Written By: Kent Tukeli
TOP NBA Teams to Wager On
The NBA has always been a top-heavy league, with players like Kevin Durant gravitating towards franchises which maximize the chance of winning a ring. Upsets tend to be rare, but not impossible, for the underdogs of the association. The Clippers 2015 upset of the San Antonio Spurs over seven exciting games, and LeBron’s comeback to lead the Cavaliers to the 2016 NBA title, serve as recent examples of shocking outcomes.
Nonetheless, the staff at Canada Sports Betting want to be clear: the Warriors and the Cavaliers represent overwhelming favorites to meet for the third straight year in the NBA Finals. In fact, the odds of winning for the best NBA teams to bet on in 2017 have become worse since the season started. This creates better payouts for wagering on high-quality NBA teams who aren’t the Warriors, Cavaliers or Spurs.
The Houston Rockets completely lost their identity last year. This year the organization decided to double down on offence. Over the offseason, Daryl Morey selected head coach Mike D’Antoni to replace J.B. Bickerstaff. He was faced the daunting task of motivating a moribund rotation after Kevin McHale was unceremoniously released. Morey also signed Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon from the Pelicans. These moves allowed D’Antoni to surround Harden with shooters who spread the court.
Instead of worrying about whipping his players into defensive shape immediately, D’Antoni gained the locker room by making basketball fun in Houston again. James Harden completely embraced the run’n’gun approach of his new coach. Harden is orchestrating the offense with an impresario’s touch. Now that Harden’s offensive needs have been satiated, he appears genuinely interested in playing defense again. This added enthusiasm should spread throughout the rotation.
Past the quarter point of the 2016-17 campaign, Gordon and Anderson have combined to shoot more than a dozen threes per game at a 40% clip. Trevor Ariza has heaved more than seven threes per game above 38%. Harden has rained more than eight threes a game at a fraction below the NBA’s three-point average. Contributors to the three-point assault include Patrick Beverley and Sam Dekker, who combine to shoot above 40% on five three attempts per game. Behind Golden State and Toronto, Houston ranks third in offensive efficiency. This is mostly powered by a .375 3P% on 37 three-point attempts per game.
Houston’s thrilling double-overtime win over Golden State was the best game during the early part of the season. Showcasing the Rockets’ new-found ability to bludgeon opponents on the offensive end. If D’Antoni and rotation figure out how to shave a couple of points off their defensive efficiency, they’ll become one of the most dangerous teams throughout 2017.
After Sports Illustrated declared DeMar DeRozan the 46th best player in the NBA, the Raptors veteran star started the season on an angry streak. He averaged 33 points during the first twelve games of the regular season. Through 21 games of the current campaign, he’s shot 48.2% from the field. This is on 21 attempts per game, which confounds the traditional view that mid-range artists aren’t an efficient source of offense. Perhaps more important, he appears locked in on every aspect of the game. He is averaging 5.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.4 steals per game. All of which represent career highs.
Kyle Lowry has quietly asserted himself to begin the season. This is overshadowed by DeRozan’s personal grudge against Sports Illustrated. Lowry’s also averaging personal bests for rebounds and assists. His shooting efficiency should be the major improvement that Raptors fans celebrate. His three-point percentage has jumped to 42.2% and his field goal percentage has risen to 44.2% during the first quarter. If maintained, this would be the best shooting season of his career. This is achieved without reducing the number of shots attempts per game.
The Raptors have jumped to second place in offensive efficiency due to the red-hot start of the backcourt. With efficient contributions from Ross, Joseph, Valanciunas and Carroll. On the defensive end, they’ve been average. This has lead them to close, but competitive losses against Golden State and Cleveland. Once Jared Sullinger eases back into action, the Raptors will have the option of a true small ball lineup. They also have the ability to go big with Valanciunas, Siakam and Nogueira when needed. In 2017, the Toronto Raptors will continue to perform well under the radar as one of the dark horses of the east.
NBA observers know the Jazz have an elite defense when they’re at the top of their game. But few expected Utah to sing on the offensive side of the court this season. Even better, the team achieved offensive gains over the first quarter without sacrificing lockdown defense. Last year, Utah was tied for seventh in defensive efficiency with a 101.6 mark. They were the 17th ranked offense in the league with an efficiency rating of 103.1. This year, Utah’s started out with a 108.2 rating for offense. This was tied with San Antonio for sixth best in the league. The defense has slightly improved as well, ranked sixth in the league at 101.5.
Teams which rank top ten in offensive and defensive efficiency simultaneously tend to earn results in the long run. This bodes very well for Utah in 2017. The success of the Jazz was developed by coach Quin Snyder’s defense-first approach. Imprinting key habits and fundamentals as young prospects learned how to play offense in the NBA. Injuries have been the main concern for this squad, preventing them from fully grasping their potential.
Before he was sidelined in late November, George Hill made GM Dennis Lindsey look like a genius. He was flirting with a 50-40-90 shooting line while hounding opposing guards. He’s averaged 20 points a game and chipped in 4.2 dimes per match on less playing time than he had in Indiana. Prior to his injury, he’s proven to be a superb complement to Gordon Hayward. The duo is averaging +25 per 48 minutes of time they share on the court. With a bit of healing, the Jazz should outpace the Oklahoma City Thunder to earn top spot in the Northwest Division, putting them in prime position for a playoff run.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers showed what they’re capable of by starting the season on a 10-1 tear. Los Angeles celebrated their success by self-imploding for the next seven matches, including a loss to Brooklyn and a pair of defeats at the hands of the Pacers. This defines the primary struggle of recent Clippers squads, which contain just enough potential talent to compete against any team on a nightly basis. The 2016-17 edition of the LA Clippers might be the deepest yet. Speights, Mbah a Moute, Felton, Pierce and Johnson have played well enough to soak up minutes that Griffin, Paul and Jordan need for rest.
Depth outside of the big three has always been the main issue for the Clippers, even with steady contributions from Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick. If the rotation manages to solidify as a team, Blake, Chris and DeAndre will become more dangerous than ever. So far, the Clippers are leading the league in defensive efficiency with a 100.1 mark, landing in the top five for offensive efficiency at 108.2.
Despite these gaudy numbers, you’ll still have trouble finding experts who consider the Clippers as a genuine threat against San Antonio or the Golden State Warriors. Expectations for the less popular LA franchise revolve around their history of untimely injury and strange playoff meltdowns. As a result, sportsbooks publish longer odds for the Clippers than the team’s performance merits, increasing the payout on a dangerous squad that has a genuine chance to win the NBA Championship in 2017.