There are three-team races for the No. 1 seed in both the Eastern and Western Conference. A host of teams are vying to jump out of the play-in pool and into the top six, and another big group just wants to get into the play-in.
It’s all part of the most parity-stricken situation the NBA has seen in years, which has made online gambling a wild venture at times. Let’s take a closer look at our weekly version of a power ranking, complete with plenty from the NBA news cycle, after which you should check out our NBA picks.
There have been a few recent losses and a few Giannis Antetokounmpo absences here and there, but this is still a team that has gone 22-3 since a loss at Cleveland on Jan. 21 – and they had all their pieces in place last time out.
Antetokounmpo notched his 33rd career triple-double in a 9-for-9 shooting effort as Milwaukee rallied for a 118-111 win over Toronto on Sunday. In the process, he became the franchise’s all-time leader in games played.
“It’s a great feeling. I wasn’t aware of it coming into the game,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s been a long, long journey. There’s more to be accomplished yet, I believe.”
Like, say, for instance, a second NBA title in the last four years? It’s very possible, and the improving NBA odds are an indication.
- +325 NBA Championship Odds
It took some time before the Sixers entered our top five. It took a little longer before they stayed there instead of slipping in and out like teams such as Cleveland and Memphis. Now, with just 12 games left on their schedule, it’s hard to imagine this team being anywhere else.
Philadelphia has won eight in a row and is 36-10 since a 12-12 start. Joel Embiid seemingly was written off by some in the MVP race, but it’s hard to go against a guy who has scored at least 30 points in nine straight – a franchise record.
“Embiid is right now probably the (NBA) MVP with what their team is doing and how he’s just elevated his game,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said after Embiid helped the Sixers to a 141-121 rout at Indiana on Saturday. “He’s as difficult a guy to plan for as there is in the game. He had 31 points and made it look like he wasn’t even trying to do it. He’s a walking cheat code.”
It’s worth checking out the NBA betting odds on awards (Embiid) and on reaching the Finals (Sixers), as both are in sight.
- +1100 NBA Championship Odds
Their lead in the West is down to four games and just three in the loss column, so they’re not out of those woods yet. But they have seemingly worked free from a recent slump by winning two of the last three, including Sunday’s 108-102 victory at Brooklyn.
It might not have been the most impressive victory of the season in the box score as Denver nearly blew all of a 20-point lead, but fighting hard for a road triumph meant a whole lot in the locker room.
“Obviously we were 1-5 in our last six, not playing up to our abilities, so just to get the win is the thing I’m most proud of,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.
The Nuggets have the fifth-hardest remaining schedule, which could complicate things. Let’s see how they survive a gauntlet that includes Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Sacramento and two trips to Phoenix.
- +800 NBA Championship Odds
They’re 3-2 on a six-game road trip that ends Tuesday in Sacramento, but it feels worse than that. A one-point loss at Utah on Saturday in which they lost a late seven-point lead, had just one basket in the final 2:30 and having Grant Williams take the last shot was the latest in a string of disappointments.
Boston is 14-11 in its last 25 games and has dipped percentage points behind Philadelphia and into third in the East (the Celtics hold the tiebreaker with the Sixers if it comes to that).
NBA predictions were heavy on the Celtics early on, but they’ve been tempered by this run of relative mediocrity. They visit both Philly and Milwaukee in a pretty tough closing stretch.
- +350 NBA Championship Odds
Between the Ja Morant situation and Dillon Brooks being a jerk on an almost everyday basis, there can’t be a more hated team than the Grizzlies right now. But you have to give them credit for piling up some wins amid this stretch, all while working without the key cog in the middle, Steven Adams.
Memphis is 5-1 over its last six games, which includes two wins over both Dallas and Golden State, both potential first-round playoff opponents. Morant will be back soon and, regardless of what he’s done to improve himself in his time away, will instantly make this team a serious contender once again.
- +2200 NBA Championship Odds
26. Trail Blazers
There are others with worse records and the Trail Blazers still have an outside shot at a play-in spot, but it’s not looking like a team that wants to be out there much longer. They’ve dropped six in a row and four in a row at home, their last victory in Portland coming against lowly Houston on Feb. 26.
Damian Lillard is having a remarkable season and it feels somewhat wasted. That’s put pressure on the organization as it relates to head coach Chauncey Billups, although his players seem to have his back.
“I’m ready to run through a wall for him, no matter what,” Jerami Grant recently said of Billups.
Barring a remarkable streak to end the regular season, this will be a second straight losing campaign under Billups. Lillard turns 33 this summer. Is there a window here?
- +100000 NBA Championship Odds
They really seem to want to finish strong for the old man in San Antonio. The Spurs just capped a 3-3 homestand with a win over an Atlanta team fighting tooth and nail for every win, a pretty notable achievement for a squad that endured a 2-24 stretch at one point.
- No odds–Already eliminated
If and when the Rockets are fighting for a playoff spot at this time next year or even in the title mix a few seasons down the road, you might be able to point to their current stretch as one of the catalysts. This young, talented club has been putting some things together of late, winning five of the last nine, including victories over the Celtics and Lakers.
The current starting five can play with just about anyone on a good night, and with another year of seasoning and a few role players thrown in, this will be a potent mix in the near future.
- No odds–Already eliminated
The Hornets had a recent two-game winning streak but have since lost four straight – all at home – and may have bottomed out Friday against Philadelphia. They were outscored by 37 points over the final three quarters in a 121-82 loss, shooting 5 of 35 from 3-point range in the team’s worst offensive showing since Feb. 25, 2020 (80 points).
- No odds-Already eliminated
With both San Antonio and Houston starting to win a few games here and there, it’s left the Pistons all but assured of the worst record in the NBA. Beginning Tuesday in Atlanta, they play five of six on the road, which very likely will get them to 60 losses for the fourth time in franchise history.
There’s plenty to like in the play of newly acquired James Wiseman, as well as rookies Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren. It’s all going to take some time, though.
- No odds–Already eliminated