With the NBA playoffs on the horizon, all but the lower seeded teams are yet to be decided. For some teams, it’s about making a run as deep as possible. Others will be looking at the 2016 Championship.
So who are the favourites for the 2016 NBA Championship? If you want to get into Basketball Betting, whom should you put your money on? Here are our picks to help you choose!
A mention should be made to the Los Angeles Clippers, Miami heat and Boston Celtics. They have very, very slim chances to win the Championship (when compared to the 5 mentioned here), they do have the capability of causing an upset to the favorites.
5. Toronto Raptors: Current Record: 52-25
The Raptors have recorded their best ever regular season record in franchise history, crossing the 50 win mark for the first time. Solid performances from January have propelled them up the Eastern conference standings. Being assured of at least 2nd seed (which is their likely position) they are going to have home court advantage till the Eastern Semi-finals at the very least.
Their biggest strength is their backcourt duo of Lowry and DeRozan. They are capable not only of scoring around 50 points a game between them, they are the main providers to their teammates, along with Corey Joseph. They do have 2 capable rebounders in Bismack Biyombo and Jonas Valanciunas. Their shooting is balanced, with 5 players other than their star back court duo averaging 9-10 points a game each.
The biggest boost for the team is the return of DeMarre Carroll. The forward who was signed from Atlanta has endured a lengthy spell on the side-lines but is nearing a return. He could provide better rebounding and shooting to the team. This might take some time, as recovering from a long layoff will see him play restricted minutes and will take him a few games to shake the rust off.
However, as a team their rebounding average is around 43 a game which means they are likely to lose the battle of the boards. Their defence needs major tweaking, given they allow their opponents better field goal and 3 point percentages than the team.
If there is one stat in their favor, they have a good record against the top Eastern and Western teams. They have a split record with the Thunder and Spurs, narrow losses to the Warriors and have a winning record this season against the Hawks, Cavaliers, Miami and Boston.
They are long shots to winning the title, but they might finish as runners up in the Eastern Conference finals.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
Current Record: 56-22
Last year’s runners up. The Cavaliers have a deadly trio in the form of Love-James-Irving. They had managed to give the Warriors a run for their money without Love and Irving. The Cavs, despite undergoing a change of coaches have improved this season. They finished last season 53-29.
James has shown his class once again, with complete all round performances at both ends. Love overcame a rusty start of the season and is nearly averaging a rebound-points double-double for the season. Kyrie Irving, while not quite at his best has put his injury behind him and has clocked in solid performances since his return to action.
Players like Smith, Thompson and Dellavedova have all chipped in throughout with valuable play throughout the season. All said, the Cavaliers have a complete package, with good rebounding, scoring capabilities and able to restrict their opponents well.
Their downside is, beyond the big 3 there is no one that can step up on a consistent basis. Sure Smith, Thompson and Dellavedova have on occasion provided the spark, they are not capable of doing it on a week-in week-out. Also, the Cavaliers have not drastically improved since the firing of David Blatt. They cannot afford to make such a mistake in the playoffs.
Overall, they are likely to be the Eastern Champions if they can overcome the Raptors. Against the West, they finished favorably against Oklahoma, split the season record with the Spurs but were defeated by the Warriors.
Among all the Eastern Teams, they are the team with the best shot at winning the title.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder
Current Record: 54-24
The Thunder are now once again mixing with the NBA elite with the ever dynamic Russell Westbrook and the now fit again Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. Under the leadership of Billy Donovan, Thunder have rolled past last seasons’ dismal 45-37 record and could hope to finish with 58 wins.
Westbrook, who bore the brunt of the Thunder’s expectations last season has shown his versatility. While his scoring has dropped from the 28 a game of last season, it’s still a healthy 23.6 points a game, along with an average of more than 10 assists a game. He leads the NBA with 17 Triple-Doubles, the most since Magic Johnson’s tally of 17 back in 1988-89.
Durant, who had an injury riddled time last season has looked at his best, averaging 28 points a game this season. He has also improved his all round play, with career high averages in rebounds and assists. Ibaka and Kanter have proven to be excellent 3rd wheels for the team with 12 points apiece, with Ibaka also averaging nearly 2 blocks a game, and Kanter being one of the better rebounders for the team. The Thunder are the second best scoring team this season and the best rebounding team.
Their biggest drawback is the lack of drive from others. While Durant and Westbrook alone can terrorize the opposition, they won’t be enough during the playoffs. They do not have another person to make play, and when their all-star duo are having an off night, the team suffers. Against the top teams in the NBA, the results have been mixed. Thrashed by the Warriors, split record against the Spurs and Raptors and have been swept by the Cavaliers. Their lack of play on the big games can be worrying.
However, the playoffs is when Donovan can really adapt his tactics for every match and the Thunder will want to avenge their regular season beatings. If it weren’t for the two best teams in the NBA this season, they would surely book their spot in the NBA finals.
Even then, they are not going to be push-overs, even for the Warriors and Spurs.
2. Golden State Warriors
Current Record: 69-9
It’s hard to imagine that the team with the best NBA record is not the favorite.
The Warriors suffered 2 rare home defeats and their bid to eclipse the 72-10 record of the 95-96 Bulls seems nearly impossible. Unless they win all their remaining games, they will tie the record at best. Make no mistake, just matching that record shows the phenomenal work put in by their team, as they are likely to become the second team to cross 70 wins in the season.
Stephen Curry has proven to be an even more lethal shooter, averaging 30 points a game and can become the 8th member of the 50-40-90 club (50% field goal percent, 40% 3 point percent, 90% free throw). He has smashed his record for 3 pointers in a season, and has the odd chance of reaching 400.
Draymond Green has developed, and is the main provider for the team but can also score as well. Thompson has improved his scoring as well. The Warriors team as a whole, pass the ball well and are the only team to assist 30 times in 40 different games. The likes of Speights, Iguodala, Barnes, Rush can all chip in when needed. They are the best scoring and most efficient shooting team in the league this season.
On the downside, The Warriors are not good at defending. They allow their opponents nearly 105 points a game, which is 22nd in the league. The Warriors have also survived many late scares. The team shoots phenomenally in the first half with more than 60 points being scored, but cannot match it in the second. The opposition has more than easily come within striking distance and the Warriors have avoided defeat thanks to their shooting. There are occasions when Green and Curry run into foul trouble very early, which dampens the Warrior attack.
The only stern test that the team will face is from the Spurs, who in their own right are playing their best season ever. With 2 of their final 4 regular season matches against the Spurs, the Warriors will have to bring their best. This is for a shot at history, and the confidence to play against San Antonio in the finals.
If they make it to the finals, they are going to retain their title.
1. San Antonio Spurs
Current Record: 65-12
San Antonio have been the most consistent team under Gregg Popovich. This season saw them surpass the 63 win franchise record. They have a long shot of reaching 70 wins (if they can win their last 5 matches). With the addition of Aldridge and development of Leonard, the Spurs are the firm favourites for the NBA title. They hold the best NBA home record with 39-0, and could finish the season perfect at home.
Spurs are being led by Aldridge and Leonard. The latter has developed into a fine all-round player and is likely to win the Defensive player of the year award and All NBA honors. He has 21 points a game, and nearly 7 rebounds and 3 assists a game. Aldridge, while not matching his output at Portland, has fit in well with San Antonio averaging 18 points and 8 rebounds a game.
Parker, Duncan and Ginobili have remained consistent in their performances. The strongest part of the Spurs is the depth and contribution of their squad and their defence. Currently the Spurs are allowing their opponents to score 92 points a game, which is the best in the league. Pop has also managed the minutes and rest given to all of his stars throughout the season.
The biggest challenge is for the Spurs to really have a person to go on a shooting spree, which is something needed in certain matches of the playoff. They have had good results against the all the teams, and shouldn’t be fazed by any team other than the Warriors, who they are likely to face in the Western Conference finals, following their last 2 regular season games.
The Western conference finals, which might be the toughest test for San Antonio should have them, as they have an experienced line up. They are all set to win their 6th NBA title.