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Apr 20, 2024 2:49 am

Western Conference betting primer: SGA, OKC look AOK

shai gilgeous-alexander

If someone says they know what will happen in the wild West during the NBA playoffs, they’re lying. The stacked Western Conference playoff field can’t help but offer value because the honest odds provide for a real handicapping challenge.

We’ll try to isolate the best value plays as we present the odds movements, key props worth your time and a look at the odds to win the West.

(Odds per DraftKings unless otherwise noted.)

No. 1 Thunder (-800) vs. No. 8 Pelicans (+550)

Series bet: While Oklahoma City is seen as a vulnerable No. 1 seed, New Orleans lost its star while emerging out of the play-in tournament.

Zion Williamson’s injury — no matter how great the Pelicans looked in turning back the Sacramento Kings — means New Orleans will need four pristine games to eliminate the Thunder.

There might not be a more eager team to begin the playoffs, and the Thunder will push to end this series as quickly as they can. Go with the Thunder in fewer than 5.5 games, -130.

Futures bet: If you’re looking only at the strengths and weaknesses, statistics and trends for the Western contenders, you might have the Thunder and the defending champion Denver Nuggets very close on your Western champs list. Both teams won 57 games, and the Thunder have a leader, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, whose game seems well-suited for the playoffs.

Oklahoma City hasn’t “been there” with this group, but it’s a close-knit collection of versatile talent that owns the home-court advantage through the conference finals. Take Oklahoma City to win the West at very generous odds of +650.

No. 2 Nuggets (-310) vs. No. 7 Lakers (+250)

Series bet: Denver’s late-season stumble in San Antonio cost the Nuggets the top seed — much to Los Angeles’ chagrin. If there were doubts as to whether Denver will be ready, the Spurs certainly helped to ease them. No way the Nuggets overlook Round 1, and there is a way to take back some of that -310 juice. Denver matches up very well and has answers to virtually every Lakers question — in Game 1 and for the series. Go with a parlay of Nuggets to win Game 1 and the series, -165.

Futures bet: The improved play of Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell has allowed LeBron James to be more selective and less ball-dominant this season. Couple that with the X-factor — Denver’s Aaron Gordon is the perfect playoff defender to match up against James — and you have a nice Game 1 player prop at plus money.

Bet on LeBron James under 24.5 points in Game 1, +102.

No. 3 Minnesota Timberwolves (+125) vs. No. 6 Phoenix Suns (-150)

Series bet: Minnesota was the West’s top seed for much of the final month of the regular season, but the final week served to push the Timberwolves into disarray. Karl-Anthony Towns returned from an 18-game absence caused by a knee injury, but the feel-good chemistry did not, and then Phoenix showed how to beat Minnesota — convincingly and on the road.

The Timberwolves force teams into a high number of mid-range shots, but the Suns make their living burying mid-range jumpers. Bad matchup.

Take the good price on the Suns to win the series, -150.

Futures bet: Minnesota’s worst defensive game came on Nov. 15 against the Suns, who swept the three-game, regular-season series. The Timberwolves’ young leader, Anthony Edwards, must force the issue and be less of a facilitator and more of a scorer.

The Suns, meanwhile, will take the open shots inevitably created by Minnesota’s double-teams. Scoring will be comfortably split among Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal, leaving the series’ top scorer bet in Edwards’ capable hands. Go with Edwards at +115 to be the leading scorer in the series.

No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers (+110) vs. No. 5 Dallas Mavericks (-130)

Series bet: No, Clippers fans, we just can’t believe in your team. Even though it’s become trendy to blindly back the Mavericks this week, there are good reasons. Dallas stars Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic shred efforts to double-team them, and each is a nightmare to guard one on one.

Los Angeles’ best player, Kawhi Leonard, missed the past two weeks, and the best the team could say after he reportedly received an injection in his ailing left knee this week was that it was “cautiously optimistic” regarding Leonard’s availability for Sunday. Feels like Dallas in six — or fewer. Go with Mavericks -1.5 games for the series, +118 at FanDuel.

Futures bet: Doncic averaged 37.5 minutes per game this season, pulling down 9.2 rebounds. Clippers center Ivica Zubac also averaged 9.2 rebounds per game, but in only 26.4 minutes.

The Los Angeles rotation figures to be shorter, yielding more minutes for Zubac. He is favored at DraftKings to be the top rebounder in the series, but at FanDuel it’s Doncic (-125) over Zubac (+130). Take Zubac.

Odds to win the Western Conference, per DraftKings:
Nuggets +135
Clippers +600
Thunder +650
Mavericks +700
Suns +850
Timberwolves +1100
Lakers +1100
Pelicans +4500

–Field Level Media

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