As the NBA season begins its final descent toward the playoffs, basketball fans and analysts alike are beginning to analyze which teams will emerge as the favourites for the NBA Finals, as well as which underdogs might surprise us. In this analysis, we’ll dive into the current landscape of the NBA playoffs, examining the favourites and underdogs, and look at the teams with the best odds to claim the championship title.

Favourites and underdogs for the NBA Playoffs

The following is a deeper look into the landscape in both the Eastern and Western Conference heading into the second half of the season:

Eastern Conference favourites

The Boston Celtics have solidified their status as the dominant force in the Eastern Conference, thanks in large part to their star trio: Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kristaps Porzingis. This powerhouse lineup has driven Boston to an impressive 43-12 record, underscoring their consistent performances throughout the season. 

The Celtics’ dominance is not just about the offensive firepower; defensively, they have been just as formidable, creating a balanced and terrifying opponent for any team. The synergy between Tatum, Brown, and Porzingis has exceeded expectations, with each player bringing a unique skill set that complements the others beautifully. This cohesion has propelled the Celtics to the forefront of the conference, making them the clear favourites and a formidable challenge for any contenders aiming for the top spot. The team’s depth, coaching, and strategic gameplay further solidify their position as the top contender for the Eastern crown.

Right behind Boston in the odds, however, is the Milwaukee Bucks, entering All-Star Weekend at 35-21. Despite losing seven of their last 10, their experience will go a long way in making them a top contender come the postseason. The Bucks are led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is leading the team in average points (30.8), rebounds (11.2), and steals (1.4). 

NBA Playoffs and Finals Eastern Conference favourites Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum

Eastern Conference underdogs

The New York Knicks (33-22) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (36-17) have emerged as significant threats, showcasing remarkable improvement from previous seasons. The Knicks, with strategic acquisitions like OG Anunoby, Bojan Bogdanović, and Alec Burks, have fortified their lineup, creating a more competitive and versatile team. Jalen Brunson, in particular, has been a revelation, playing at an MVP level and providing leadership and scoring prowess. 

On the other hand, the Cavaliers have seen a resurgence, largely attributed to Donovan Mitchell’s exceptional performances, leading the team with 28.4 points per game. Mitchell’s scoring ability and leadership on the court have revitalized the team, propelling them into contention. Both the Knicks and Cavs have displayed a blend of youthful energy and veteran presence, making them dark horses capable of upsetting the established hierarchy in the playoffs. Their improved rosters and performances signal a potential shift in the conference dynamics, making the playoff race even more exciting.

Western Conference favourites

You can’t talk about favourites without starting with the reigning NBA champions, the Denver Nuggets, who have once again positioned themselves as the team to beat in the Western Conference. While they are not currently leading the West, at 36-19, they are just three games out of the top spot and ready to use their experience to pounce on the competition. 

Led by the versatile and talented Nikola Jokić, the Nuggets have a deep and skilled roster capable of making another profound playoff run. Jokić’s ability to impact the game in multiple facets, from scoring to rebounding to playmaking, makes Denver a formidable opponent. Alongside him, the team’s depth and cohesion have been key factors in their success. 

The Los Angeles Clippers (36-17) have positioned themselves as a significant disruptor in the Western Conference, emerging as a top contender with a fully healthy roster featuring stars James Harden, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard. This trio combines scoring, defence, and playmaking at an elite level, making the Clippers a formidable opponent capable of challenging any team. Their ability to perform in high-stakes situations has been bolstered by the depth and experience of the supporting cast, providing the Clippers with the tools needed to make a deep playoff run.

Despite previous seasons marred by injuries and inconsistencies, the current campaign has seen the Clippers display a renewed focus and determination. This resurgence, coupled with the star power and strategic acumen of the team, positions the Clippers as the primary party crashers in the West, ready to upend expectations and vie for a spot in the NBA Finals.

NBA Playoffs and Finals Western Conference favourites Denver Nuggets' Nikola Jokic

Western Conference underdogs

The Minnesota Timberwolves (39-16) and Oklahoma City Thunder (37-17) have also emerged as teams to watch, thanks to their improved rosters and standout performances. While many wouldn’t consider them an underdog given their current position as No. 1 and No. 2 in the West, most experts and analysts question whether they can hold off the Nuggets and Clippers down the stretch, given those teams’ stacked talent.

Minnesota’s duo of Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards, along with Oklahoma City’s rising star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, have led their respective teams to impressive seasons, challenging the traditional power dynamics in the conference and setting the stage for an intriguing playoff battle.

Behind the Timberwolves and Thunder, the Phoenix Suns (33-22), New Orleans Pelicans (33-22), and Dallas Mavericks (32-23) are positioning themselves to challenge the top favourites in the Western Conference come the postseason.

Favourites for the NBA Finals

According to FanDuel NBA Finals odds, the Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets are attracting a high volume of bets, with more than 40% of all handles in the 2024 NBA championship odds market behind either team​​. Denver, with odds of +450, and Boston, at +260, remain popular among bettors due to their deep rosters and consistent performances​​. The Clippers, led by their “Big 3,” have climbed to third in the table, with odds of +525​​.

Basketball Court in an arena packed with fans

The role of fantasy basketball

In the realm of fantasy basketball, these developments have significant implications. Players from these leading teams are highly sought after due to their potential to contribute substantial points, rebounds, assists, and other valuable stats. As the playoffs approach, fantasy managers will be keenly watching the performance of stars like Nikola Jokić, Jayson Tatum, and Donovan Mitchell, adjusting their lineups accordingly to maximize their chances of fantasy success.


As the NBA season heads into its crucial stages, the battle for supremacy in both conferences is heating up. The favourites, led by the Celtics and Nuggets, are bracing for tough competition, while underdogs like the Knicks, Cavs, Timberwolves, and Thunder are poised to make their mark. Meanwhile, the Bucks and Clippers, with superstars like Giannis and Harden leading the way, are poised to spoil everyone’s predictions. The playoffs promise to be an exciting showdown, with the potential for upsets and heroic performances. Whether from the perspective of sports betting or fantasy basketball, the NBA Playoffs and Finals offer a thrilling spectacle that captivates fans worldwide.

Given the ever-changing dynamics, these predictions and analyses provide a snapshot of the current state of play. As the playoffs approach, the picture could change with injuries, trades, and unforeseen performances, making the NBA one of the most unpredictable and exciting sports leagues in the world.

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