Another NBA regular season is in the books. On Wednesday, teams played their last regular season games, finalizing the playoff positions for all 16 qualifying teams in the process. After all the dust had settled, the Warriors were on top of the Western Conference yet again. Golden State has a healthy squad, and are the heavy favorites to come out of the Western Conference this season (-375 odds to win the West). In the Eastern Conference, it is the Milwaukee Bucks who reign supreme. The Bucks have the NBA’s best record, along with possibly the league’s most unstoppable player in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Like the Warriors, the Bucks are a heavy favorite to get out of the Eastern Conference this season, with sportsbooks putting (+130) odds on the Bucks winning the East. While these two teams are the heavy betting favorites, this year’s playoff field is littered with high quality talent, and teams that have the potential to beat anyone. Today, we are breaking down three “sleeper” teams that have the ability to shock the world and win it all this year in the NBA playoffs. Here’s our Top 3 postseason sleepers in the 2019 NBA Playoffs.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (49-23) Odds to win NBA Championship : (+3500)
The first team to make our sleepers list is the OKC Thunder. OKC was able to finish in sixth place in this year’s highly competitive Western Conference. The Thunder are an intriguing sleeper pick with (+3500) odds on winning a Champ, as they have an interesting and dangerous dynamic to themselves.
Led by Russell Westbrook and Paul George, OKC has plenty of firepower and playoff experience to make a deep postseason run of their own this year. George is coming off a monster season for the Thunder, averaging 28.0 points, 8.2 assists, and 2.2 steals per game. George finished second in the league in scoring, and first in the league in steals. Russell Westbrook did what Westbrook does; put up ridiculous numbers all season. The point guard was able to average a triple-double for a third straight season, a feat that has never been done, and most likely will never be done again.
The length of the Thunder’s postseason run will likely come down to the performance of their role players. Players like Dennis Schroder and Terrance Ferguson will have to step up big for the Thunder, picking up the scoring when Westbrook or George hit an inevitable rut sometime in the playoffs. Nonetheless, expect this Thunder team to play well this postseason and advance to some significant matchups.
OKC starts their postseason with a matchup against the third-seeded Portland Trail Blazers. The Thunder pulled a clean sweep over Portland in the regular season, going 4-0 against their division rivals.
2. Philadelphia 76ers (51-31) Odds to win NBA Championship : (+1600)
The only team from the Eastern Conference on our list, the Philadelphia 76ers have way too many weapons on their team to be given (+1600) odds to win The Finals this season. Philly has quickly developed from a young team with potential to a dangerously talented team that looks poised to make a run.
There is only one team that can boast a better starting five than the 76ers this season (yes, it’s the Warriors). Every single member of the starting five is averaging over 16 points per game, with Joel Embiid leading the way with 27.5 points per game. Mid-season pickup Tobias Harris has profoundly influenced the success of the 76ers since arriving from LA. The small forward quickly acclimated to the 76ers offense and is the second leading scorer on the team with 18.2 points per game.
Philly can get it done on the defensive as well. With high-level defenders like Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid on the floor for most of the game, much of an opposing offense can be nullified by the 76ers. With high-level talent from point guard to center, Philadelphia has the ability to beat anyone, especially if the game is at home. The 76ers have only lost ten games at home all season, and never lost two home games in a row.
The 76ers will start their 2019 playoff run against the sixth-seeded Brooklyn Nets. Provided Embid is healthy, expect the 76ers to take care of business fairly quickly in the first round against a young Nets squad. The real test for the 76ers will come in the second round, as they will likely take on the second-seeded Toronto Raptors.
1. Houston Rockets (53-29) Odds to win NBA Championship : (+1100)
At (+1100) odds to win it all, the fourth-seeded Rockets out of the Western Conference are by far the most exciting sleeper in this year’s postseason. The Rockets made a deep run into the postseason last year and even had the Warriors on edge in the Western Conference Finals last season. Houston was leading the series 3-2 but was unable to finish the job after Chris Paul went down with a season-ending hamstring injury.
This season, the Rockets are back in the hunt for playoff success. Led by last year’s MVP James Harden, the Rockets finished fourth in the Western Conference. Harden has put together a historically good season, averaging 36.1 points per game in the regular season. Harden has gotten it done in other aspects of the game as well, as the superstar is averaging 7.5 assists and 2.0 steals to go with his league-leader scoring numbers. His stats speak for themselves and have Harden in the frontrunning position to win yet another MVP award.
Despite the massive output by Harden, the Rockets are hardly a one-man team. Guards Chris Paul and Eric Gordon each play huge parts in what the Rockets do. Both Gordon and Paul shoot a relatively high volume of threes at a decent rate, with the pair both hitting over 35%.
With a backcourt of Paul, Harden, and Gordon, Houston will be in most games because of their shooting. Not many teams in the league can hang with their scoring. While the guards are the driving force in the team, there is one player that makes this Rockets team tick without getting all of the love. Clint Capela is that impact player for the Rockets, as the big man is coming off of the best regular season of his career. The 6’10 Capela has found his niche in this Rockets team. The big man is averaging 16.6 points and 12.7 rebounds and is one of few physical presences on this Houston team.
Houston will start their postseason with a matchup with the fifth-seeded Utah Jazz. The two teams split the regular season series 2-2, with the Rockets winning the last two meetings. If Houston can get by the Jazz, they will likely face the Golden State Warriors in the second round.