Each of the 16 teams that reached the NBA playoffs has a chance to win a title with 16 wins in the next few weeks. Of course, some squads have a much better chance of accomplishing this goal than others.
Heading into the postseason, there are limited teams that appear capable of making a run to a title. With a seven-game series, there are few upsets and the underdogs that are able to get through one round are rarely able to continue the trend.
This is something to consider when predicting teams to go the distance. Of course, there are still a few middling sleepers that can surprise fans this spring. Considering the top teams like the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs have low payouts, it might be smarter to grab one of these other options when betting.
Here is a look at the odds (via Odds Shark) to win a title followed by the best sleeper options available.
|Golden State Warriors||30-1|
|Los Angeles Clippers||9-1|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||4-1|
|Portland Trail Blazers||35-1|
|San Antonio Spurs||7-2|
Brooklyn Nets (35-1)
Looking at the Nets, it might be valuable to take a look at what happened in college basketball this season. Kentucky started the year as the preseason No. 1, but the extremely talented bunch struggled to put it all together until the postseason, making a run to the national championship game.
Brooklyn has veteran players, but it took a while for them to get used to playing together under rookie head coach Jason Kidd.
The Nets played well in the second half of the year up until the last two weeks. However, this simply allows the squad to get a better matchup against the Toronto Raptors instead of the Chicago Bulls. While the Raptors have plenty of talent, they are inexperienced and do not play anywhere near the defense of Chicago.
Additionally, the squad can go into the playoffs better rested, as noted by Kidd, via Scott Sargent of ESPN.com:
I like right where we are. We are in a good place and playing some pretty good basketball as of late. We’ve rested and guys have gotten their work in at the same time of getting some of the injuries they’ve had -- some of the nicks and bruises -- healed. Now it’s time to figure out how to get a win on the road.
If the Nets get past the Raptors in the first round, they will likely have to beat the Heat and the Indiana Pacers in consecutive rounds to get to the finals. However, they have each struggled down the stretch and are no longer as fearsome.
Houston Rockets (18-1)
No one in the Western Conference has an easy run to the finals, and the Rockets are no different. They first face the red-hot Portland Trail Blazers and then will likely match up against the Spurs in the next round.
However, it might surprise many to find out that Houston went 7-1 against these two teams during the regular season. The squad swept the Spurs, as it showed it can step up the effort in big games.
The Rockets had the No. 2 offense in basketball this season, slightly behind the Oklahoma City Thunder. James Harden has turned himself into a legitimate star, ranking fifth in the league with 25.4 points per game. He has also reached historic levels within the franchise:
Harden's regular season over as first Rockets player to ave 25 ppg in consecutive seasons since Hakeem's 4 straight from 1992-93 to 95-96.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) April 16, 2014
With a fast-paced attack that features deadly outside shooting as well as Dwight Howard in the post, this squad can outscore anyone.
The question is whether the Rockets can play good enough defense to advance. A healthy Patrick Beverley helps on the perimeter, but the rest of the team needs to make an effort.
If the squad is focused enough to improve just a little bit on this end of the court, the Rockets could be deadly.
Chicago Bulls (40-1)
Looking at the Bulls lineup as currently constructed, it is difficult to understand how they made the playoffs, let alone grabbed a No. 4 seed. Former MVP Derrick Rose was injured just 10 games into the year and then-leading scorer Luol Deng was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
However, head coach Tom Thibodeau made sure the team focuses on playing excellent defense, something that helped the squad all year. At just 91.8 points allowed per game, Chicago has the No. 1 unit in the league, and it will slow down many elite players in the playoffs.
In the first round, Chicago will host the Washington Wizards, who will feature a number of players making their postseason debut. John Wall is one of them after posting a great season, but he will struggle to find any breathing room against the elite team defense.
Things would get tougher for the Bulls after the first round, but ESPN's Jay Williams thinks the Indiana Pacers will have similar problems:
Indiana now will see the Bulls in the 2nd rd. Wondering if those scoring woes will continue vs the best defense in the league. #NBaPlayoffs— Jay Williams (@RealJayWilliams) April 17, 2014
Chicago will have to come through offensively, and the squad proved last year that key players step up in the clutch. A year ago, it was Nate Robinson and Jimmy Butler who almost upset the Heat. This year, D.J. Augustin has shown the ability to carry the offense at times and could do it again in the playoffs.
The Eastern Conference is weaker than it has been in past years, and the Bulls have as good of a chance as anyone of getting through into the finals.
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