NBA

NBA Championship Odds Update: Have the Timberwolves Earned Our Consideration?

Annie Nader
Annie Nader@ANader33
NBA Championship Odds Update: Have the Timberwolves Earned Our Consideration?

Stewing in the basketball-less days brought on by the NBA All-Star break leaves us with a great opportunity to take stock of this year's title contenders.

The All-Star break may indicate that we've reached the midpoint of the NBA season, but 67.1% of regular season games have come and gone, so it's safe to say the playoffs are drawing near.

And this season, there are plenty of eligible teams we could reasonably tap to hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy come June. While LeBron James and Stephen Curry's respective squads could make some noise this year, gone are the days where we can anticipate one or both of these players to remain in contention for the long run.

The dynasty era of the Association seems to be in the distance, which makes for an exciting NBA Championship odds market for this season.

With that, let's take a look at FanDuel Sportsbook's NBA Finals odds and explore which teams are best set up to make a run this spring.

NBA Championship Odds

Team
2023-2024 NBA Championship Odds
Boston Celtics+230
Denver Nuggets+440
Los Angeles Clippers+500
Milwaukee Bucks+650
Phoenix Suns+1400
New York Knicks+2000
Cleveland Cavaliers+2500
View Full Table

Boston Celtics (+230)

The Boston Celtics have been the chalk championship favorite since the start of this season, and their short odds are only getting shorter.

The Celtics have earned every right to this status. Their league-best 43-12 record has them sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings, with a cushy six-game lead over the next-best team.

It seems more likely than not that they will maintain home-court advantage for the duration of the playoffs, and their 26-3 record at TD Garden is quite convincing.

And while a championship win this season would mark the first of its kind for Boston since the Paul Pierce era, we can't say this team is short on playoff experience.

Boston's pair of All-Stars, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, have already played in four Eastern Conference Finals series in their fairly young careers, including an NBA Finals appearance.

Plus, offseason addition Jrue Holiday was at the helm of a championship season with the Milwaukee Bucks just three years ago.

All signs point to this being Boston's year. The last 12 NBA champions finished their regular season in the top six of Player Impact Estimate (PIE), net rating, and effective field goal percentage (EFG%). The Celtics sport the league's best net rating and PIE, as well as the fourth-best EFG%.

With all this being said, I find it difficult to justify laying these short championship odds before we've even reached the playoffs, regardless of how impressive Boston's resume may be.

Denver Nuggets (+440)

The market seems bullish on the Denver Nuggets following up last year's championship season.

Fair enough, considering their dominant 2022-2023 team has more or less stayed intact -- save for Bruce Brown Jr. -- and it's not easy to pinpoint which Western Conference team could take them down come playoff time.

However, if we check out Denver's team stats at this point in the season, they are not the caliber of a typical championship team.

As mentioned, the last 12 NBA championship teams ended their regular season with a top-six rank in PIE, net rating, and EFG%. The Nuggets don't fare in the top six of any of these statistical categories. They have the eighth-best PIE, ninth-best net rating, and 14th-best EFG%.

If these metrics stick come this season's end, they would serve as unprecedentedly subpar numbers for a championship team.

Further, they sit in fourth place in the Western Conference standings. It would be to no one's surprise if they overtook one of the top 3 seeds prior to the playoffs, but it's pertinent to note that a non-top-3 seed hasn't won a championship since 1995 (the Houston Rockets).

But Nikola Jokic is Nikola Jokic, so perhaps we shouldn't get too lost in the weeds of stats when it comes to this Nuggets team. We could equate Denver's worse-than-expected regular season stats to that of this season's Kansas City Chiefs, so I won't get caught counting them out this year.

Los Angeles Clippers (+500)

The Los Angeles Clippers have finally figured it out, but can we count on them to make a deep playoff run?

History shows they are a championship-caliber team. They currently sport the fifth-best net rating, fifth-best EFG%, and rank sixth in PIE.

Add in that their 36-17 record has them sitting pretty as the Western Conference's number three seed, and it's quite clear why their championship stock has gone through the roof as of late.

They rank just 13th in defensive rating, which is fairly atypical for a championship team. The Nuggets won the title last year despite a poor defensive rating (113.5; 15th), but Denver's defense saw improvements in the playoffs (110.2; second-best among playoff teams that played at least seven games).

The careers of Paul George, James Harden and Russell Westbrook have left much to be desired on the championship front. But Kawhi Leonard has been unreal on both ends of the court this season and finds himself on a short and exclusive list of players who have won championships with multiple teams.

Milwaukee Bucks (+650)

While the Milwaukee Bucks tout the fourth-shortest championship odds, I can't say I am as convinced about this team as the market.

A 35-21 record has them positioned as the third seed in the Eastern Conference, but they sit a mighty 8.5 games behind the Celtics.

It seems Milwaukee could be forced to play on the road for at least one, and likely more, playoff series if they make a deep run, and their 12-14 record on the road is quite discouraging.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has had an MVP-caliber season, and we can't ignore the late-game -- and overall -- threat that is Damian Lillard, but this team needs to find role players to step up.

The Bucks have the 11th-best net rating, while their bench ranks 17th in net rating. For comparison, Boston's bench owns the league's best net rating.

While I don't want to get too down on Milwaukee, as they are arguably the second-best team in an Eastern Conference that is less threatening than the West, their coaching situation might scare me away from these low championship odds.

The firing of Adrian Griffin, and the resultant hiring of Doc Rivers, was a questionable mid-season move. Thus far, Rivers has gone 3-7 in his tenure with the Bucks. Milwaukee has the talent and the championship experience, but they aren't making it easy for themself.

Minnesota Timberwolves (+2500)

We need to talk about the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The championship pedigree might not be there, but I find it egregious that eight other teams have shorter or the same finals odds as the T-Wolves.

Their 39-16 record has them sitting atop a tough-as-nails Western Conference. This late in the season, this status has to stand for something.

They tout the league's second-best PIE, third-best net rating, and seventh-best EFG%.

Individual regular-season wins might not be the best metric to track in regard to the playoffs, but Minnesota has won more big games than any other team in the Association this season.

The T-Wolves have taken down the Nuggets, Clippers (twice), Bucks, Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder (twice), Golden State Warriors (twice), Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers (twice), and Dallas Mavericks (twice).

Their league-best (by a wide margin) defensive rating has them consistently stomping on stiff competition, and I'm intrigued at how they would match up against the Nuggets should they meet up in the playoffs.

Rudy Gobert is the resounding favorite (-700) to take home this year's Defensive Player of the Year Award, making him a great candidate to go up against Jokic.

Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns both earned spots on the All-Star team while Chris Finch has the second-shortest odds to win Coach of the Year.

Playoff experience is invaluable, and neither the coaching staff nor the players on this team have competed in their fair share of big games.

It's rare to see a team with this little playoff experience make a huge run, but at this point in this season, what more could the T-Wolves have done to get our attention? numberFire's projections are giving Minnesota a good shake with a 16.3% chance at winning the NBA championship, while the +2500 odds here suggest just a 4.2% probability.


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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.