NBA Championship Breakdown: Favorites & Underdogs

Another NBA season is winding down. For some, it’s a crushing time for fans to watch their team fail to make the playoffs. For others, this is right when the momentum starts to pick up and their team drives for a Finals appearance. Every year, the conclusion of the regular season marks this all-or-nothing moment—but the 2023-24 NBA season hasn’t quite panned out as usual.

At the start of the season, all eyes were on the Denver Nuggets to repeat their last championship win a la the late-2010s Dubs. Though they’re still listed near the top of championship lines, other contenders have stepped into the arena, including the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Oklahoma Thunder. Whether they have staying power remains to be seen.

As we gear up for another NBA Finals, fans are looking to back favorites and underdogs. One of the easiest ways to assess the competition is to get to know more about OddsChecker, a platform that connects you to the latest NBA lines, analysis, and official picks. There, you can dive into the nitty-gritty of every favorite, underdog, and long shot.

If you’re looking to bet on an outright favorite or hedge your bets with an underdog, then stick to one of the options below. We’re listing out the top favorites and potential underdogs as the playoffs begin.

Favorite: Boston Celtics

The Celtics are the strong favorite at most sportsbooks. Thanks to next-level performances from Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the team has been at the top of the Eastern Conference for most of the season. The same goes for newcomer Kristaps Porzingis, who has become one of the team’s offensive weapons.

The Celtics entered the playoffs with 14 wins more than their closets competitor. So long as they stay healthy, it looks like Boston is in great shape to outperform other Eastern Conference competitors—especially when playing from home. The team has been almost unbeatable from their home court in Boston.

Favorite: Denver Nuggets

That being said, the Celtics will have to beat the Nuggets if they want to take home the Finals crown. Most analysts expect the team to excel in the playoffs as they beeline toward a Finals appearance.

Not only do they have two-time MVP Nikola Jokic to lead the way (who’s also a favorite for a Finals MVP nod), but they also have a handful of experienced players who won’t be nervous in the current playoffs run. On top of that, the team is hungry for a second franchise championship win.

Favorite: Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves’ performance this year has been one for the books. The team entered the season with a talented roster, including Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert, and Anthony Edwards. But few expected them to gel together as quickly as they did.

As the regular season unfolded, the Timberwolves shifted from an underdog to a favorite. Unfortunately for this crack trio, some analysts feel they’re a little too green to push their way through the playoffs.

Favorite: Minnesota Timberwolves

Underdog: LA Clippers

Is it finally time for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to take home a championship for the Clippers? Though they certainly haven’t shown enough to sway their odds in the past, the team now has James Harden to push them through the playoffs. Not only does Harden have plenty of experience in the playoffs, but Leonard also has two Finals MVP nods under his belt.

Since being removed from last year’s playoffs thanks to a torn meniscus, Leonard has returned to the court looking strong throughout the season. Still, not everyone is convinced this will be the Clippers’ year thanks to their previous missteps in the playoffs.

Underdog: Miami Heat

Last year’s playoff performance has been enough to carry the Heat into this year’s top underdogs. Though they haven’t been overwhelmingly dominant in the Eastern Conference and entered the playoffs at the bottom of the pack, they do have Erik Spoelstra’s vision to help push them through.

Unfortunately for the Heat, one of their most elite postseason superstars, Jimmy Butler (aka Playoff Jimmy), quickly exited the first playoff series. On April 19, he sprained his MCL, meaning he’ll be absent from the rest of the team’s postseason. Can the Miami Heat upset magnificent odds this year?

Underdog: Philadelphia 76ers

Similar to the Heat, the 76ers are a hotly debated underdog. Some point to the superstar-level performance of Joel Embiid to continue making a difference. Other analysts aren’t quite as taken with the 76ers, pointing out that Embiid isn’t much of a secret weapon if he’s riding the bench with an injury.

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