Depending on which sports betting site one visits, different teams are at the mercy of different odds as far as winning this year’s NBA title is concerned. Pretty well all of the top odds makers in the industry have chosen the Golden State Warriors as the favorite with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and not the Atlanta Hawks, ranking second. From there, the San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies and the aforementioned Hawks fall somewhere into that mix.
It’s easy to see why oddsmakers rank the Warriors first. They own the league’s best overall record (63-15) and best home record (35-2), and arguably the game’s soon-to-be-crowned MVP, Stephen Curry. While the Warriors have had their share of close calls this year, they’ve also blown out many of the league’s elite with a combination of the potent offense that the franchise has been known for since the days of head coach Don Nelson and an elite defense that has gotten better under Steve Kerr this season.
Seeing the Cavaliers ranked as the second-most likely club to win it all is an equally easy argument to make. Not only do the Cavs have the world’s best player in LeBron James, they’ve also seen point guard Kyrie Irving take his game to new heights, meaning that the team’s scoring doesn’t just have to go through James all the time. Combine that one-two punch with the fact that Kevin Love has come to a greater understanding of his role on the team over the last two months, and throw in the mid-season moves that have welcomed improved interior defense thanks to Timofey Mozgov and an added scoring punch in J.R. Smith, and Cleveland is truly a force to be reckoned with.
So how is it then that a team like the Hawks, who at the present moment sit eight games in front of the Cavs and have already clinched the top spot in the Eastern Conference, seem to get very little respect when it comes to the odds? There are of course a few ways to answer that question.
Firstly, the Hawks aren’t exactly perennial contenders for a title. Even dating back to the days of Josh Smith and Joe Johnson, the team simply hasn’t made it far enough in the playoffs to be considered a true threat to come out of the East. Keeping in mind that odds are always partly based on where the betting public’s money is being put down, that perception has something to do with the Hawks’ present chances.
While there’s no doubt the Hawks have been dominant throughout the current regular season, the team is still unproven as far as postseason performance is concerned. Last year, the team clinched the eighth and final playoff spot narrowly and lost to the Indiana Pacers in the first round. This season, the club should have no trouble at all getting out of the first round, but the second round could see them face the Chicago Bulls, who just welcomed back Derrick Rose, or the Toronto Raptors, who despite having a tough second half have made the Hawks look grossly inadequate on multiple occasions this year.
Of course, there’s plenty to back up the Hawks, too. Kyle Korver is the game’s best three-point shooter, Al Horford is a versatile big man with range, the team’s bench is solid and their lineup is quick. Those ingredients have allowed the franchise the opportunity to be the only team in the conference that still has a shot at eclipsing the 60-win plateau this season.
That said, the bottom line is the Hawks just aren’t seasoned enough in terms of experience in the later rounds of the playoffs in order to overcome the other beasts of the East and the likely top-notch team hailing from the West that they’d match up against in the NBA Finals.
So while bettors and fans alike can jump on the Hawks’ bandwagon in the hopes of cashing in, the smarter money is better suited to be on the shoulder’s of one of the league’s other elite teams, although only time will tell whether those underestimating Atlanta will be proven right.