There are few leagues as top-heavy as the NBA. Only nine of the last 36 champions entered the season with longer than 5-1 odds to win the title, according to Sports Odds History, and only the 2010-11 Mavericks and 2014-15 Warriors were priced longer than 15-1 in the preseason.
Still, as we've already seen this season, there's value in buying low on elite teams. The Nets are +250 to win the title after opening at 12-1 in October, while the Jazz were as high as 50-1 at some shops and are currently 12-1 to win it all after a strong start to the campaign.
With that said, here are the current NBA title odds and three long shots worth playing after the first two months of the season:
|Los Angeles Lakers||+190|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+600|
|Portland Trail Blazers||+6500|
|Golden State Warriors||+12500|
|New Orleans Pelicans||+12500|
|San Antonio Spurs||+13000|
|New York Knicks||+40000|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+50000|
The Heat's title odds have dropped significantly from an opening price of 12-1, and they've been dealing as high as 40-1 at some shops. Is this not the same team that tore through the East last year and was a few ailments away from pushing the Lakers in the NBA Finals?
Injuries (and COVID protocols) have held Miami back this season, too, but the Heat have been a borderline top-10 team since Jimmy Butler's return, boasting the NBA's best defensive rating (105.7) during a 7-3 run dating back to Feb. 5. This club still has the same talent and playoff experience as it did when it opened among the title favorites - and the production is coming, too.
The Suns were among my favorite preseason long shots based on their offensive potential, with Chris Paul joining Devin Booker in the backcourt. What I didn't expect was a defensive revival for Monty Williams' squad, which has allowed the fourth-fewest points per 100 possessions (108.9) behind one of the NBA's slowest tempos.
The offense is coming around, too. After a slow start to the season, Booker has averaged 28.9 points on 55.5% shooting over the last eight games - a stretch during which Phoenix put up the league's best offensive (127.6) and net (+14.9) rating. The Suns are for real, and the market is slow to catch on.
In a way, the market views the Trail Blazers as the worst team that still has a shot at winning the title - hence the massive drop-off in title odds for every club listed after them. That's underselling the talent on Portland's roster and the success this team has had despite facing significant adversity thus far.
The Blazers are clinging to the No. 5 seed in the West thanks to the stellar play of Damian Lillard, who is averaging 31.6 points and 8.8 assists in 16 games without CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic. The team expects to get both players back before the postseason, and the Blazers' odds will surely tighten by then if Lillard can maintain his MVP-level play.
(Odds source: theScore Bet)
C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.