday.
Oh, and perhaps more notable than shutting down one of the league’s top young scorers was the fact that Bucks did it without Giannis Antetokounmpo, who sat with left knee soreness.
“I think we all knew that we’d all have to chip in,” said center Brook Lopez, who filled the scoring void with 25 points. “You look across the board … everyone who (played) had an impact.”
That’s the mark of a true championship team, one that continues to operate without one of its key components in Khris Middleton. Once everyone is healthy, it’ll be very hard to find a hole on this team.
- +550 NBA Championship Odds
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
Like Milwaukee, the Cavaliers recently had an opportunity to showcase their depth and ability to adjust when they played without the star backcourt of Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. And they didn’t just survive without their leaders, they absolutely thrived, crushing the Pistons on the road by 24 points.
Mitchell and Garland then returned for the next game and helped Cleveland pull away from the Lakers in Los Angeles. That gave the Cavaliers eight straight wins – their longest since a 13-gamer in 2017-18 with LeBron James in the fold – and pushed their record to 8-1 for the first time since 2016-17.
Cleveland ranks second to Milwaukee in scoring defense, giving up just 103.9 points per game, and it has more than enough star power on the other end of the floor. Mitchell is fourth in the NBA in scoring and six other rotational players are averaging in double figures.
- +2500 NBA Championship Odds
3. Phoenix Suns
With the Bucks and Cavs drawing so much attention in the East and the West storylines dominated by who isn’t doing well (Warriors, Lakers), very few seem to notice that the team with the best record last season is plodding along at a pretty good pace.
There was a recent home setback to the Portland Trail Blazers, the only team to defeat the Suns this season, but Phoenix got revenge the following night with a 20-point win. The Suns’ two losses to the Blazers both came in dramatic fashion (one in overtime), so they’re just a few plays away from being undefeated.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, however. The loss of starting swingman Cameron Johnson to a knee injury will test the depth of a squad that already had center Deandre Ayton (ankle) out for a bit and has played its last couple of games without backup guard Cameron Payne (foot).
As long as Devin Booker and Chris Paul continue to do what they do, Phoenix will remain the team to beat in the West and a pretty excellent long-term choice for those of you looking at the Las Vegas odds for an NBA title.
- +1000 NBA Championship Odds
4. Boston Celtics
Boston’s only two losses in the last five games were both to our No. 2 team – Cleveland – and both came in overtime. Like Phoenix, the Celtics are a play or two away from an even more special start.
The lockdown defense we saw from Boston last season hasn’t shown up yet, but the return of Robert Williams III – perhaps around the holidays – will help that effort. Meanwhile, the team is an absolute force on the offensive end, as evidenced by a franchise-record 27 3-pointers in an easy win at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
“We got a really good team who can really shoot the ball,” Jaylen Brown said, ever-so-succinctly.
Brown and Jayson Tatum make the Celtics one of three teams with two scorers in the top 20 in the NBA. Point guard Malcolm Brogdon is one of the best offseason acquisitions made by any team, and he’s a perfect catalyst for a bench that leads the NBA in shooting (52.3%).
- +550 NBA Championship Odds
5. Memphis Grizzlies
Many an NBA betting preview focused on the Grizzlies taking that next step this season after they made a solid playoff run last season. With a legitimate superstar in Ja Morant and some really good pieces all around him, the sky’s the limit, and Memphis is making its debut in our top five as it rounds into form with a solid week of basketball.
The Grizzlies knocked off the aforementioned Trail Blazers on the road before turning up the defense in home wins over Charlotte and Washington on Friday and Sunday, respectively. They held those two overmatched squads to a total of 16 3-pointers in 68 attempts (23.6%).
Morant (28.3 points per game) and Desmond Bane (24.6) are up there with Tatum and Brown (and perhaps Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving if they ever just stick to basketball in Brooklyn) as one of the top 1-2 tandems in the league.
Monday night’s matchup with the Celtics at home will put that to the test.
- +2500 NBA Championship Odds
26. Golden State Warriors
We had to do it. There figures to be a time this season when Stephen Curry is scoring 40 a night and the defending champs are finally getting some stops on the defensive end. But they deserve a look in our bottom five this week after a winless five-game road trip that included losses to Detroit, Orlando and Charlotte.
Nobody gives up more points than the Warriors (121.4). They can score, but they just can’t figure things out on the other end and it’s threatening to torpedo their season, although there’s hope a return home will help iron things out.
“There are times in the NBA season when things can go off the rails a little bit,” coach Steve Kerr said. “A big part of being a great team, being a solid organization, is just understanding how to work through that.”
Kerr noted a 2-9 stretch and a 1-7 swoon in February and March of last season. Obviously, the team recovered just fine, and they likely will again, at least to a degree. For now, however, this is a beaten bunch.
- +650 NBA Championship Odds
27. Charlotte Hornets
Their recent win over the Warriors was notable, but the Hornets followed that up with four straight losses as their offense fell apart. Charlotte is averaging just 93.7 points over the last three contests and now ranks 27th in the NBA in shooting (44.5%).
The Hornets figure to have some better days once LaMelo Ball returns, which could be any game now. They’ve also played several games without leading scorer Terry Rozier and others without Gordon Hayward and key reserve Cody Martin, who was hurt in the season opener.
Until those returnees make an impact, losses could continue to pile up in Charlotte.
- +20000 NBA Championship Odds
28. Los Angeles Lakers
The one thing the Lakers could rely on during their 0-5 start was a pretty solid defensive effort under first-year head coach Darvin Ham. They were active and smart on that end of the floor. Then, when some shots started falling to complement the defensive effort, the team won a pair and had a very different look about it.
That all came crashing down with some rocky defensive games against Utah and Cleveland over the weekend, which left the Lakers at 2-7. The Jazz scored 75 points in the first half of their win at LA on Friday and the Cavaliers outscored the Lakers by 20 points in the second half on Sunday at crypto.com Arena.
Ham was patient when the bricks were piling up early in the season. He won’t be if the team can’t stop anyone.
“There’s 60,000 points in our locker room, so I’m not worried about our offense,” he said after the Utah loss. “Our defensive effort has to be there. Our defense was inept at best.”
- +4000 NBA Championship Odds
29. Detroit Pistons
The 24-point home loss to a Cavaliers team missing its top two scorers was a missed opportunity for a team that has lost eight of nine since a season-opening win.
Consider the Pistons’ scoring totals over the last four games – in order – to get an idea as to where they are trending: 128, 108, 91, 88. They now rank 28th in scoring and 29th in field-goal percentage, and they haven’t been any better on the other end of the floor.
There are some nice, young pieces here, especially Cade Cunningham, who is averaging 21.4 points, 6.3 assists and 6.0 rebounds. Depth is an issue and things go south in a hurry once the bench gets involved. Detroit’s reserves are shooting 35.2%, the worst mark in the NBA by a massive margin (Indiana is ranked 29th at 40.8).
- +100000 NBA Championship Odds
30. Houston Rockets
Since we last checked in on the Rockets, they’ve added three more losses to fall to 1-9. They came by an average of just 7.3 points, but that’s a small consolation prize for a team that is now 35-120 since trading away James Harden and starting all over.
- +100000 NBA Championship Odds