by Daniel Olsen
The Brooklyn Nets remain firm favorites for the championship. It’s hard to bet against a team with a two-time MVP point guard for a coach (Steve Nash), two former MVP winners (James Harden and Kevin Durant) and an All-Star point guard in Kyrie Irving. However, other teams like the Utah Jazz and Milwaukee Bucks still have a chance to make an appearance in the NBA Finals. It’s time to see what the experts are saying about the team with the best chance to win it all.
This website has odds that change each day. While the Jazz have been the favorite in their predictions for a while, the Suns taken the top spot at the time of this article. They have a 31 percent chance to win the Finals according to this model. The Jazz are closely behind with a 17 percent chance to win the NBA Finals. This website updates their odds every day so fans can make their picks as the days go on.
The latest odds update from SBD: the Nets have seen their price as heavy favorites fade. They are now just ahead of the Jazz and Phoenix Suns. They are followed by more long-shots: Bucks +450 and 76ers +600. Meanwhile, the Clippers and Hawks look almost gone with odds of +900 & +1000 respectively.
Nine of 16 ESPN analysts predicted the Clippers would beat the Jazz in this second round series. Several analysts may have to switch their picks from a few months ago as nagging injuries led to the Lakers falling to the seven seed and losing in the first round. It will be intriguing to see whether the confidence in the Jazz changes as the games go on.
The expert analysts of this popular magazine also picked the Lakers to win the Finals before the season even started. Since that didn’t work out, they have been making solid predictions for each round. Four out of a ten person panel correctly predicted that the Grizzlies would win in five games.
According to this Sports Illustrated story, FS1 analyst Shannon Sharpe thinks the Jazz will beat the Clippers in a close seven game series. While the team would love to have some extra rest like they did with the Grizzlies, they can’t expect the Clippers to roll over. This should be a tough series. The Jazz would really send a message if they sent the Clippers home early.
The Hive Sports
While this isn’t a site focused on betting, it does focus on the eye test combined with advanced stats to predict outcomes of sporting events. As the Jazz are the main ticket in Utah, they receive a lot of attention in this state for their performance.
One thing the Jazz have going for them is they are a top five offense and a top five defense as well. This is eerily similar to the Golden State Warriors. They had a top five offensive as well as defensive rating in 2017. They were also stellar in 2016 by winning 73 regular season games. However, they ran into a brick wall named LeBron James and blew a 3-1 lead in the process. Adding Kevin Durant boosted their offense considerably.
Most of the success that the Jazz have enjoyed has been from developing players in-house. They made brilliant moves to snatch All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert from the Denver Nuggets in their respective trade acquisitions in the NBA Draft. Gobert was a project that turned out to be a stellar return on investment on the defensive end. He just signed a 200 million dollar contract and is proving his worth. His defense wins games and that has proven to be the case already in the playoffs this year. Most winners, however, will be top 10 in both offense and defense. Since the Jazz are safely within that range, they have a shot.
The Nets may have an edge over Utah on offense. The Jazz rely more on ball movement while Brooklyn relies on star power. The Jazz still have stars of their own. The biggest factors would be the defense of Brooklyn and their health. If they can keep both of those in check, it would be tough for any team to beat them.
Most experts are correct in saying that these are the top two teams in the NBA. The healthier of these two teams will win the championship. It already looks like these two teams are preparing to meet. Stars like James Harden, Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell have missed time. They could have come back but it’s a wise decision for them to rest unless they are absolutely needed to take care of a tough series.
Featured image courtesy Spenser Heaps, Deseret News