As another long and grueling NBA season starts to reach its conclusion, the playoffs are now in sight. While mathematical possibilities remain, many teams have effectively booked their places for the final games of the 2022/23 campaign.
The NBA is the biggest basketball league in the world and the finals are where the excitement builds. The championship pennant is in sight, but who has the form and the strength within their roster to get over the line?
The Famous Five
A number of teams can make it through, but experts are focusing on five franchises as the regular season draws to a close. With around ten games left for each side in that regular campaign, the nba finals odds list the Milwaukee Bucks as the clear favorites.
The chasing pack is led by the second favorites the Boston Celtics, while the top five teams are completed by the Phoenix Suns, the Denver Nuggets and the Golden State Warriors.
There are some seriously talented rosters among those at the very top of the markets, but who has the best chance of coming through and claiming the championship?
Milwaukee Bucks will go into the finals series as favorites following a dominant regular season. Head Coach Mike Budenholzer and his men top the overall Eastern Conference with a record of 51 and 20 from their first 71 games.
That return is the best of any team in the entire NBA for 2022/23, so it’s no surprise that the Bucks are so highly rated.
The key player for Milwaukee across the season has been the giant Power Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. After a brief spell on the sidelines, he returned to help the Bucks deliver a return of 21-2. The team has the best defense in the division, but it’s Antetokounmpo’s contributions at the other end of the pitch that are turning the tide in Milwaukee’s favor.
Nuggets in Pursuit
The team with the best record in the Western Conference are the Denver Nuggets. They may only be third favorites for the NBA Championship but, in a weaker section, they are tipped to go all the way through to the final.
After the first 72 games of the regular season, Denver had a record of 48-24 and that puts them in the clear at the top of the Northwest Division.
The key man for the Nuggets moving forward is Nikola Jokic whose stats show a return of just under 25 points per game. They are coasting to the playoffs, but a run of four straight defeats into March is an obvious concern.
Suns set to Shine?
Phoenix Suns approach the final few games of the regular season with a 38-33 record. They are highly rated, but that return means that they sit down in fourth place in the overall Western Conference standings.
Having traded in Kevin Durant, the Suns have been boosted in the markets, but the departure of Mikal Bridges in the same trade has weakened the defense.
Celtics eye up a Record
For many years the Boston Celtics were the most successful team in the history of the NBA. The team won their 17th Championship in 2008 and that was a record that stood for 12 years until it was matched by the LA Lakers.
The Celtics battled back from a shock at the start of the season, when their former Head Coach Ime Udoka was suspended. Joe Mazzulla stepped in on an interim basis as first, but Boston’s impressive returns saw him land the job full time.
Celtics march into the postseason, but the East is a tough bracket. Injury to Robert Williams is another setback, and Boston face a battle to get through to the finals.
Can Golden State Defend?
After claiming their fifth NBA title in seven years, the Golden State Warriors started the 2022/23 campaign as the defending champions. Their 2022 success came on the back of Stephen Curry’s best ever season, and GSW have coasted to the playoffs once again.
The concern is that the Warriors are a one-man team and Curry’s recent knee injury did nothing to disprove that theory. Further injury issues robbed the roster of Andrew Wiggins and Gary Payton II, and the result is that Golden State’s defense is suspect. The team is also likely to concede home court advantage during the playoffs, and their record on the road is poor.
It may be fair to assume that the winners of the 2023 NBA Championship will come from the Eastern Conference. While the Nuggets are clear in the West, they are struggling for form and four straight defeats suggests that this section is vulnerable.
Over in the east, those teams are more consistent with the Bucks, the team to beat. Milwaukee are in pole position, and look set to convert this time.