- The Los Angeles Lakers have dropped to the second overall choice to win the Western Conference.
- Utah is the top choice to advance out of the West.
- The Dallas Mavericks (+2500) and Memphis Grizzliess (+15000) are the biggest longshots to advance.
The 2020-2021 NBA season was nothing like most fans and experts expected. If before the season you had suggested that neither the Los Angeles Clippers or the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers would finish in the top two in the Western Conference you would have had your sanity questioned. That’s exactly what happened, however, with the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns finishing not only 1-2 in the West but with the two best records in the NBA. The Denver Nuggets and LA Clippers tied for third with the Los Angeles Lakers finishing in 7th place.
Despite these surprising outcomes the Jazz and Suns didn’t get much respect heading into the NBA playoffs. Both were priced well below the Lakers and Clippers in both the NBA Championship betting futures as well as the Western Conference futures. The market has adjusted somewhat but given the performance that the Suns and Jazz have turned in to date you can still make a compelling case that both teams remain undervalued. That’s a good place to start a rundown of which teams in the conference offer attractive betting value at this juncture:
UTAH JAZZ: The Jazz finished with the best record in the league at 52-20–that’s something they never accomplished before even during the prime of legends John Stockton and Karl Malone. They turned in a winning record on the road (21-15) and that’s always been a struggle for the franchise. More importantly, they were dominant at Vivint Arena with a league best 31-5 home mark. In the playoffs, the fact that the Jazz play home games at 4,327 feet is a big deal.
Utah’s success this year is no fluke. They excel at both ends of the court and when team plays as well as they do on offense *and* on defense they’re going to win a lot of games. The Jazz had the #4 scoring offense in the league (116.4 PPG) and the #3 scoring defense (107.2 PPG) which gave them the best differential in the league (+9.2 PPG) by a significant margin over the second place Los Angeles Clippers (+6.1 PPG).
The Jazz lost a shocker to the Memphis Grizzlies at home to open their current series but have looked dominant ever since winning 141-129 at home in Game 2 and 121-111 in Memphis for Game 3. Donovan Mitchell is back in the lineup and scoring in buckets. Rudy Gobert is playing his typically monstrous defense and Mike Conley is distributing the ball better than at any point in his career. Utah doesn’t really have any weaknesses in any phase of the game and were it not for the presence of two massive ‘public’ teams in the West–the Clippers and Lakers–they would be a minus money chalk to win the conference title. At any plus money price they’re a value. This weekend’s tragic death of legendary bigman Mark Eaton could serve as a motivational boost–he was beloved not only by the Jazz fanbase but by many of the current players particularly Gobert who was especially tight with Eaton. Jazz are capable of winning the West and the NBA Championship on talent alone and become all the more dangerous if they have an emotional factor.
UTAH JAZZ +210 TO WIN WESTERN CONFERENCE
PHOENIX SUNS: The Phoenix Suns finished with the second best record in the Western Conference just one game behind the Utah Jazz. Their reward for this success was a matchup with the defending champion LA Lakers who made it through the ‘play in’ segment. The media narrative before the series was that the Lakers are ‘getting healthy at the right time’ and that the Suns were in trouble. The reality is a bit different. LeBron James has started to show glimpses of age and it’s doubtful that he can carry this team by himself. That’s a problem since Anthony Davis is listed as ‘questionable’ for Game 5 due to a groin injury. AD’s defense is crucial against the offensively minded Suns and Phoenix has renewed confidence after winning Game 4 in LA to tie the series. The Lakers aren’t in great shape but they still have one of the strongest ‘brand names’ in the NBA which is why they’re a +250 second choice to win the West. Even if AD’s injury isn’t serious–and there’s a lot of concern within the organization that he won’t be able to play Game 5–they’re still *way* overvalued. Instead, the value is on the Phoenix Suns who did nothing all year but win and win consistently.
PHOENIX SUNS +675 TO WIN WESTERN CONFERENCE
DENVER NUGGETS: The Denver Nuggets are getting less love from the betting public than Phoenix. After a third place finish in the West this season they’re tied 2-2 with a scrappy Portland Trailblazers team and all of a sudden they’re available at a whopping +1600 to win the West! They’ve got a MVP level talent in Nikola Jokic and an even nastier home court than the Jazz–they went 25-11 at home this year but as is the case with playing in Salt Lake City there’s no better equalizer than forcing teams to play at Denver’s 5,280 feet above sea level. The Nuggets are kind of in the shadows of the NHL Colorado Avalanche this year–the Avs look like a legit Stanley Cup contender–but they’re still a very good team that could come out of the West. They might not be on the level of the Utah Jazz put at +1600 they don’t have to be.
DENVER NUGGETS +1600 TO WIN WESTERN CONFERENCE
DALLAS MAVERICKS: The Mavericks might be a ‘couple of years away’ but that hasn’t stopped them from giving the LA Clippers all they can handle. The series is tied 2-2 but the Mavs are +325 despite it. The series price is the best value on the betting board at the moment but Luka Donic is a big time star. He’s had neck issues during this series but if he’s feeling better as reports suggest he’s virtually unstoppable. You never know what you’re going to get from the Clippers–a brutally talented but chemistry challenged team. Mavs at +2500 sets up plenty of hedge possibilities down the road should they advance out of this series.
DALLAS MAVERICKS +2500 TO WIN WESTERN CONFERENCE