NBA Basketball News

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ever Bet on the NBA?

I know they say gambling's for mugs...

Last year’s six division winners in the NBA were the New Jersey Nets, Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, and Phoenix Suns. And the favorites to win those divisions this season? The New Jersey Nets, Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns.

Well, actually, the Spurs are listed with the Dallas Mavericks as co-favorites to win the Southwest, but otherwise the oddsmakers don’t expect to see many changes at the tops of divisions this season. And there’s a case to be made for that prediction; two years ago, the Pistons, Heat, Spurs, and Suns were all division champs, while the Nets and Nuggets fell just short of a first-place finish.

So barring a major collapse by one of those six perennial contenders, there’s a very good chance they’ll all be in first place (or within shouting distance of first place) when the regular season comes to a close. Here’s a look at every team’s current odds to win their respective divisions, from the top teams to the also-rans:

To Win the Atlantic Division . . .

New Jersey Nets -350

Philadelphia 76ers +600

Boston Celtics +725

Toronto Raptors +900

New York Knicks +1600

The Nets finished one game below .500 on the road last season, but they still managed to cruise to a first-place finish in the Atlantic Division (ending up 11 games ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers). With two of the division’s top players on their roster (Vince Carter and Jason Kidd), and their main competitor (the Sixers) in decline, New Jersey should be able to win the Atlantic Division again this year.

To Win the Central Division . . .

Detroit Pistons +180

Chicago Bulls +200

Cleveland Cavaliers +200

Indiana Pacers +800

Milwaukee Bucks +1400

The Pistons finished 14 games ahead of the Cavaliers, and 23 games up on both the Pacers and Bulls last season in the Central Division. However, oddsmakers believe that gap narrowed when the Bulls stole Ben Wallace from rival Detroit in the offseason. If the Pistons are on the down slope, though, watch for LeBron James and the Cavaliers to begin flexing their muscles and gunning for the top.

To Win the Southeast Division . . .

Miami Heat -800

Orlando Magic +600

Washington Wizards +750

Charlotte Bobcats +2600

Atlanta Hawks +2700

The defending NBA champions also won their division by a double-digit margin last season (by 10 games over the Wizards), and they’re heavily favored to turn that trick again this year. And with no major competitor in the Southeast, Miami’s only real foe could be themselves - how motivated will they be in the regular season, and how well will the veteran components hold up over the 82 games?

To Win the Southwest Division . . .

Dallas Mavericks +115

San Antonio Spurs +115

Houston Rockets +600

New Orleans Hornets +1400

Memphis Grizzlies +2500

The Grizzlies played almost .600 basketball last season, but they still finished 14 games back of the Spurs in the Southwest Division. The Mavs, though, were only three games behind, and those two teams should again battle for top spot (and the higher postseason seed that would result). If Tim Duncan can stay healthy all season long for San Antonio, though, they should have the edge for first place.

To Win the Northwest Division . . .

Denver Nuggets +130

Utah Jazz +150

Minnesota Timberwolves +550

Seattle SuperSonics +800

Portland Trail Blazers +1800

Denver’s .537 winning percentage was the worst amongst all division winners last season, and they ended up just three games ahead of a Jazz team that wound up 41-41. The Nuggets have Carmelo Anthony though, and they should again be the Northwest team to beat this year. If Melo and company can get on a roll at some point, they might even avoid having the worst first-place mark in ‘07.

To Win the Pacific Division . . .

Phoenix Suns -200

Los Angeles Lakers +350

Los Angeles Clippers +400

Sacramento Kings +850

Golden State Warriors +1500

The Suns ended up seven and nine games, respectively, up on the Clippers and Lakers in the Pacific Division last season, and that was without the services of Amare Stoudemire for most of the year. Stoudemire returned for the start of this season (albeit not at 100%), but the Clippers and Lakers should both be better this year as well. If the Suns stumble with Amare back, there could be an upset.