It’s All-Star weekend, and the best players in the NBA are descending on Salt Lake City for the 30th anniversary of the first-ever contest between the top players in professional basketball. Team Giannis will face Team LeBron in the finale of a packed weekend, including the Celebrity Game, Skill Challenge, Slam Dunk Contest and Three-Point Contest.
While the season takes a hiatus, here at Bookmakers, we thought we’d look at the NBA as it stands and the playoff prospects of some teams at the halfway mark for all you basketball fans and bettors looking forward to the action after the fun of All-Star Weekend.
Boston has been the best team in the league in the first half of the year and is currently the favorite to win the NBA Finals in June, valued at (+290) with some NBA betting apps. Offseason drama almost sank this impressive season before it started, as the franchise suspended head coach Ime Udoka for the entire season in September 2022. Joe Mazzulla stepped up as an interim coach and has led the team to an impressive 42-17 record, and he has now been rewarded with head coach on a fulltime basis.
A lengthy list of injuries leading into the break hasn’t stopped Boston’s momentum, as its squad depth has led them to victories over the Philadelphia 76ers and Memphis Grizzlies in the past week. Despite a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Celtics look like the team to beat come the postseason.
Boston is 12-5 against teams over .500, with three of those defeats coming in overtime. The team has the third-best offensive rating and the fourth-best defensive rating in the league. The hypnotic combinations of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have been hard for every team in the league to contain.
Despite this week’s loss against the Bucks, the Celtics remain in pole position to take home its 18th NBA title.
The Denver Nuggets have relied on the magic of Nikola Jokic to lead the Western Conference with 25 games to go. The team’s reliance on “the Joker” is astounding - Denver’s offensive rating drops 21.4 points when Jokic is off the court. He’s looking to lead the Nuggets to its first-ever NBA championship. He’s also the favorite to complete an MVP three-peat, valued at (-240) with some US betting apps to win the Michael Jordan Trophy at the end of the year.
Denver’s biggest strength is also its biggest weakness, as the team is only a Jokic injury away from losing form horribly. For an example of how this might look, ask the New Orleans Pelicans how things have gone without Zion Williamson.
The front office has attempted to remedy the situation by adding Thomas Bryant and Reggie Jackson to the roster to try to distribute the non-Jokic minutes and keep the team ticking over when the Serb isn’t on the court.
Fundamentally, if Jokic is on the court for the majority of the games in the NBA playoffs, the Nuggets will be a serious threat to take the NBA title this summer, and the odds at NBA betting sites reflect that. However, their reliance on the MVP-elect means that one injury could derail their season.
Fifth in the Western Conference, third in its division, and 10.5 games behind the leading record in the league, why are some USA sports betting sites putting Phoenix as (+480) the third favorite to win the NBA this season?
Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you probably know why – Kevin Durant. KD’s dramatic midnight flight from the Big Apple to the Valley of the Sun captivated basketball fans and has seen the team lifted from outsider to contender to win its first-ever championship in 2023.
With the Durant-CP3-Booker era just beginning in Arizona, it isn’t beneficial talking about the season up to now. The conversation now focuses on when KD will be healthy enough to play and how the combination of the three stars will look on the court. If Durant returns after the All-Star break, and he, Paul and Booker can gel, the 2021 NBA runners-up might go one better in 2023.
Milwaukee has gone into overdrive in the leadup to the All-Star game, winning 12 consecutive games and surging to half a game behind Eastern Conference leaders Boston. This week, a win against the Celtics put the marker down. The Bucks aren’t messing around, whatever anyone says about the strength of its opponent’s lineup on the night.
Much of the attention around the Bucks’ midseason surge has been on Giannis Antetokounmpo, averaging 37.2 points a game in this 12-game stretch. Pundits paid less attention to the Bucks defense, which has allowed a steely 106.8 points per 100 possessions in recent weeks. Milwaukee achieved all this without Jae Crowder, whose expected return after the All-Star break will give even more defensive grit.
The Bucks’ backup cast around Giannis has been stepping up, with Jrue Holiday posting some excellent performances throughout the run. All roads lead to a rematch of this week’s clash between Boston and Milwaukee over seven games to win the Eastern Conference this year. Sportsbooks value the Bucks at (+255) to win the Eastern Conference, and there’s no doubt this group is in with a chance.