Updated NBA Championship Odds and Playoff Predictions

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 11, 2020

Updated NBA Championship Odds and Playoff Predictions

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    As the 2020 NBA playoffs creep toward the conference finals, it's time to take stock of where each of the seven remaining teams stands.

    The Miami Heat are the only squad already in the semifinals, but we're starting to get a clearer picture of who else will join them.

    Odds change with each daily result, but the battle for Los Angeles (via Florida) looks to be on its way in the Western Conference. Miami, meanwhile, is one game away from discovering its opponent in the Eastern Conference Finals.

    To see where each squad stands now, as well as where it might end up, scroll below.

Denver Nuggets

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets already overcame a 3-1 deficit this postseason, but the Los Angeles Clippers are a much tougher test than the Utah Jazz.

    If you remove Denver's 17-of-24 first quarter in Game 2, the Nuggets are shooting just 41.7 percent against this defense. Over the course of the entire series, Nuggets not named Jokic are at 41.5 percent.

    Finding decent looks against the length and switchability of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Marcus Morris Sr. and Patrick Beverley has proved difficult. And if Denver isn't scoring at its typical level, it's in trouble. This isn't a roster that can grind out many wins through its defense, especially against a title contender.

    Jamal Murray returning to anywhere near the form he displayed against the Jazz would obviously help, but the real key might be Michael Porter Jr.

    At 6'10", he has the size to effectively shoot over those switchy defenders, and he's the only rotation player who doesn't have a negative plus-minus in this series.

    Getting him more involved would force L.A. to commit more defensive attention, thus loosening things up for the two stars.

    "We kept going to [Jokic] and [Murray] and they are two amazing players, but I just think to beat them we need to get more players involved," Porter said of his team's offense fading down the stretch of Game 4. "We have to move the ball a little bit better. We can't be predictable against that team."

    The Murray-Jokic pick-and-roll is one of the most entertaining sets in the league, but more kickouts to a scorer like Porter, who is averaging over 20 points per 36 minutes in the bubble, would reduce that predictability.

    The Nuggets will do that a bit more in Game 5 and stave off elimination, but the Clippers will bounce back and end the series in six.

    Championship Odds: +12000

Houston Rockets

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The Houston Rockets' micro-ball experiment is on the brink of elimination at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers, who feature one of the game's best big men.

    Following L.A.'s Game 4 victory, Anthony Davis is averaging 28.5 points, 12.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks against Houston. The Rockets simply don't have an answer for him.

    They'll go down with this ship, though. Tyson Chandler, the only traditional 5 on the roster, has only appeared in one playoff game. Before that, his most recent appearance was in February. Despite the playoff struggles, Houston is committed to this strategy.

    So far this postseason, the Rockets have posted the top three and four of the top five single-game totals for three-point attempts by a team. They'll go out in a blaze of glory in Game 5, hoisting enough threes to secure another spot in the top 10.

    Championship Odds: +5500

Toronto Raptors

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Depth and roster balance were key to the Toronto Raptors' success throughout the 2019-20 campaign. So, Pascal Siakam's struggles weren't a huge issue during the first-round sweep of the Brooklyn Nets.

    As competition intensifies, though, not having your leading scorer in peak form becomes a problem.

    Prior to the playoffs, Siakam had a below-average 51.2 effective field-goal percentage, and that number has plummeted against the Nets and Boston Celtics. In 10 postseason games, it's a woeful 42.4. And that inefficiency coincides with a cratering of Toronto's entire offense.

    Against Boston, specifically, Siakam has struggled mightily when hounded by the rising stars on the wings. He's 8-of-27 with Jaylen Brown as his primary defender and 7-of-18 when guarded by Jayson Tatum.

    Expect that to continue in Game 7. The size and athleticism of both players make it difficult for Siakam to go around or through them, and he doesn't have enough counters on the perimeter or prowess as a shooter to flip the script.

    That doesn't mean the Celtics will run away with the deciding contest. Again, the Raptors are deep, experienced and resilient. Kyle Lowry and Co. won't leave the bubble without a fight, but they will leave after this round.

    Championship Odds: +1200

Boston Celtics

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Jayson Tatum has never had a triple-double in the NBA, and the 3.0 assists he averaged this regular season were a career high. Those aren't strong indicators that he'll get his first this postseason, but that's the prediction.

    He came up one assist shy of the distinction in Game 6 against Toronto, finishing with 29 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists in the double-overtime thriller. Whether it's in Game 7 against the Raptors or in the conference finals against the Miami Heat, he'll pull off the feat before the playoffs end.

    The deeper Boston gets, the more focused defenses have become on the 22-year-old wing, and he's responded by making the extra pass when he needs to do so. In the second round, he's averaging 5.0 assists. And with defenders like Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala waiting for him, he'll have to keep that trend going.

    Creating for others is the next evolutionary step in Tatum's ascent to superstardom, and this playoff run suggests he's ready to take it.

    Championship Odds: +950

Miami Heat

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The Miami Heat entered the playoffs with the ninth-best title odds. Just under a month later, they're the first team in the conference finals with an upset over the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks under their belt.

    And they've fought their way up to the third-best odds of the seven remaining teams. It's time to start taking their quest for a title seriously.

    "It means a lot [to advance to the conference finals,], but like you said, that's not my goal," Jimmy Butler said after eliminating the Bucks. "That's not my guys' goals. That's not the organization's goal. We want to win it. We want a championship, and I think that's what we're focused on."

    In this Disney experiment, where there is no home-court advantage and the playing field is about as level as it can get, Miami can achieve that goal.

    Few defenses boast the versatility of Miami's, which has loads of multipositional stoppers in Butler, Adebayo, Crowder and Iguodala. The Heat are also getting plenty of shooting from Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Goran Dragic, Kelly Olynyk and Crowder.

    And they have legitimate star power at the top of the roster in Adebayo and Butler.

    Miami has a dangerous combination of depth, talent, competitiveness and good coaching. It'll be just enough to sneak by the Celtics in the conference finals, but the title Butler wants will have to wait.

    Championship Odds: +390

Los Angeles Lakers

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    We may be witnessing the passing of the torch.

    LeBron James is in the midst of his 14th playoff appearance. The 2011 postseason was the only one in which he didn't lead his team in playoff wins over replacement player (Dwyane Wade led those Miami Heat). In most of his postseason runs, LeBron at least doubled his nearest teammate's total. In a few cases, he had more than the rest of the roster combined.

    In 2020, Anthony Davis leads the Lakers in the catch-all stat. And through most of two rounds, while LeBron is still engineering the offense, it appears AD is the No. 1 option.

    He's averaging more points, field-goal attempts and free-throw attempts per 100 possessions than LeBron, and those trends will hold through the Western Conference Finals.

    Championship Odds: +210

Los Angeles Clippers

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    They've stumbled here and there. Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks took two games off them. The Nuggets shellshocked them with that first quarter in Game 2. Other than that, though, the Los Angeles Clippers look like a team worthy of these title odds.

    Of course, Kawhi Leonard is the biggest reason for their strong play. He's averaging 29.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 2.3 steals and 0.9 blocks. He hasn't even found his three-point shot yet, but he's leading the league in playoff wins over replacement player (WORP) for the second year in a row.

    If you combine his WORP over the last two playoff runs, his total is almost 50 percent more than that of second-place Nikola Jokic.

    Few players across league history have been as dominant as Leonard in the playoffs. He has moments that are Michael Jordan-esque on offense and Scottie Pippen-esque on the other end. And even with Paul George struggling from the field, the Clippers are seemingly on cruise control en route to the conference finals.

    The depth provided by Lou Williams, Marcus Morris Sr., Montrezl Harrell, Ivica Zubac and Patrick Beverley helps, but the Clippers will win it all primarily because of the all-time great leading them.

    And when the league announces the winner of this year's Finals MVP, Kawhi will be the first player in NBA history to secure the award for three different teams.

    Championship Odds: +175