We are isolating three teams whose odds have improved but are still worthy of a wager at the current prices, as well as three teams that have seen their odds shoot through the roof and should be avoided, unless you play at a shop where you can bet these teams not to win the championship.
For informational purposes, the Miami Heat remain the favorites, opening at +160 and currently at +200, and the Los Angeles Lakers remain the second choice, opening at +300 and currently at +140.
On the Rise
Boston Celtics (Open +900, Current +250): The Celtics are winning with defense as usual, as they lead the NBA in scoring defense, rank fifth in field goal percentage against and rank second in defensive efficiency. As long as they suffer no major injuries, they have an excellent chance of making a return trip to the Finals and they are worth a play at +250 odds, as you can always hedge a bit if they reach that point.
San Antonio Spurs (Open +2000, Current +400): So much for the Spurs being too old and on the decline! It is hard to resist getting 4/1 odds on a team with the best record in basketball, especially playing in the stronger of the two conferences. Now we get that they have probably overachieved a bit, but Coach Gregg Popovich has been through these wars before and knows how to keep his veterans fresh.
Dallas Mavericks (Open +2000, Current +2500): The Mavericks slumped recently while Dirk Nowitzki was injured, but he is back now and Dallas was right on San Antonio’s heels before the All Star got hurt. This team just beat the Lakers, and at 25/1 odds, the Mavericks may only need to reach the Western Conference Finals in order to lock up a profit with a hedge or two.
On the Decline
Oklahoma City Thunder (Open +1400, Current +1500): This was the darling of many NBA experts at the start of the season, but their lack of defense this year is obvious and should prove detrimental to a deep playoff run. The Thunder ranks 20th in the NBA in scoring defense, 24th in field goal percentage against and 26th in three point defense; simply not the equation of a proposed championship outfit!
Denver Nuggets (Open +2500, Current +20000): Yes, the Nuggets lead the NBA in scoring at 107.3 points per game, but Carmelo Anthony may not last the season and Denver is still lax at the defensive end. Sure, part of the reason they allow 104.2 points per game is their pace, but they also rank 17th in field goal percentage against.
Portland Trail Blazers (Open +2500, Current +20000): The Blazers will now have to battle just to make the playoffs after Brandon Roy had surgery on both of his knees. Roy is expected back in March, but it remains to be seen how much he will have in him, and if it is not much, Portland would not even be worth a play at 100/1.
Current Odds To Win 2011 NBA Finals
Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Lakers
New Jersey Nets
New Orleans Hornets
New York Knicks
Oklahoma City Thunder
San Antonio Spurs