2017 NBA Finals: Top Contenders Odds to Win It All

by Kevin Roberts
on February 24, 2017

The road to the NBA Finals doesn’t always feel that fluid. After the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the title two years ago, Vegas and just about everyone everywhere figured we’d be set up for a rematch.

That’s precisely what happened and it produced a crazy 3-1 series comeback that crowned LeBron James’ Cavs the NBA champs for the first time in their history.

What was different between a title loss and a title win for the Cavs? Stephen Curry arguably wasn’t quite 100%, while Kevin Love wasn’t out with a dislocated shoulder and Kyrie Irving wasn’t absent with a knee injury.

A healthy, determined and driven Cavaliers team returned to the promise land, went “all in” and ultimately delivered.

Now we’re headed for a trilogy of sorts. Like it or not, the oddsmakers have pegged a third straight Warriors vs. Cavaliers NBA Finals since the end of the last title series. And back to that fluidity idea; not enough change has really presented itself for us to really get excited about anyone else.

But should that be the case?

There certainly were some movers and shakers ahead of this year’s NBA trade deadline, and NBA betting sites surely took notice by updating the 2017 NBA Finals odds on the very day all of the trade action was finalized.

Does it really change anything, though? It’s tough to say, but let’s first check out the latest NBA Finals odds and see if anyone looks like a fun bet outside of the Dubs and Cavs:

Latest 2017 NBA Finals – Odds to Win

  • Golden State Warriors (-160)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers (+325)
  • San Antonio Spurs (+900)
  • Boston Celtics (+1400)
  • Houston Rockets (+1600)
  • Los Angeles Clippers (+3300)
  • Toronto Raptors (+3300)
  • Washington Wizards (+3300)
  • New Orleans Pelicans (+7500)
  • Utah Jazz (+7500)
  • Memphis Grizzlies (+10000)
  • Atlanta Hawks (+15000)
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (+15000)
  • Chicago Bulls (+20000)
  • Indiana Pacers (+20000)
  • Denver Nuggets (+30000)
  • Miami Heat (+50000)
  • Charlotte Hornets (+50000)
  • Detroit Pistons (+50000)
  • Milwaukee Bucks (+50000)
  • Portland Trail Blazers (+50000)
  • New York Knicks (+75000)
  • Dallas Mavericks (+100000)
  • Orlando Magic (+100000)
  • Sacramento Kings (+100000)

The NBA is an interesting betting sphere, as the bottom half or even bottom ⅔ of the field doesn’t stand a chance. Champions are built over time with teams slowly proving their worth by advancing further and further each year, or they’re bought with massive trades and free agency signings.

The Warriors slowly built up a title contender and the Cavs bought theirs when they brought back King James and traded for Kevin Love. The very safe odds are we see those teams in the title game again. However, there are other realistic contenders and a small number of sleepers we could consider for some cursory bets.

Because the flip side of the NBA being so predictable is the teams that have almost no shot at going the distance carry ridiculous odds.

Top Contenders

Golden State and Cleveland are obvious, but the only other realistic title threats are the Spurs and Raptors. That sounds bleak, but it’s tough to paint a lot of these others franchises as legit NBA Finals contenders when they either haven’t won a title, haven’t been remotely that far in the playoffs in forever or have glaring weaknesses.

To hang with the Cavs or Warriors, you need to be able to put up loads of offense, defend the perimeter and stop easy transition buckets. Few teams can do that, but two teams that certainly can (and have) and also brings a solid, balanced offense to the table are San Antonio and Toronto.

The Spurs have two reliable big men in Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge, a two-way MVP candidate in Kawhi Leonard and solid depth and balance across their roster. San Antonio sputtered in their last two playoff runs, but with Gregg Popovich leading the way and all of the title experience this franchise has to offer, they can’t be ruled out.

Toronto also did precisely what a would-be contender like the Celtics didn’t do. They went out and addressed a hole at power forward and got the scoring depth they lost in the deal to fix their first issue. When it was all said and done, an already strong Raptors team got a whole lot better on paper, with Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker giving them two elite defenders who also can stretch the floor with reliable shooting.

The Raptors were sinking a bit due to a DeMar DeRozan injury, but he’s back, this team got way better from a talent perspective and they only lost to the Cavs 4-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. If there is a true contender in the Eastern Conference, it’s them.

What makes a contender beyond that? Anyone can be listed as a contender if we’re not nailing down specific criteria, while the true definition of a sleeper doesn’t apply to the NBA. Instead, those next best bets are your sleepers, and until they make some serious noise that turns heads, it’s the Warriors, Cavs, Spurs, maybe the Raptors and then everyone else.

Top Sleepers

We certainly agree you could make an argument for any of our favorite sleepers ascending to the “contender” ranks, but there is still work to be done. It’d be nice to call the Jazz, Thunder, Pacers or Bulls sleepers, but that would suggest we believe they have any kind of a chance at winning it all.

They don’t. Not this season, at least. You usually are who the numbers and records say you are, and for a brief second we saw a rare challenge of that theory last year when the Thunder had the Dubs against the ropes, down 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals. But then the better team rose up and won and all of that upset stuff that dreams are made of vanished.

That doesn’t mean there can’t be true upsets in the NBA, but when we’re asking a team to stage upset after upset through successive series and then get to the Finals to take down the Cavs or Warriors (at least one of which are surely making it to the end), that’s simply asking too much.

Instead, we can point to our definition of an NBA Finals sleeper, which is the teams that probably can’t actually win it all, but if anyone has a shot, it’s them.

Based on that logic, your best sleeper bets remain the Celtics, Clippers, Rockets and Wizards.

Of course, there are issues with each of these teams. Boston is getting by on the wings of a tiny star point guard that can’t play defense. Beyond the crazy (seriously, how is this happening?) scoring from IT2, the Celtics do not have any actual star power and play significantly poorer defense than their perimeter talent suggests it should.

Boston feels like a high level regular season team that is very close to making a strong playoff run, but just missed their chance by failing to capitalize on a blockbuster deal before the trade deadline. Boston needs Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Jimmy Butler – someone – to push them over the top.

Los Angeles is a funny team to assess, because for large portions of the past two years they haven’t been healthy enough to correctly gauge. Last we saw the Clips at full strength, they took down the Spurs in a draining 7-game series three years ago and then choked away a 3-1 series lead to the Clippers.

L.A. is still a very scary team at full strength, as Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan can dominate down low and Chris Paul can keep his team in any game. Unfortunately, the Clips still have a hole at small forward and haven’t proven they can hang with the Warriors. They might win a series – heck, even two – but it’s hard to envision them getting to their first WCF series in franchise history.

Houston may be a little more in play than the Clippers, as they boast a much more versatile and explosive offense and have already proven they’re not afraid of the Dubs. They can work you down with their numerous weapons and they even added another one in a deadly bench scorer in Lou Williams. The key with the Rockets is defense, while most of their scoring threats – namely James Harden, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson – are major defensive liabilities.

Last, but truly not least, are the Washington Wizards. John Wall is playing probably the best ball of his life right now and he has the Wiz running and scoring as well as anyone. If we’re looking only at the past two months, then sure, the Wiz are possibly the best team in the Eastern Conference and by the numbers they’d be a borderline title threat.

Unfortunately, no Scott Brooks-led team has ever won a title and I don’t yet believe in Washington from a defensive perspective. This team is maturing and finally finding itself to the point where it is pushing for serious relevancy, and that should equate to a first round series win and maybe even a win in round two. But are the Wiz going to survive the defensive clamps of Toronto or run past Cleveland? I doubt it.

Who Will Win the 2017 NBA Finals?

I hate to go back to logic and what the oddsmakers are telling us, but long-winded rant aside, this is the NBA we’re talking about and I don’t have a choice. The Spurs might give the Dubs some trouble and maybe someone like the Rockets, Clippers, Raptors, Celtics or Wizards ends up winning a series they shouldn’t.

But is anyone actually stopping LeBron James in the Eastern Conference? No. Is anyone actually good enough to keep Kevin Durant and the Warriors from getting to the Finals? It’s doubtful.

In fact, the only thing preventing a third straight Cavs vs. Warriors NBA Finals is a major injury. Perhaps the Kevin Love injury is already setting the path for that or maybe something else will pop up. But the odds remain the same and so does the logic. At 100%, the Cavs remain the best team in the Eastern Conference and the Warriors are still probably the most talented team in the entire league.

There is something to be said of revenge in sports, too, while KD didn’t join Golden State to be chastised and ridiculed, only to fall short of the Finals – or worse – get there and only lose. Instead, KD is the elite reinforcement the Dubs needed to get the leg up again in their rivalry with the Cavs and that should be enough to get them their second title in the last three years.

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