NBA Championship Futures: Can the Suns Really Win the Title?

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It’s good to be the Phoenix Suns right about now. That’s something we haven’t said in well over a decade, but the Suns are suddenly sitting pretty. Phoenix easily swept away the injury-riddled Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals over the weekend. Now, Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and co. can sit back, relax, and wait for the LA Clippers and Utah Jazz to slug it out.

Phoenix will wait for the winner of that series, while both Eastern Conference semifinals series are also tied 2-2. Teams don’t often get much rest at this stage of the playoffs, so the Suns find themselves in an admirable situation. NBA betting sites have taken notice, but oddsmakers are still somewhat reluctant to buy what the Suns are selling.

As of this writing, BetOnline has the Suns with the third-best odds of any team to win the championship this summer (+350). That puts them slightly behind the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, who check-in at +340 apiece. The most recent title-winner among the seven teams left in the playoffs is the Philadelphia 76ers, who last tasted glory way back in 1983.

The crop of new faces combined with a few injury situations has left the title race looking wide open. Six of the seven squads have title odds south of +1000. Which teams are the best bets to win it all as things stand today?

Atlanta Hawks (+4000)

The Hawks knotted their second-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers with a comeback win on Monday night, but oddsmakers aren’t at all keen on Atlanta’s hopes of finishing their run with a championship. The Hawks (+4000) have the longest title odds of any team by a huge margin, and with good reason.

The fact that this team has gotten to this point is impressive. Atlanta looked like a lottery team for the first half of the season, but things took off following Lloyd Pierce’s dismissal in February. The Hawks have been one of the league’s best teams since Nate McMillan took over, but they likely don’t have the firepower to keep up with the 76ers over the course of a seven-game series.

Joel Embiid’s knee injury evens the playing field a bit, and his woeful performance in Game 4 gave Atlanta a spark. Embiid missed all 12 of his field-goal attempts in the second half on Monday night as Philly blew a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. We can’t expect that kind of dismal showing from Embiid on a regular basis, though, which leaves the Hawks facing an uphill climb to find two more wins in this matchup.

Atlanta has been a plucky underdog, but it’s hard to see how they advance past this series. Unless the cities of Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, New York, Brooklyn, and Phoenix are shockingly swallowed up by sinkholes between now and the end of July, Atlanta won’t be celebrating a title this summer.

Philadelphia 76ers (+700)

It’s weird that the No. 1 seed in the East has the second-worst odds to win the title, but it also makes sense. The 76ers felt like a regular-season team for most of the year, and now their best player is dealing with knee trouble. Embiid has played well for most of the series against the Hawks, but it’s worth wondering whether that torn meniscus will be able to hold up for a full championship run.

Doc Rivers’ Crew Is Good Defensively, but the Roster’s Depth Is Suspect

Danny Green will miss the next couple of weeks, and they were an unexpected Shake Milton offensive explosion in Game 2 away from dropping back-to-back home games to begin this series. Embiid is a matchup nightmare for any foe, but his injury sucks most of the wind away from the Sixers’ prospective championship sails.

If (when?) they do eventually get past the Hawks, the Sixers will be betting underdogs against either the Nets or Bucks in the conference finals. If they do somehow manage to escape that series, they would also be betting ‘dogs against the Suns, Clippers, or Jazz in the title round. Philadelphia is a team that made notable strides this season, but they’re still a year or two away from being a real threat to win it all.

The +700 odds are somewhat alluring given this team’s talent, but I’ll pass.

Los Angeles Clippers (+550)

Now we’re talkin’. For the second series in a row, the Clippers have successfully dug their way out of an early 0-2 deficit. LAC throttled the Jazz in Game 4 on Monday night in LA, and the teams are on even ground heading into Wednesday’s Game 5 back in Utah.

Ty Lue’s defensive adjustments have helped the Clippers contain Donovan Mitchell, while the Jazz have played the entire series without their starting point guard. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were excellent in Game 3 and 4 at home, but the Clips’ chances of advancing hinge on their chances of stealing at least one game on the road in Salt Lake.

We have seen glimpses of the Clippers’ ceiling in this series. When the stars are playing like stars and the role players are doing the dirty work, they can beat anyone. The problem, as always, is consistency. The Clips are prone to long dry spells, and their focus isn’t always there defensively. The offense can get bogged down by the ball-dominant Leonard on occasion, and they’re at their best when the ball is moving quickly.

LA was competitive in Games 1 and 2 in Utah despite ultimately failing to win either of them. We can expect the Jazz to shoot the ball better in Game 5 at home, but I think the Clips have the edge in the end. LA has gotten more consistent production out of its ancillary pieces, with Patrick Beverley, Marcus Morris, and Nic Batum all coming up huge in Game 4.

The Jazz haven’t shown the same willingness to make adjustments. With their zone defense making things tougher on Mitchell, I like the Clippers to finally advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time ever. The sky is the limit from there. A matchup against old friend Chris Paul would make for compelling TV in the league semis.

At +550, you can do a lot worse than taking a flier on the Clips to win it all.

Utah Jazz (+460)

Utah has home-court advantage in two of the last three games of their series against the Clippers, but I’m not convinced they can close the deal. This is largely the same Jazz team we’ve seen for years. Mitchell has improved and Rudy Gobert is still an All-NBA defender, but will the supporting cast show up?

Jordan Clarkson was awful in Games 3 and 4. Joe Ingles didn’t do much. Bojan Bogdanovic is tasked with serving as the No. 2 offensive option behind Mitchell, but is a team with Bogdanovic as its secondary star really a title contender? The Clippers, Nets, Bucks, Sixers, and Suns all have multiple All-Stars at the wing positions.

Utah’s chances may depend on whether Conley is able to return. The Jazz’ starting point guard hasn’t played a second in this series after injuring his hamstring against Memphis in the first round. Conley was quietly outstanding this season alongside Mitchell as the Jazz finished with the league’s best record. Utah has sorely missed having someone capable of initiating the offense and taking pressure off of their leading scorer.

At this point, there’s no telling whether he’ll actually play. Conley has been ruled out hours before each of the first four games of the series, and hamstring injuries don’t typically heal very quickly. If Conley is going to be sidelined for an extended period of time, that’s enough to tip the scales in favor of the Clippers in this matchup.

I don’t think you’re getting great value on the Jazz at +460 to win it all. They’re more reliant than most teams on jump shooting, and they don’t have a consistent Plan B if those perimeter shots suddenly stop falling. Fade the Jazz’ +460 title odds.

Phoenix Suns (+350)

Now is the time to hop on the Suns’ bandwagon if you haven’t already. Phoenix thoroughly demolished the Nuggets in their second-round sweep, winning each of the four games by at least seven points. Game 4’s 125-118 final wasn’t really as close as the score may lead you to believe.

The Nuggets were crushed by injuries, but that doesn’t take anything away from what the Suns have accomplished. Monty Williams’ squad has now won seven games in a row dating back to their first-round upset of the Lakers, and you can easily argue that these guys should be the presumptive title favorites. The only reason they’re not is likely because this is a Phoenix Suns franchise that has never won a championship. It’s nothing more than bias.

As of Now, This Is the Best Team the League Has to Offer

The Suns share the ball on offense, and their shot selection is second to none. Chris Paul and Devin Booker are capable of getting buckets by themselves in crunch time, but they’re more than happy to share the wealth with Jae Crowder, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, and Deandre Ayton over the course of a game.

The Suns have been arguably just as impressive on defense, which is truly the key to their championship aspirations. Phoenix has enough rangy defenders to give teams like the Clippers, Nets, or Bucks serious matchup issues in future series. Paul is an absolute maestro offensively, and the Suns’ low-turnover ways help them avoid lengthy dry spells.

Paul’s injury history is a concern, of course. He’s always a hamstring tweak away from a long stint on the sidelines. Phoenix was able to weather his shoulder injury in the first round against the Lakers, but he hasn’t been particularly durable in recent years. If Paul winds up coming up with an unfortunate injury, Phoenix’ title hopes could be cooked.

At +350, though, I’m willing to eat the risk at NBA betting sites. With the Nets battling massive injury problems of their own, this is the time to bet on the Suns to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the first time. All aboard!

Milwaukee Bucks (+340)

Thanks to injuries to Kyrie Irving and James Harden, the Bucks have been able to even their second-round series against the Nets. Milwaukee swept Games 3 and 4 at home to dig their way out of an early 0-2 hole, but I still don’t trust this team at all.

Trading Eric Bledsoe for Jrue Holiday instantly made Milwaukee a more stable contender. That said, Mike Budenholzer’s team has still been prone to under-performance. The Bucks were massacred in Game 2 by a shorthanded version of the Nets despite entering the game as favorites. Milwaukee snuck past Brooklyn by three points in Game 3 thanks to some late-game heroics from Khris Middleton.

Irving is likely to miss the rest of the series, but Harden is expected to return for Game 5. The Bucks are still three-point favorites to win Game 5 in Brooklyn, but I just can’t buy this team as a contender. Giannis Antetokounmpo is borderline useless on offense in crunch time, which leaves Middleton to shoulder a heavy burden on that end of the floor. Middleton is an All-Star, but he’s no superstar.

If the Bucks manage to escape this series against the Nets, perhaps I’ll reconsider. As +340 co-favorites to win it all, however, I just don’t see it.

Brooklyn Nets (+340)

As mentioned, reinforcements are on the way for the Nets. Harden is expected to try and play in Game 5 after leaving Game 1 with a hamstring injury. It’s the same injury that kept the former league MVP sidelined for over a month to end the season, though, so we’ll see how he holds up. Jeff Green also returned from a foot injury in Game 4 before Irving went down.

If the Nets were at full strength, I would be all over these +340 odds. Brooklyn was as low as +180 when the playoffs began, but their odds have declined as the injuries have piled up. This team will have a chance as long as Kevin Durant still stays upright, but Harden and Irving have to be available if this team is going to reach its ultimate ceiling.

Harden is a gamer. Even if he’s not at 100 percent, I expect him to play and play well despite his ailing hamstring. Durant will carry most of the scoring load, while Harden’s playmaking will get the team’s role players into positions to succeed. I’d be bearish on the Nets’ hopes if Harden were sidelined indefinitely, but I now think this is a pretty good buy-low opportunity.

If they get past Milwaukee and into the conference finals, Brooklyn’s title odds will improve quite a bit. That’s why taking a stab at the current +340 number is tantalizing. This team has been the favorite for most of the season, and Kyrie will surely return in the next series if the team is able to advance without him.

The best bets to win the 2021 NBA title are listed below:

  1. Phoenix Suns (+350)
  2.  Brooklyn Nets (+340)
  3.  Los Angeles Clippers (+550)
  4. Milwaukee Bucks (+340)
  5. Philadelphia 76ers (+700)
  6. Utah Jazz (+450)
  7. Atlanta Hawks (+4000)
Taylor Smith

Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...

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