NBA playoff odds: Which teams can make a surprise run to the playoffs?
Finding value can be difficult when it comes to predicting the NBA's postseason field. Only five teams made the 16-team playoff field in 2020-21 after missing it the year before, and only three clubs did so in 2019-20.
Still, every year a handful of squads surprise us while either sneaking into the playoffs or unexpectedly dropping into the lottery.
Here are the current playoff odds at theScore Bet and our five favorite values to bet before the season:
|Los Angeles Lakers||-4000||+1250|
|Golden State Warriors||-550||+375|
|Los Angeles Clippers||-265||+215|
|Portland Trail Blazers||-220||+175|
|New York Knicks||-135||+105|
|New Orleans Pelicans||+160||-190|
|San Antonio Spurs||+1050||-2500|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+2500||-10000|
Trail Blazers to make the playoffs (-220)
This price feels a bit steep for a team that oddsmakers consider the eighth-best in the West, but it's just hard to imagine the Trail Blazers missing the postseason. Portland made the playoffs in eight straight years under Terry Stotts despite ranking among the league's worst defensively in each of the last two seasons.
Expect that to change under new head coach Chauncey Billups, who has committed to employing a more aggressive approach than the drop coverage that clearly didn't work under Stotts. There are pieces on the roster to make that work, too, after the Trail Blazers added Larry Nance and Cody Zeller to a frontcourt that's lacked depth and defensive muscle for years.
Even an injury likely won't derail this group. Portland was without star guard CJ McCollum for 25 games last year, and starting center Jusuf Nurkic has played just 45 contests over the past two seasons. That hasn't mattered, as the Trail Blazers - healthy or not - possess enough talent to cruise to another postseason berth.
Warriors to miss the playoffs (+375)
I couldn't believe this price at first. Aren't this year's Warriors largely the same team that missed the playoffs two straight seasons? And they were among the NBA's worst teams offensively a year ago, even with Stephen Curry at the helm.
Yes, Klay Thompson is back after missing two seasons, but the history of players returning from Achilles tears is shaky - let alone those recovering from that and a torn ACL on the opposite side. We've also watched Draymond Green's game deteriorate over the past three years, while James Wiseman was an uneasy option down low even before his injury.
Due to both talent and injuries, there are simply too many questions tied to this roster to confidently bet on a playoff berth when the Warriors haven't qualified since Kevin Durant left after the 2018-19 season.
Raptors to make the playoffs (+185)
Even with Kyle Lowry heading to South Beach, there's enough talent left on the Raptors' roster to make a run at the No. 8 seed after injuries, relocation, a COVID-19 outbreak, and a late-season shutdown to shoot for better positioning in the lottery led to a disastrous campaign in 2020-21.
This team has improved compared to a year ago. Pascal Siakam is only a few years removed from garnering MVP votes, while Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and Chris Boucher are all clear breakout candidates in Toronto's young rotation. That's to say nothing of No. 4 pick Scottie Barnes, who's already making an impression as a rangy wing with elite upside.
There's no obvious superstar on this squad, but Toronto's floor is higher than oddsmakers seem to believe. Remember, the Raptors made the playoffs just two seasons ago with largely the same core. They can do it again.
Knicks to miss the playoffs (+105)
The Knicks have been given the ninth-best odds to make the playoffs in the East, yet they're still a -135 favorite to earn a postseason spot. How does that make any sense?
Even if their standing was higher on the oddsboard, it's too risky to bet on Tom Thibodeau's group making another miracle run after New York put together a miraculous late-season surge in 2020-21, though some unsustainable defensive margins that masked sub-standard talent provided a push.
Splurging on mid-level contributors in free agency doesn't change that, and there are more regression candidates on this roster than you'd want at this price. You can do better than New York among the odds-on favorites to make the playoffs.
Spurs to make the playoffs (+1050)
Are we totally sure this Spurs team can't make a surprise run to the playoffs? San Antonio made the postseason in each of Gregg Popovich's first 22 campaigns, and the club made the play-in tournament a year ago but couldn't get past the Grizzlies.
On paper, this squad is worse without 2020-21 leading scorer DeMar DeRozan, but San Antonio should improve defensively with him and LaMarcus Aldridge out of the rotation. That means more minutes for rising stars Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson, and Derrick White - all of whom are either top-end defenders or could rise to that level.
All it takes to cash this bet is for San Antonio to secure the No. 10 seed and win a couple of play-in games. Or better yet, leapfrog teams like the Grizzlies and Pelicans for a higher seed, which is certainly possible for a Popovich-coached squad.
Is it unlikely? Sure. But at these odds, it's hard not to take a shot.