Dan Favale | Fri 24/11/2017 - 09:11 EST

Early NBA Playoff Predictions for Both the East and West

Conference and NBA title odds come via TopBet and are accurate as of Nov. 23. Projecting futures is fluid business, so before you make any wagers, confirm these odds with your sportsbook.

Eastern Conference

East

#1 Seed: Boston Celtics

Something about this feels wrong. The Boston Celtics' offense hasn't been great, their 11-2 record during games in which neither side trails by more than five points entering the final five minutes probably won't hold, and their league-best defense feels a bit artificial. But Brad Stevens is a genius, while Kyrie Irving and Al Horford have developed nice chemistry. They've built a big enough cushion to lord over the East for the entire year. 

#2 Seed: Cleveland Cavaliers

In no way, shape or form should this surprise you. The Cleveland Cavaliers haven't been great to start this year, but things are coming together. They own the NBA's longest winning streak at this writing (six games), through which they're fourth in offensive efficiency and 11th in defensive efficiency. They'll start to hum even more once Isaiah Thomas is healthy. Besides, they still have LeBron James. So while they may not have the East's best record at year's end, they're still the favorites to make the NBA Finals.

#3 Seed: Toronto Raptors

Don't flinch at this. Embrace it. The Toronto Raptors barely register as a threat to come out of the East; they don't generate enough ball movement to be unpredictable in the playoffs. But their offense looks more contemporary overall, Kyle Lowry is starting to round into form, and they have one of the two best shot profiles in the conference.

#4 Seed: Philadelphia 76ers

Surprised? You shouldn't be. The only reason the Philadelphia 76ers shouldn't be slotted in the top five is if we're assuming injuries, which we just can't do. And when they're healthy, they're dangerous. They're outscoring opponents by more than 18 points per 100 possessions when Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Robert Covington share the floor—what would by far and away be the best net rating in the league.

#5 Seed: Washington Wizards

No risks here. The Washington Wizards are a bona fide playoff team. They could end up higher in a different version of this latter later on. But they're still woefully shallow. All-bench units led by Kelly Oubre Jr. are going to hold them back. They'll jostle for a fourth or fifth seed unless they strike a trade or shake up the rotation. 

#6 Seed: Milwaukee Bucks

This one was tough. You should want the Milwaukee Bucks to be higher. They have a lot of potential in their Giannis Antetokounmpo, Malcolm Brogdon, Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton core. But integrating Bledsoe on offense will take time (it already is), and the defense's hyper-aggressive approach isn't working anymore. Throw in Jabari Parker's return, and the learning curve that'll come with it, and they'll find themselves on the lower end of the playoff picture.

#7 Seed: Detroit Pistons

Though the Detroit Pistons currently hover in the NBA's sweet spot (top 10 of both points scored and points allowed per 100 possessions), they don't have the shooting to sustain their offensive profile. They might be able sneak into the conversation for No. 5 or No. 6, but home-court advantage in the first round should be out of the question.

#8 Seed: Charlotte Hornets

Tough. Tough, tough, tough. This spot could go to the Miami Heat. Or the surprising New York Knicks. Some can talk themselves into the Indiana Pacers or Orlando Magic—especially when the Charlotte Hornets still struggle to score without Kemba Walker. And yet, head coach Steve Clifford has his troops battling, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Nicolas Batum are both finally in the rotation at the same time. This squad has more collective talent on the top end than any of our other options. They won't make noise in the playoffs, but they should, in fact, get there. 

Western Conference

spurs

#1 Seed: Golden State Warriors

Duh. The Houston Rockets won't pace the Western Conference forever. The Warriors are in cruise control and still obliterating opponents. They'll hit a midseason stride in which they rattle off 12-plus victories in a row and regain the No. 1 seed. And hell, even if they don't, they still remain locks to reach, and then win, the NBA Finals.

#2 Seed: Houston Rockets

James Harden and Chris Paul have yet to perfectly coalesce since the latter's return from injury, but they'll get there. The Rockets are one of the few teams in the NBA built to play just about every style, and if their defensive rating continues hovering close to the league average, they'll have no trouble sniffing 60-plus victories.

#3 Seed: Oklahoma City Thunder

This shouldn't make you feel uneasy. Yes, the Oklahoma City Thunder have started the season under .500 (as of this writing). And yes, they are 0-7 during games in which neither side trails by more than three points entering the final three minutes. And finally, yes, their offense is generally bogged down by too much isolation. But they've already figured things out on defense, and their offense has been better of late. They have the fifth best net rating in the league too, despite their sub-.500 record, so don't be taken back by a complete turnaround.

#4 Seed: San Antonio Spurs

Consider this a hedge. The San Antonio Spurs would rank higher, perhaps in the No. 3 seed or No. 2 seed, if we knew when Kawhi Leonard was coming back. But we don't. And so long as he's out, fourth place is the Spurs' ceiling. They may reach it, but they don't have the offensive juice without him to exceed it.

#5 Seed: Minnesota Timberwolves

Sticking the Minnesota Timberwolves at No. 5 makes us feel incredibly uneasy. Their defene is still largely trash, and they're sporting a top-eight offense without taking or making a ton of threes. Basketball-Reference's Simple Rating System (SRS), which ranks teams according to strength of schedule and point differential, rates them as a bottom-15 squad. Still, they've put some nice distance between them and the rest of the West teams that are searching for an identity. They might get usurped by one of their peers, but they have the talent to end up here.

#6 Seed: Denver Nuggets

Losing Paul Millsap for the next few months with a wrist injury could torpedo the Denver Nuggets' playoff stock. He's uber important to their defense. They go from allowing 104.6 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, a top-11 mark, to vomiting up 108.4 without him—akin to a bottom-five defense. They'll be fine, though. The defense won't be good without him, but they'll be able to revert back to last year's model that saw them torch the entire league on offense from Dec. 15 onward.

#7 Seed: New Orleans Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans almost get the ax. But then you start to think about Anthony Davis, and DeMarcus Cousins, and the fact that they're both playing like MVP candidates. That amalgam of superstar talent alone should let them sneak into the West's playoff bracket.

#8 Seed: Memphis Grizzlies

Step out on this limb with us. The Memphis Grizzlies aren't set up to make a dent in the postseason, and they're currently outside the West's playoff bubble. But they've been ravaged by injuries, the most recent of which ripped Mike Conley from their rotation. They'll start to settle down once he returns. Bench play should get better as well when head coach David Fizdale doesn't need to tinker with the rotation so much. While you should absolutely keep an eye on the Portland Trail Blazers here—it seems like the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers are dunzo—our faith lies with the Grizzlies unless they're sitting in the same spot come the start of January.

Results / FixturesNBA
 

*All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference or NBA.com and are accurate leading into games on Nov. 23 unless otherwise cited.

Category : Sports Betting News

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