With only a month left of regular season action, fans can begin to get excited for the NBA playoffs in what could be one of the closest title battles in years. The LA Lakers opened the season as favorites, however with injuries and the Brooklyn Nets' emergence, there has been some doubt cast on whether LeBron James and co. can repeat their achievements from the bubble.
In this article, we will look into the odds that the five favorites for the NBA championship currently have, why this is so and how they could change prior to the postseason beginning.
How the NBA Championship hopefuls currently stack up
Teams with legitimate championship hopes will be looking to use their remaining fixtures to build momentum before the postseason. Despite being favorites, both the Lakers and Nets have struggled to have their preferred starting five fit this season.
That has not been the case for the Utah Jazz, whose lineup consistency has helped them hold onto the West's top seed. Even so, the Jazz are still without the backing of bettors, ranking outside the top-3 favorites. So, too, are the Philadelphia 76ers, despite leading the Eastern Conference.
Let's take a look at the current odds outlook for the 5 NBA Championship favorites.
#5 Milwaukee Bucks
NBA 2020-21 Championship odds: +750
The Milwaukee Bucks currently boast shorter odds than Eastern Conference leaders, the Philadelphia 76ers, despite being 4 games behind and having had a weaker defense all year. Despite that, the Bucks rank inside the top-5 teams for points allowed in the paint over the last ten games and are 2nd for defensive rebounds during that time.
Jrue Holiday has been dominant recently and is beginning to prove why Milwaukee put so much faith in the defensive stopper. Just last week, Holiday held Trae Young to only 1-9 from the field.
The Bucks also have their game-changer, Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has returned to the MVP debate after averaging 30.8 in his last four games. Leading Milwaukee on both ends of the floor, the Greek can be their deciding factor in a playoff series against the likes of Brooklyn, who will struggle for size in guarding him.
#4 Utah Jazz
NBA 2020-21 Championship odds: +700
Despite holding the best record in the East and the whole of the NBA for most of the season, the Utah Jazz currently rank fourth among the odds for this year's championship. They have a top-ten scoring bench, led by Sixth Man of the Year candidate Jordan Clarkson as well as Joe Ingles. However, they lack significant NBA Finals experience.
While Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert have been dominant all campaign, they are yet to attain the elite status as 'superstars' of the league. Rather, the Utah Jazz have shown they are the most complete team from one through five on both ends of the floor, with every starter pitching in. That could help the Jazz come the playoffs, though, and may have a similar run as the Miami Heat did last year with their unwavering team ethic.
Let's not forget that should Utah hold the top seed they will have home-court advantage throughout and an 'easier' run to the Championship.
#3 LA Clippers
NBA 2020-21 Championship odds: +700
There's little separating the LA Clippers and Utah Jazz currently, with some bookmakers showing equal odds while others favor the Los Angeles franchise.
Undoubtedly, the Clippers' odds are generous due to their disappointing exit in last year's playoffs. However, Ty Lue's side should fare better this campaign and will be motivated by the anguish of spurning that 3-1 series lead over the Denver Nuggets.
The LA Clippers have a Championship-worthy roster. Between their two superstar wings, they have a center in Serge Ibaka who has won it all before in Toronto, and Marcus Morris Sr. who is having a career-year from downtown. They have a top-5 scoring bench and since the All-Star break have gone 16-5. Their offensive efficiency leads the NBA while their +/- of 6.9 ranks second only to the Utah Jazz.
#2 LA Lakers
NBA 2020-21 Championship odds: +350
The LA Lakers have been coping just fine without LeBron James and AD. Coach Vogel's side have gone 7-10 through the last month of games and held opponents to just 106 points per matchup (ranking 4th in the league). Their response through adversity has kept the Lakers' odds incredibly short and, should they keep the 5th seed, will still be most NBA fans' tip to reach the Finals.
LeBron James has made the Finals in nine of the last ten seasons while Anthony Davis proved himself unguardable in last year's postseason. Montrezl Harrell has led the second-best bench in the league with 13.9 points per game, while Dennis Schroder has proven to be an upgrade on both ends of the floor at point guard.
#1 Brooklyn Nets
NBA 2020-21 Championship odds: +220
Unsurprisingly, the Brooklyn Nets have the shortest odds of any team to win the NBA championship. Their three superstars, though having played little time together, have three championships, 2 MVP awards and 27 All-Star appearances between them.
Combined with coach Steve Nash, who was a two-time MVP, six-time All-Star Blake Griffin and one of the league's elite 3-point shooters in Joe Harris, it is no wonder the Nets are huge favorites to succeed.
There is still some doubt cast over the Nets' ability to defend. However, they have the second-most efficient offense in the NBA and have scored more than 120 points on 28 occasions this season.
Although they will struggle in the paint against the likes of Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brooklyn simply have too many options for their opponents to defend. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant have been electric from the field this season, while James Harden averages 11 assists per game and can easily take over in clutch time if necessary.