Updated NBA Division Odds: Early Favorites Out West

It may be early, but to this point which Western Conference teams have proved to be the best and worse bets to win their divisions?

This past week of NBA action saw Klay Thompson scorch the Chicago Bulls for a record 14 threes and the Nuggets win four games in a row to keep pace with the dominant Warriors in the Western Conference. The West is shaping up to be a bloodbath -- our model shows 10 teams with at least a 50% likelihood of making the playoffs, and that’s not including the Grizzlies, Kings or Clippersall of whom would be in the playoffs if they started today.

Most teams have played around ten games, which is a small sample size, but there are early trends that can lead to betting value if dissected correctly.

Last week, we examined two Eastern Conference divisions to uncover teams with the most betting value. The Charlotte Hornets and Toronto Raptors had a combined record of 5-2 last week, and each team sits atop its respective division. We’ll move to the West this week and look at the Western Conference divisional odds from FanDuel Sportsbook, of course excluding the favorite Warriors.

Let's check it out.

Northwest Division

The Utah Jazz were the favorite to win this division at the beginning of the season, but after a week full of winning, Denver is now tied with the best odds to win the Northwest. Minnesota has the longest odds, due to internal turmoil and speculation that Jimmy Butler will be traded soon.

Team Odds Projected Wins
Denver Nuggets +195 45.5
Utah Jazz +195 44.5
Portland Trail Blazers +440 44.2
Oklahoma City Thunder +480 44.3
Minnesota Timberwolves +1200 42.1

These five teams are clustered together in projected wins, making it tough to determine where the betting value lies. However, only one of these squads ranks amongst the top five in our power rankings: the Denver Nuggets.

Denver was a solid offensive team last season, where six players averaged scoring in the double-digits, even though Paul Millsap played only 38 games. Will Barton is out for a few weeks to recover from hip surgery, but the Nuggets' scoring core is mostly intact.

The defensive side is where the Nuggets have really improved; they rank 3rd in defensive rating this season as opposed to 25th last season. They’re forcing turnovers at a rate of 14.0% and holding opponents to an effective field goal percentage (eFG%) of 50.5%, according to Basketball Reference. Besides having a healthy Millsap in the lineup, much of the Nuggets’ success can be attributed to a step forward for franchise cornerstone Nikola Jokic. The Joker has a defensive box plus/minus (DBPM) of 5.8 through nine games, up from his 2.3 during last season. Together, Jokic and Millsap form one of the most formidable defensive frontcourts in the NBA.

Pick: Denver Nuggets +195

Southwest Division

One of the most interesting storylines this season has been the struggling Houston Rockets, who are only 3-5 on the season. However, they’re still a significant favorite at well below even odds. Despite an exciting start for rookie Luka Doncic, the Mavericks bring up the rear odds-wise; our power rankings slot Dallas in at 25th.

TeamOddsProjected Wins
Houston Rockets-28046.4
New Orleans Pelicans+39043.6
San Antonio Spurs+60047.7
Memphis Grizzlies+500036.9
Dallas Mavericks-1000035.6

Our model projects San Antonio to finish first in the Southwest, and at +600 odds, they’re obviously the best bet to win. We’ve discussed how the new-look Spurs were a good flyer for an NBA Championship bet before, and after a 3-1 week, they’re continuing to make waves in the loaded West. Instead of rehashing all the aspects that make the Spurs a great bet, let’s analyze why bettors should fade the Rockets in this division.

For starters, the Rockets haven’t looked good on defense at all this year. Houston lost two of their best perimeter defenders -- Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute -- over the offseason, and backup center Nen has been sidelined with an injury. While his return will improve the second unit defensively, the Rockets have replaced many of their stodgy defenders’ minutes with human turnstile Carmelo Anthony. Houston has allowed opponents to convert to the tune of an eFG% of 53.5%, 20th in the NBA.

Defense isn’t Houston’s only problem. Last season, they ranked first in offensive rating due to their efficient shooting and ability to get to the free throw line. Through eight games, they rank 23rd in eFG% on offense and .175 free throws per field goal attempt (FT/FGA), which ranks 25th. James Harden hasn’t gotten to the line as much this season, only averaging 8.4 free throw attempts per game as opposed to 10.1 last season. Chris Paul and Eric Gordon, typically efficient shooters, have registered eFG% marks of just 47.0% and 37.9%, respectively.

While the Rockets’ more pressing issue comes on defense, Houston needs its core to sort out their offensive woes quickly. For now, bettors should avoid them in favor of more attractive odds in this division.

Fade: Houston Rockets -280