NBA Championship Odds 2013-14: Every Team's Chances of Winning the Title
The NBA is back.
Slam dunks, three-pointers, chase-down blocks, crossovers. You can expect 'em all to show up in full force as the Association's star players return to the hardwood.
However, they aren't worried about creating highlights. Those will be nice, but it's still all about chasing a championship. The Larry O'Brien Trophy is the ultimate goal, and only one team can hold it up after the 2014 NBA Finals.
Right now, every team has a shot at winning a title.
There are teams that clearly have no interest in a championship this year, but they still aren't mathematically eliminated yet. So I guess they have a chance?
We'll start out with those and count down to the team with the best odds at hoisting the trophy. Something tells me that won't be much of a surprise, though.
30. Philadelphia 76ers
I'm prepared to back up these odds with my own bank account.
If you want to wire me over some money (literally any amount that you so choose), feel free to do so. And if the Philadelphia 76ers somehow win a title with a roster that features—in the words of their own head coach—six NBA players, I'll find a way to pay you literally all the money in the world.
We're going with the incredibly rare infinite odds.
There's a far better chance of the Sixers going 0-82 than even sniffing .500, which may not be good enough to advance to the playoffs in the Eastern Conference this season.
Title Odds: ∞-1
29. Phoenix Suns
With Marcin Gortat headed across the country to join the Washington Wizards, the Phoenix Suns now boast four centers on the roster.
Emeka Okafor is out for an indefinite period of time and seems likely to miss the entire season. Alex Len's status is uncertain, and he has yet to prove that either of his lower extremities can remain healthy.
That leaves Miles Plumlee and Viacheslav Kravtsov. One of those two—probably Plumlee—will be the opening-day starter at center.
Doesn't that just about say it all for the title odds? At best, an unproven rookie who will require plenty of adjustment will be serving as the man in the middle by the end of the year.
Phoenix isn't in the same category as Philadelphia, but "tanking" is the word du jour in the desert.
Title Odds: 1,000-1
28. Utah Jazz
It's not just the injury to Trey Burke, one that will keep him out for the first handful of games and put him squarely behind the eight ball as he begins his NBA career.
It's not just Gordon Hayward's failure to excel during the preseason as the Utah Jazz's No. 1 option on offense.
It's not just the fact that Tyrone Corbin is not long for Salt Lake City.
Nothing points toward immediate success for the Jazz, even if there are plenty of promising pieces in place. Utah will be back in playoff contention down the road, but there's a lot of traveling that has to be done first.
It's going to be ugly in 2013-14.
Title Odds: 500-1
27. Charlotte Bobcats
The Charlotte Bobcats aren't going to be completely awful in 2013-14.
In fact, they'll finish with a better record in the Eastern Conference than the Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic and—yes—the Boston Celtics. However, how much upside does this team actually have?
That's at the heart of every question about title odds, after all.
Even if Kemba Walker continues blossoming into an All-Star point guard and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist learns how to shoot jumpers, there isn't enough frontcourt defense to avoid hemorrhaging points in the paint on a regular basis. Nor is there enough consistent perimeter shooting.
The Bobcats are finally building a competent—dare I say quality—team, but that doesn't mean a playoff berth is in the cards.
Much less a title.
Title Odds: 450-1
26. Milwaukee Bucks
There's only so much that can go right for the Milwaukee Bucks, even if the front office commits to the younger players and lets John Henson and Giannis Antetokounmpo get major minutes.
While a lineup featuring Brandon Knight, O.J. Mayo, the "Greek Freak," Henson and Larry Sanders would be incredibly fun to watch and make Jay Bilas swoon (all the wingspan), it still isn't ready to compete with the better teams in the Eastern Conference.
Antetokounmpo isn't ready for NBA ball quite yet. While he contributed some highlight-reel plays during the preseason, he still missed far too many shots, fouled incessantly and turned the ball over with alarming frequency.
Efficiency was not in his vocabulary, nor will it be throughout his rookie season.
Just as has been the case over the last few seasons, mid-level mediocrity is the ultimate destination for the Bucks. It doesn't matter who is on the roster, as Milwaukee is doomed to finish right near the bottom of the lottery until it commits to a full rebuild.
Title Odds: 350-1
25. Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings have plenty of solid pieces.
DeMarcus Cousins is going to use the 2013-14 campaign to prove that he was worth the max contract he signed in the offseason. Using his incredible athleticism and sharpshooting abilities, Ben McLemore will factor heavily into the Rookie of the Year race. Isaiah Thomas and Greivis Vasquez form a nice one-two punch at point guard.
The list of solid players goes on and on.
However, chemistry is nonexistent right now, and there's not enough established star power in Sac-Town. The Kings need someone to join "Boogie" as an All-Star candidate, and until that happens, it's going to be impossible for them to keep pace with the other playoff contenders in the Western Conference.
It might be possible in the future, but McLemore and the rest of the top contributors need more seasoning first.
Title Odds: 325-1
24. Boston Celtics
I have no idea how the Boston Celtics are going to score points.
According to Basketball-Reference, the C's scored 103.1 points per 100 possessions in 2012-13, good for the No. 24 mark in the league. Now take away Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry. Then remember that Rajon Rondo doesn't have a definite return date.
How exactly are they going to hit even that low mark?
They aren't, and they'll be completely reliant on defense despite a frontcourt that features exactly zero established defensive stoppers.
The playoffs are a pipe dream, but the eventual return of Rondo—a bona fide star who can carry a team on some nights—at least boosts the title odds a little bit.
Title Odds: 300-1
23. Orlando Magic
How much fun would a starting lineup comprised of Victor Oladipo, Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson and Nikola Vucevic be?
But fun doesn't necessarily translate to success.
That's the battle that the Orlando Magic will be facing all season. They have a ton of young, intriguing parts to mess around with, and they'll likely be competitive most times that they take to the court. But they're in no way ready to be consistently decent, and that ultimately keeps them far away from the realm of playoff contenders.
The Magic have enough upside—I mean, read those names again—that they can earn better title odds than many of the other bottom-feeders in either conference, but it's not like they're going to win a championship anytime soon.
Title Odds: 200-1
22. Atlanta Hawks
Now that the Washington Wizards strengthened their roster with the addition of Marcin Gortat, the Atlanta Hawks are dealing with some dwindling playoff hopes.
I currently have them penciled in at No. 8 in the Eastern Conference with the ability to rise up to No. 6, but the Hawks could also fall out of the postseason picture thanks to teams like the Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors. There aren't enough spots to go around.
But while Atlanta is the first true playoff team to appear in this countdown of the NBA's title odds, it doesn't have much upside. Even if Dennis Schroeder is a Rookie of the Year favorite, Atlanta doesn't have that No. 1 option who can carry a team in the postseason.
Al Horford is close to qualifying as such, but he's still not there. And no one else on the roster is either.
Just as Hawks fans have come to expect, a first-round postseason exit appears to be in the cards.
Title Odds: 150-1
21. Dallas Mavericks
I'm getting worried about the Dallas Mavericks.
While there are already plenty of concerns about the team's defensive play and ability to fend off the bulk of teams that want to earn one of the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference, there are now problems with the offense.
Monta Ellis is already bucking at his role as a facilitator, and that doesn't bode well for his ability to coexist with Dirk Nowitzki. He has to become a primary distributor if the Mavs are going to enjoy a successful season.
Plus, this is an old roster.
Once the playoffs roll around, Dallas will be counting on Dirk, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, Samuel Dalembert and Jose Calderon for quality contributions. That's not a recipe for a successful postseason run.
Title Odds: 140-1
20. Los Angeles Lakers
That's the sole reason that the Los Angeles Lakers have title odds this favorable. And yes, "125-1" qualifies as favorable for a team with a roster that looks this uninspiring.
Lakers fans are trying to get excited about players like Nick Young, Xavier Henry, Shawne Williams and Jordan Farmar. That right there should say it all.
Sure, the "Mamba" could return relatively early on in the 2013-14 season, buck the odds to play at 100 percent in the not-too-distant wake of the much-publicized Achilles injury and carry the team into the playoffs.
But what then?
It's unlikely enough that the Lake Show plays more than 82 games. It's far more unlikely that the team gets to hold up the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Title Odds: 125-1
19. Minnesota Timberwolves
Is this finally the year that the Minnesota Timberwolves make the playoffs and remove that ignominious stain from Kevin Love's resume?
If that happens, it won't be solely because of Love. As good as the power forward is, he isn't capable of carrying an injury-decimated squad past the regular season.
Ricky Rubio has to blossom into a star point guard, and that means starting to gamble less on defense and hitting some of his jumpers. Seriously, just some would be an improvement.
But beyond that, the 'Wolves must stay healthy and provide enough help for the two stars. I'm looking at you, Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer.
Title Odds: 115-1
18. Denver Nuggets
A lot has to go right for the Denver Nuggets to win a title. And that "lot" extends to a few other teams, as stars would need to go down for the postseason in order to give the Nuggets a chance.
But let's focus on the internal needs, since injuries are out of Denver's control and really shouldn't be predicted anyway.
Denver has three crucial storylines that determine its upside in 2013-14:
- Danilo Gallinari must return from his torn ACL in a reasonable time frame. His scoring is key to Denver's offense now more than ever.
- Ty Lawson must look like he did after the All-Star break. He was much more comfortable with his ball-handling responsibilities, and that's highly important following the departure of Andre Iguodala.
- JaVale McGee is the starting center. That's terrifying.
Even if all three of those keys work out in Denver's favor, the Nuggets still don't have enough talent to keep pace with the upper-echelon teams in the Western Conference.
Title Odds: 100-1
17. Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons are the first team in the rankings that truly boasts an elite collection of talent.
Following the offseason acquisitions of Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith, the Pistons can put together a four-man group that rivals any quartet in the NBA. Greg Monroe is already one of the league's upper-level big men, and Andre Drummond appears well on his way to surpassing his frontcourt mate.
However, can they all work together?
Chemistry and floor spacing are going to be major issues throughout the season, and they could ultimately keep Detroit out of the postseason if the jump-shooters on the team go through prolonged slumps. Maurice Cheeks has his work cut out for him during his first season as the team's head coach.
Still, if Detroit puts it all together, there's enough talent to run with most teams in the Association.
Title Odds: 90-1
16. Washington Wizards
In my last set of title odds, the Washington Wizards checked in at No. 22 with "175-1" odds to win a championship.
Then they traded for Marcin Gortat and shot up the ranks. It's not that Gortat is a worldbeater at center. In fact, I don't even have him listed as one of the 100 best players in the NBA.
However, Gortat is the perfect fit for Washington.
For the first time in a while, he'll be the No. 3 offensive option (No. 4 on some nights), allowing him to focus his efforts on setting screens, playing defense and grabbing boards. It's a great gig for Gortat, and it's exactly what the Wizards needed since they were faced with going into the season featuring Nene and Kevin Seraphin as the primary centers.
Somewhere, John Wall was shuddering. But not anymore.
Title Odds: 85-1
15. Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors have a ton of talent on the roster. It's just a matter of how long it stays there, as a poor start could cause new general manager Masai Ujiri to pull the trigger and start wheeling and dealing. If he does that, no one is safe.
But, let's assume that everything goes smoothly.
All of a sudden, you're looking at a team led by Rudy Gay (who can see now), DeMar DeRozan (who improved his jumper over the offseason), Kyle Lowry (who finally stays healthy) and Jonas Valanciunas (who breaks out, as expected).
That's not a bad four-man core. In fact, it's good enough to steer Canada's NBA representatives into the postseason.
But beyond that, the Raptors would have to get very lucky in order to advance more than a single round past the regular season.
This team is on the right track, but there's still work to be done. At least the Raptors aren't starting from the bottom before they get here.
Title Odds: 80-1
14. Portland Trail Blazers
It's hard not to love what the Portland Trail Blazers did over the summer.
The front office in Rip City knew that the two biggest weaknesses were depth and frontcourt defense. LaMarcus Aldridge had far too much pressure on him while playing alongside J.J. Hickson, and alleviating some of that was just as important as shoring up the second unit.
Neither of those is a weakness anymore.
Robin Lopez is a great defensive center, quite possibly the most underrated player in basketball on that end of the court. Few big men are better at slowing down pick-and-rolls, and he ain't too shabby in other situations.
Plus, Portland upgraded the bench significantly by adding C.J. McCollum (who will eventually return from his broken foot), Mo Williams, Dorell Wright and Thomas Robinson.
All of a sudden, the Blazers are looking like playoff contenders while featuring two stars: Aldridge and Damian Lillard. If the latter can take the next step and become a two-way presence, watch out.
Title Odds: 75-1
13. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers aren't going to sneak up on people in 2013-14. Even though "Uncle Drew" is on the roster, they aren't going to catch everyone off guard like a makeup-covered Kyrie Irving does at pickup basketball games.
Everyone is aware that the Cavs boast a great core now.
Between Irving and Dion Waiters, Cleveland figures to have one of the top backcourts in the NBA, and the frontcourt isn't too bad either. Tristan Thompson is poised for a huge third season, and the other options (Anderson Varejao, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Bynum, in particular) should all do great things.
I'm actually starting to place a little bit of faith in Bynum's recovery know that he's participating in five-on-five drills without setback. If he can somehow regain the form he reached with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Cavs will suddenly challenge the New York Knicks for the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference.
But for now, they're still looking likely to fight for one of those final three playoff berths throughout the season. They'll come down to the Cavs, Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards, Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors, and Cleveland is the most talented of the bunch.
Title Odds: 70-1
12. New Orleans Pelicans
If I were a betting man, this might be a place where I'd lay down a few dollars.
The New Orleans Pelicans aren't even favorites to advance to the postseason in the gauntlet that is the Western Conference, but there's still so much upside on this team.
Tyreke Evans is finally in a new situation. Jrue Holiday has quality teammates to ease the burden he felt last year during his breakout campaign with the Philadelphia 76ers. Eric Gordon is healthy and happy.
Anthony Davis is, well, Anthony Davis.
Across the board, there's upside overflowing into the bayou. And if it all comes together, then the Pelicans will be one of those teams that absolutely no one wants to face. There's potential for two-way excellence, and a lineup of Holiday, Gordon, Evans, Ryan Anderson and "The Unibrow" can outscore anyone if it clicks early on in the season.
Can you tell I'm excited about this team?
Title Odds: 50-1
11. Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies still have an elite team—just like they did in 2012-13—but they didn't make enough offseason changes to keep pace with the rest of the Western Conference. When the big moves involve Kosta Koufos, Mike Miller and Jamaal Franklin...
While Mike Conley and the other standouts from this team are still in place, it's all about David Joerger.
If he can't get this team to generate easy looks from beyond the three-point arc, Memphis fans will drown their sorrows in Joergerbombs Jagerbombs. And so far, the early indications haven't been positive, as the Grizz shot worse from downtown during the preseason than they did last year.
Floor spacing and finding a go-to scorer will continue to be problematic for the Grizzlies throughout the season, but they're talented enough on defense to overcome any sort of offensive woes in the regular season.
In the playoffs, though, that might be a different story.
Title Odds: 40-1
10. Golden State Warriors
It's all about health for the Golden State Warriors.
Can Stephen Curry's ankles take the stress of another NBA season in a leading role? Can Andrew Bogut spend an entire campaign on the court without experiencing another one of his trademark freak injuries?
If either one of those guys goes down, the Dubs will have some serious trouble advancing past all of the other tough teams in the Western Conference. Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and David Lee are all quality players, but it's hard to see them having the two-way success necessary to win a championship without the two injury-prone studs.
Golden State will be exciting. There's no doubt about that.
But it may still be another year of offseason additions before the Warriors are ready to hold up a trophy.
Title Odds: 35-1
9. New York Knicks
The New York Knicks' season rests on the shoulder of Carmelo Anthony.
No, not his shoulders. His shoulder.
If that joint pops and 'Melo is forced to miss time, the Knicks won't have a solution. There simply aren't enough established offensive options to replace his scoring, making his health of paramount importance. As long as Anthony is in the lineup, the Knicks will be a team right on the verge of being elite. But if he's gone...
For that matter, Tyson Chandler can't afford to go down either.
The Knicks have a lot of talent on the roster, but that doesn't make them title favorites. Not much points to sustained success in the playoffs at this stage, although that could change if Iman Shumpert and an unexpected frontcourt member start to break out.
Title Odds: 30-1
8. Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets supposedly have two problems in their pursuit of a title.
First, they have to figure out what to do at point guard.
So far, it appears as though Patrick Beverley will be the starter, with Jeremy Lin playing starter's minutes off the bench. That's a positive decision, as the first unit needs the defense/shooting and the second team needs Lin's playmaking. As long as both point guards accept their titles, this won't be a real problem.
But the second one could be.
What are the Rockets going to do about their power forwards?
The early indications point toward Dwight Howard and Omer Asik playing together, but I still think that's ultimately redundant and won't be effective. A different solution will eventually be necessary, and it'll determine how far Houston can go in the postseason once it locks up a spot.
And the Rockets will lock up a stop.
Title Odds: 25-1
7. Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets have one of the most unguardable lineups in basketball and a Swiss army knife (Andrei Kirilenko) coming off the bench.
Talk about having to pick your poison.
Do the Nets' opponents try to slow down Deron William's crossover, Joe Johnson's isolation game, Paul Pierce's shot-creating abilities and jumper, Kevin Garnett's silky-smooth mid-range shot or Brook Lopez's interior offense? There's no good answer to that question.
However, Brooklyn still has its flaws.
Not only do the Nets have to develop immediate chemistry under a first-year head coach, but they also have to overcome the adverse effects of age and the wear and tear of an NBA season. Brooklyn's roster might seem built for a postseason run in terms of playing style, but then you look at the number of years each prominent member of the rotation has already racked up.
Title Odds: 24-1
6. Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers are built for regular-season success, but that won't carry over to the postseason unless Doc Rivers does magical things with the frontcourt.
Right now, it looks like the Clips are going to struggle tremendously whenever attempting to stop opposing big men. DeAndre Jordan has been much-improved protecting the rim throughout the preseason, but he's the only one.
Blake Griffin has to step up, because Byron Mullens, Ryan Hollins and Antawn Jamison certainly aren't going to. And really, that's the theme of the season.
Griffin must do more than become a defensive presence; he has to develop consistency on the other end, particularly with his mid-range shooting and burgeoning arsenal of post moves. If that happens, LAC gains another solid scoring option who can open things up for the half-court sets.
The Clippers are still my pick to emerge with the top record in the Western Conference, but that won't prevent another premature exit from the more critical part of the season.
Title Odds: 20-1
5. Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers upgraded their second unit by adding Luis Scola, Chris Copeland and C.J. Watson, but how much of an upgrade is that? Scola is a valuable addition, sure, but it's not like the bench mob is going to scare many opposing teams.
It might terrify the Philadelphia 76ers, but so too would a D-League squad at this point.
Indiana is still an elite team capable of dethroning the Miami Heat, but the Pacers shouldn't be considered favorites quite yet. Not only do they have to prove that the bench works together, but they also have to find a backup plan in case David West gets hurt.
While West is the No. 3 player on the team—behind both Paul George and Roy Hibbert—he's the most important member. A two-way presence whose intensity allows him to function as the heart and soul of the team, West just can't afford to miss much time.
And with the years continuing to pile up, it'll be harder than ever for him to remain a potent contributor throughout the year.
Title Odds: 12-1
4. San Antonio Spurs
Don't bet against the San Antonio Spurs. Ever.
Seriously, don't do it. You'll rue the day for a long time.
Even though Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are all a year older, they're still crucial parts of an elite Spurs team. Again. And this time, Kawhi Leonard is going to be a huge contributor from start to finish, which alleviates some of the pressure on the aging Big Three.
While Duncan and Parker are on the roster and Gregg Popovich is pacing the sidelines, exuding utter disdain during between-quarter interviews, San Antonio will factor heavily into the race for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
We say every year that you should't doubt the Spurs. No one ever listens but instead starts to doubt the perennial powerhouse at some point during the season.
Try to change that this year.
Title Odds: 8-1
3. Chicago Bulls
Hey, did you hear that this Derrick Rose guy is back?
The Chicago Bulls are a different team with the dynamic point guard on the court, and it's a positive change. D-Rose looked like an even better version of his pre-injury self during the preseason, boasting an improved jumper and just as much explosiveness and athleticism as before.
And if that's not just a mirage, then the Bulls will be an elite defensive team and a squad capable of lighting up the scoreboard. Rose, Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer are all solid scorers, after all.
The Bulls are now the biggest threats to the Miami Heat for Eastern Conference supremacy. There's no doubt about that with the former MVP back in action.
They'll be right in the hunt for the No. 1 seed in the conference, but that's not the primary goal.
A championship is.
Title Odds: 7-1
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
Are the Oklahoma City Thunder the best team in the Western Conference right now?
Nope, not even close.
Without Russell Westbrook in the lineup, they might not even be one of the five best teams in the conference, trailing the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and maybe the Memphis Grizzlies.
But that's irrelevant.
We're talking about title odds, not the chances of making the playoffs and emerging with the No. 1 seed.
When the postseason rolls around, the Thunder's young players will have come around to join Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka in a stacked lineup. And that's a squad that can advance past a number of other contenders and square off with an Eastern Conference squad for the title.
Title Odds: 6-1
1. Miami Heat
There's still no reason to doubt the Miami Heat.
Not only do they boast the services of basketball's best player, who also happens to be the reigning MVP, but they have a roster stacked from top to bottom. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh haven't started declining yet, and thinking otherwise is nonsensical. Their roles are changing, and nothing more.
The Heat may also have found some sparks off the bench.
I'd still hesitate to count on Greg Oden—even though he played during the preseason—but Michael Beasley is actually looking like he'll be a rotation member. He's playing defense, which is a great way to earn minutes in an Erik Spoelstra lineup.
But again, it's all about LeBron James. As long as he's healthy, Miami is one of the best teams in basketball.
Title Odds: 3-1