The NBA enters the All-Star Break with few surprises in the standings. Teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers are on top or near the top of the conference standings and living up to their odds to win the NBA Championship set before the season tipped off.
That’s not to say there are some wild cards in the mix. We look at the NBA teams playing beyond the bookmakers’ expectations and if they’re a solid sportsbook parlay to win the NBA title in 2020.
Toronto Raptors 25/1
Toronto’s chances of repeating as NBA champs looked like they left for L.A. with Kawhi Leonard but the Raptors have proven to the league that one superstar does not a contender make. Thanks to depth and great coaching, Toronto is second in the Eastern Conference on the tails of a 15-game winning streak that stretched from Jan. 15 to Feb. 10.
The Raptors continue to play championship-caliber defense, allowing less than 107 points per game and limiting opponents to less than 34% shooting from beyond the arc. Offensively, Toronto is scoring around 113 points per night, getting most of those tallies from 3-point range, ranked as the third-best shooting team from distance in the NBA. We’ll see how this team holds up after last year’s long postseason run and if lacking a true superstar can get them back to the finals.
Denver Nuggets 30/1
Much like the Raptors, the Nuggets sit second in the West but lack a true NBA superstar – relying more on a deep roster and defense to get the job done. Denver is giving up only 107 points against per game and keeping foes from running away with the game from beyond the 3-point line. Offensively, the Nuggets have seven players scoring in double figures and get almost 37 points per game from the bench.
Denver has a built-in home-court advantage in the thin air of the Rocky Mountains, and it shows with a 21-7 record inside the Pepsi Center. Earning home court will be huge for the Nuggets come the second half of the schedule. It may be the only way they can contend with the likes of the L.A. teams or even Houston if they clash in the playoffs.
Miami Heat 25/1
The Heat could be the biggest surprise in the East, entering the All-Star break sitting fourth overall ahead of Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers. Unlike the other two teams mentioned above, Miami has its superstar in Jimmy Butler, who is averaging just under 21 point per game for an offense ranked 15th in the league. The Heat are also solid defensively, checking foes to only 108.4 points per game and ranking tops in defending the 3-pointer.
Miami’s biggest threat to a championship run – outside of top team Milwaukee – is Butler’s health. He’s missed eight games in the second half of the season with nagging injuries and hasn’t played more than 65 games in each of his past two seasons. Beyond him, Miami’s scoring options looking bleak with guys like Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo.