We are now into the final stretch of the NBA season after the All-Star break, and we are going to highlight the teams to we think you should keep an eye on, as teams make a final push for the playoffs and a shot at the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
1). Philadelphia 76ers – Champion (+700)
The 76ers have had some surprising exits from the playoffs in the past few years, but a big reason for that is because of how much pressure has been put on Joel Embid. The addition of James Harden before the trade deadline is exactly what this team needs to make a deep playoff run this year. His impact on this team was immediate as we saw the other night when he put up a triple double in their 125-109 win over the Knicks. With several more games to gel with his new teammates, the more he plays in a 76ers jersey, the more teams in the Eastern Conference better watch out. With help from their supporting cast like Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris and some three pointer shooters off the bench, this team will be hard to beat in a 7 game series especially when you factor in that they are ranked 9th in defensive efficiency in the NBA.
2). Atlanta Hawks – Make the Playoffs (+140)
After their 41-31 regular season finish last season and making it to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Hawks have had a very disappointing start to their season and currently sit 2 games under .500. Despite this lackluster start to the season, they are still 9th in the Eastern Conference and only a few games back from the Nets and Raptors. What is even better for them is that they have the easiest remaining schedule out of every team in the NBA, with their Average Opponent Rank at 18.36. At this point in the season and with that schedule ahead of them, the Hawks control their own destiny. Even if they only make the play-in tournament, this team can be very dangerous in a one and done situation, especially if Trae Young gets hot. This team has the 3rd best offensive efficiency in the NBA, and they are last in the NBA with only 12.3 turnovers per game. This team knows how to score on offense, and with a big presence down low in Clint Capela, teams generally have to outshoot this team if they want to beat them.
3). Memphis Grizzlies – Western Conference Winner (+1100)
Despite the Grizzlies fantastic start to the season, they are still only at 11-1 odds to win the Western Conference despite having a 43-20 record right now. The only reason for this is because the Suns and Warriors are having just as good if not better regular seasons. Another reason for these long odds this late in the season could be the Grizzlies inexperience in the playoffs, but this team looks legit this year. Their offense is electric behind Ja Morant putting up 113 points per game this season, and they are 7th in the NBA in defensive efficiency. Even if you look at their head-to-head matchups against the Suns and Warriors, they are up 2-1 against the Warriors with their 4th game in late March, and are split 1-1 with the Suns with their 3rd game set for April 1st. The Suns are also sustaining an injury to Chris Paul right now, and the Warriors have had guys on and off the IR all season, which could be an issue for them in the long run. Yes, the Grizzlies do not have much to show for in the playoffs in the past few seasons, but right now the books are not taking them seriously especially when we are over 50 games into the season and they are right at the top of the Western Conference.