No matter which projection system you prefer, they’re in agreement on the most likely team to win the NBA championship. And it’s not the Phoenix Suns.
The Boston Celtics have captured the hearts of the computers. The Celtics are favored to win the NBA title by three different projections sites, and by a wide margin in two of them.
That’s a reason the odds at BetMGM have moved from Celtics +1000 to +750 since Monday.
If the projections are right, even those new odds still hold some value.
Celtics are favorites of analytics
According to ESPN’s BPI, the Celtics have a staggering 39 percent chance to win the NBA Finals. The Suns are second at 20.8 percent and no other team is in double digits.
If you prefer Five Thirty Eight’s projections, the Celtics are at 31 percent to win the title. The Suns are at 21 percent, the Milwaukee Bucks are at 13 percent and those are the only teams above 10 percent.
Then at Basketball Reference, the Celtics lead the way with a 26.9 percent chance to win it all. The Suns are 23.3 percent and no other team is above 10 percent.
Three different projection sets, three votes for the Celtics. Two have the Celtics far ahead of the field.
Maybe you don’t trust analytics. But the numbers provide a compelling argument that the Celtics’ title odds should be much lower. Boston has simply been fantastic since Jan. 29, when a 25-25 start turned into a 26-6 finish. Over that time, according to NBA’s advanced stats, the Celtics had the most efficient offense and the most efficient defense in the NBA. Defensively they were far ahead of any other team.
For more than two months, the Celtics were the best team in the NBA. The biggest problem for the Celtics might be a rough playoff path to get the title.
Boston has a tough road
There was a reason the top teams in the East seemed to be trying to avoid the No. 2 seed. The Celtics got that seed and will play the No. 7 seed Brooklyn Nets in the first round. That’s about as tough of a matchup for a top-two seed that we’ve ever seen. The Nets’ championship odds are just +800, right behind the Celtics.
The Celtics’ potential road to a championship might be Nets, Bucks, Miami Heat and then Suns. That would arguably be the toughest road, from first round through Finals, any champion has gone through.
But the Celtics are one of those teams nobody wants to face. Jayson Tatum is an elite offensive player and not too bad on defense either. Al Horford, Robert Williams III, Marcus Smart and Derrick White are top-end defensive players (the trade for White from the San Antonio Spurs in early February changed the makeup of Boston’s team). Williams is injured but could be back at some point in the Nets series. Williams was playing at an elite level during the Celtics’ hot streak and getting him back healthy from knee surgery would be enormous. With or without him, the Celtics have numerous players who can make an impact on both ends.
There’s plenty that could trip up the Celtics, most likely a brutal stretch of playoff opponents or Williams’ health not cooperating. But the Celtics have the ability to win a championship.
The toughest part might be getting past the Nets first.