Let’s keep it real, there are only four teams who have a shot at winning the title this year, unless something crazy happens (injuries). In the East it is the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors, and in the West it is going to come down to an epic series between the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors. While I love the Philadelphia 76ers, they are young and need to go through the playoff ring of fire before they can make any noise.
After taking into account the Vegas odds, 538%, and my eye test, here’s my ranking of every playoff team’s chances to win the title:
Team, Vegas odds to win the title, 538 chance of winning the title
16. Washington Wizards, +12,500, < 1%
The Wizards come into this game losing 5 out of their last 6, 9 out of their last 12, including their season-finale vs. the Orlando Magic. Puke. Even with John Wall coming back, I see them getting rolled in the first round.
15. Miami Heat, +17,500, < 1%
The Heat had a solid year if you take into consideration their injury situation and overall roster. That is a testament to coach Erik Spoelstra and his staff. And while they did play the Sixers tough during the regular season (2-2), Philly is just too hot right now to be stopped.
14. Minnesota Timberwolves, +20,000, < 1%
I’m happy to see some old Bulls get into the playoffs, but they have no chance against the Rockets in their first round matchup. I’ll keep it simple:
13. Milwaukee Bucks, +15,000, < 1%
I had high hopes for this team coming into the year, as they looked solid on paper. But watching them play, their inconsistency will drive you crazy. Other than Giannis Antetokounmpo, everyone else is so up and down from game to game. The only thing they have going for them in this matchup vs. the Celtics is that they are the healthier team. Brad Stevens is one of my favorite coaches in the game. He will come up with a way to knock the Bucks out of the first round.
12. Indiana Pacers, +12,500, < 1%
I have to give Victor Oladipo props for the season he just had, as I did not think he would be this good. While I love what the Pacers are putting together, the Cavs are finally hitting their stride. There is no way LeBron James loses in the first round, but it should be a fun series to watch.
11. New Orleans Pelicans, +20,000, < 2%
Even though the Pelicans have no shot at winning the chip, can we take a minute to appreciate just how good Anthony Davis is? Since DeMarcus Cousins’ injury, AD has put on a show. He led the league in scoring (30.2 ppg) and blocks (3.2 bpg), ranked sixth in rebounding (11.9 rpg), third in steals (2.1 spg) and shot an insane 51.4% from the field. He should finish the season as a top-five MVP candidate. Please come to the Chicago Bulls! Should be a great first round series, but either way, their season will end soon.
10. San Antonio Spurs. +8,500, 3%
How amazing would that be? Even if Kawhi Leonard does comeback this Spurs team has looked old and slow all year long. Gregg Popovich has done another terrific coaching job getting them back into the playoffs, but their road stops here. It will be an interesting off-season for the Spurs with all the Leonard rumors. Let’s just say where there is smoke, there is fire.
9. Boston Celtics, +10,000, 2%
Can you imagine how dangerous this team would’ve been if Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward were not injured? Coach Stevens has done a masterful job with the roster he has, and while I do see them winning their first round matchup, they have no shot at winning the title this year. Should be a great learning experience for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Look out for this team next year, those Celtics vs. 76ers games are going to be fun to watch.
8. Portland Trailblazers, +5,000, 3%
The Blazers come into this game on a little bit of cold streak, losing 4 of their last 5 games. They split their season series vs. the Pelicans at 2-2. While Damian Lilliard has been a legit MVP candidate this year, and C.J. McCollum can get buckets, they just don’t have enough firepower to compete with the big guns.
7. Utah Jazz, +7,350, 5%
Donovan Mitchell is the man, Rudy Gobert is a defensive beast, and coach Quin Snyder has been terrific. They will finish in the top three in ROY, DPOY, and COY voting, and have a legitimate chance at sweeping those awards. This Jazz team has been fun to watch and they will be a tough out in the playoffs. That being said, they are still young and will need some time to contend.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder, +4,000, 5%
The Thunder only won one more game this season than last after all the hype of adding Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. While the Jazz pose a tough first round matchup for them, I think their experience wins out. Russell Westbrook averaged a triple double again. Love him or hate him, the dude goes hard. I can’t wait to see him and Donovan Mitchell go at each other.
5. Philadelphia 76ers, +2.500, 11%
#TrustTheProcess foo! It makes me so happy to see Sam Hinkie’s plan come together, as most expected it to fail. The Sixers are hot and rolling into the playoffs. Ben Simmons has been an absolute monster, and hopefully Joel Embiid can join the party soon. The only thing holding them back is experience. Most title teams need to go through some tough playoff battles first, before they can eventually win it all. I can’t wait to see how good they are next year. On a side note, don’t forget all the Hassan Whiteside and Embiid beef. This first round matchup should be a fun one, on and off the court (social media).
4. Toronto Raptors, +800, 17%
Can the Raptors finally get over the hump? This has been their best season to date, and Dwane Casey should be in the COY mentions. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have a great chemistry together, and Fred Van Vleet has been fun to watch. Even though I personally think the Cavs will beat the Raptors in the second round, Vegas and 538 both love the Raptors in that matchup. It sucks that their reward for such a good season is to face the Cavs in the second round. If they can finally defeat LeBron, they will make their first NBA Finals.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers, +650, 4%
I used to be a King James hater, now I am a defender. What else can you say after what LeBron has done the past few seasons? He brought a chip to Cleveland, and it does not look like he has lost a step this season, just dunking on people’s heads. While 538 gives them only a 4% chance of winning, never count out the King. Facing the Raptors in the second round will be a tough test, but LeBron will go into superman mode. I’m picking them to make the Finals over the Raptors. Looking forward to Lebron’s tweet today about going dark for the playoffs.
2. Golden State Warriors, +135, 4%
Everyone knows whoever wins Rockets vs. Warriors is going to win the title. While the Warriors are the Vegas favorites to win it all, 538 gives them a surprisingly low 4% chance at winning the title. Yes, I had to triple check that to be sure. The long post seasons are finally getting to them, and the injuries are starting to pile up. The Steph Curry stuff scares me, as having a layoff for that long will definitely affect his game. Unless he comes back like his MVP-self, I see the Rockets finally getting over the hump.
1. Houston Rockets, +230, 44%
The Rockets come into the playoffs as 538’s darlings, with a 44% chance at winning the title. And why wouldn’t they after winning 65 games this year. James Harden had a MVP season, and his chemistry with Chris Paul has been better than most people expected. While I have never been a CP3 fan, I do think he is the right cog for this team and how they run their offense. Clint Capela is the X-factor for me. The way they run the pick and roll with him makes them unstoppable. The Rockets went 42-3 in games in which James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela played. Yes, you read that right. If they can’t do it this year, they never will.
Can’t wait for the playoffs to tip-off tomorrow, let’s go!