There are just three weeks remaining in the lockout-shortened NBA schedule and books and bettors have a good idea of which teams have what it takes to make a run at the title.
The NBA Championship odds are leaning toward a Miami-Oklahoma City final, but anything is possible especially after the 66-game grind. That means there is some solid value in the futures market, starting with these five teams:San Antonio Spurs (+900)
After a win over New Orleans Friday, the Spurs are tied atop the Western Conference with the Thunder. San Antonio has won 10 straight games (8-1-1 ATS) and has just two losses in the past month, but still oddsmakers continue to discount its title chances. Maybe it’s because the Spurs, with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, are looked at as an old team in a season built for young men? I’ll take veteran experience over youthful exuberance when the going gets tough every time.Dallas Mavericks (+2,500)
The defending NBA champs are priced at whaaa…? Dallas has been spotty at times this season, but has still shown signs of being a championship-caliber squad. The Mavericks are currently in sixth place in the West, heading into the weekend, and are minus point guard Jason Kidd for at least a few more games. A win over Memphis Saturday would go a long way in their playoff seeding, but a weak road stretch ahead could give Dallas the momentum it needs heading into the postseason. Boston Celtics (+3,300)
The Celtics are the Spurs of the Eastern Conference – thought of as past their prime but quietly making a charge to round out the schedule. Ray Allen is back, Kevin Garnett is playing with passion again, and Paul Pierce is still Paul Pierce. Add to the mix an emerging Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass’ toughness inside - not to mention Rajon Rondo’s nightly double-doubles - and Boston, with all its experience, will be a tough out come the playoffs. Memphis Grizzlies (+4,000)
The Grizzlies are all about making teams look stupid and could pull a similar feat, by making books look like fools, if they win the NBA Championship. Memphis, which leads the league in steals and points off turnovers, showed just how dangerous it could be with an upset over the Miami Friday. Now that the Grizzlies are healthy, they boast one of the deepest scoring attacks in the NBA, with Zach Randolph, O.J. Mayo and a resurrected Gilbert Arenas coming off the bench.Indiana Pacers (+6,600)
Don’t think the Pacers have what it takes to hang with the NBA’s elite. Let us point to Exhibit A: Friday’s 103-98 win over Oklahoma City. Indiana took an early lead and withstood a charge from the Thunder to pick up its fourth win in a row and improve to 7-3 (6-4 ATS) in the last 10 games, heading into the weekend. The Pacers are tough defensively and have displayed a scoring prowess in recent outings, topping the century mark in five straight games. On top of that, Indiana is one of the few teams that can win on the road, which is rare in this wacky season.