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Picking A Dark Horse NBA Champion With High Odds

Since the start of the 2020-21 season, three teams have stood atop the league as the favorites to win the NBA championship.

The Los Angeles Lakers started the season as the overall favorite to repeat, but they were surpassed by the Brooklyn Nets after the acquisition of James Harden.

The only teams that have topped the list are the Lakers and the Nets, but the Los Angeles Clippers have never dropped lower than the fourth highest odds.

Even with key injuries to all the teams previously mentioned, bettors have rushed to back these three favorites.

Let’s look at two teams that have a shot at hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy and winning the NBA championship that will provide a generous return.

Utah Jazz (+750)

The Jazz have been the best team in the league, record-wise, for nearly the entire season. Despite this, they have never cracked the top three list as the favorites to win the NBA championship.

Utah has all the ingredients of an NBA championship team.

On the offensive end, they are top three in points per game, three-point percentage, and defensive rebounds per game. The Jazz are excellent at running up the score and dong it quickly.

One of the most impressive aspects of this Utah team is the depth they have. Donovan Mitchell is clearly their leader, but they have so many scorers that they’re able to withstand a bad shooting night from their main guy.

The Jazz have six guys averaging double-digit scoring, and seven guys shooting above 38% from deep. Mitchell is bound to have one or two off nights if Utah makes a deep playoff run, but the rest of the offense and the defensive scheme is designed to absorb this and still win.

Defensively, the Jazz allow the third least points in the league. They hold opponents to the second lowest field goal and three-point percentage in the league.

Anchored by Rudy Gobert in the middle and tenacious perimeter defenders like Royce O’Neale and Mitchell, there is no area that opponents can really exploit against Utah.

Everyone on this team knows their role, and does it well. The only knock on the Jazz is that they’re unproven when it comes to obtaining an NBA championship; and don’t have a true superstar.

Mitchell will be on a mission to prove these doubters wrong. Even though Utah might not have a top five player in the NBA, they’ll give any team in the league a run for their money in a seven game series with “Spida” at the helm.

At +750, this line is too good to pass up. The Jazz have shown us all season they’re a force to be reckoned with, and will be the most cohesive unit of the top teams when the playoffs start. Utah is definitely worth a small bet here and is probably more valuable than banking on a team like the Lakers or the Nets who are one injury away from a postseason exit.

Philadelphia 76ers (+1,300)

Like the Jazz, the Sixers have flown almost completely under the radar.

Even after holding the best record in the Eastern Conference for the majority of the season and playing with a legitimate MVP candidate in Joel Embiid, the Sixers have never cracked the top three favorites.

Philly checks all the boxes of previous champions. They have shown the potential to play lockdown defense when needed, both of their stars are excellent two-way players, and they have the depth to offset cold nights from Embiid and Ben Simmons.

In contrast to Utah, the Sixers prefer to pound the ball inside to get their points. Both Simmons and Embiid are elite paint scorers, and Doc Rivers has milked this advantage to the max.

However, Philadelphia isn’t a one-dimensional team. They’ve added shooters like Danny Green and Seth Curry this offseason to ensure that in situations when they need three-point shooting, they’re well prepared.

The Sixers should finish the season as either the top seed in the East or behind the Nets. This will be important for Embiid and company, as they hold the best home record in the conference. Hanging on to the top spot would seemingly elevate their chances at an NBA championship.

The Sixers have historically been much better on their home court, and having a potential Game 7 in Philadelphia could swing the series in their favor.

Another advantage that the Sixers hold is the fact they get to play a much weaker Eastern Conference slate. Teams like the Hornets and Knicks are solid squads, but they’re not scaring anybody in the postseason as legitimate threats to win the NBA championship.

It’d be a stretch for Philly to win it all, but at +1,300, they’re definitely worth a small bet. They’re nearly guaranteed to make the second round, and could get a weaker opponent in that next series as well. Because of their sky-high odds, I’ll put a small sum on Philly to win it all as a dark horse.