The NBA season has reached the halfway point, and the Boston Celtics are the current favorite to win the NBA Finals. The C’s have the league’s best record, and they are +360 on DraftKings Sportsbook to go all the way.
Jayson Tatum has done his best to erase the memory of last year’s Finals loss, currently averaging 30 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists. Tatum also sits third in MVP odds at +400 on DraftKings.
Now that we have an idea of the league’s landscape this year, let’s take a look at Boston’s biggest threats to winning the NBA Finals in 2023.
Boston Celtics Title Odds vs. The Field
The biggest threat to the Celtics’ title odds are turnovers. Dating back to the last season, especially in the Finals, turnovers have been the Celtics’ biggest problem. In the Finals, they turned the ball over 78 times for a live-ball turnover percentage of 62.8. That’s not winning basketball.
As talented as the Celtics are, they still don’t have a traditional floor general to lead the offense to help alleviate this problem. That could haunt them later in the year. If they are to get over the hump, this is a problem they are going to have to figure out. They haven’t turned it over a lot this year, but they haven’t faced the intensity of playoff defenses yet either.
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Eastern Conference Foes
To get to the Finals again, the Celtic must first win the Eastern Conference. The two teams with the second and third-best odds to win it all contend in the same conference: The Nets and the Bucks.
Brooklyn Nets (+550 at DraftKings)
The Celtics surprisingly made quick work of the Nets in last year’s playoffs, dispatching Kevin Durant and company in just four games. That Nets team, however, is not the team competing today. They appear more motivated, focused, and united. The way the season ended for them last year and the criticism they have faced since then seems to have sparked a team many favored to win a championship by now.
Durant, much like Tatum, has had an MVP level type season through the midway point, and the Nets are just two games out of the No. 1 seed in the East. His running mate Kyrie Irving is having one of the most efficient seasons of his career so far. Although the series ended in a sweep last year, each game was close and could have gone either way. With Durant and Irving focused and thriving, things could just as easily go their way down the stretch if the two teams were to meet again.
Milwaukee Bucks (+750 at DraftKings)
The Bucks, despite being without Kris Middleton for a good portion of the season, are still just two and a half games out of the first seed in the East. With him scheduled to return soon, the Bucks are as tough of an out as anyone in basketball. Giannis Antetokounmpo is continuing his streak of dominance and keeping them afloat, and he is in MVP discussions as usual. The Celtics got past the Bucks to get to the Finals last year, but it took seven games without Kris Middleton playing.
If Middleton returns in enough time to find his rhythm before the playoffs, it could be a much different story for the Celtics this year.
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Western Conference Threats
If the Celtics do make the NBA Finals, there are multiple teams in the West that could give the Celtics a run for their money. However, there is no team more of a threat than the team that has already proved they can dispatch the Celtics, the Golden State Warriors.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are having a slow start to the season, but they have been putting the pieces of the puzzle together lately and still have the fifth-highest odds to win it all despite their struggles to this point. From injuries to adjusting to their new roster, the Warriors have had a lot to adapt to, which, in a way, only makes them better.
The Warriors struggled to put points on the board with Steph Curry on the bench in the Finals last year. This year, they have had to go about a month without his services. That forced them to figure out how to get by without him. It also allowed Klay Thompson to find his rhythm and return to some resemblance of his old self prior to ACL tear he suffered a few years ago. You’ll most likely see the results of overcoming their challenges this season pay off in the second half as they look to move up the playoff standings.
This year, the road is much more difficult for the young Celtics team to get back to the Finals, despite their favorable title odds. As talented as they are, they still have yet to prove they can handle defensive pressure without it significantly disrupting their offense. The rest of the season is going to be a great test for them, and they should embrace it as an opportunity to patch up their biggest weakness.
If we had to pick today, we wouldn’t give the Celtics the edge because of the current landscape of the league. The task still feels too tall for a team still led by such young stars. Most of the current stars we know and love were a little older and more battle tested than Tatum through this point of their careers, i.e. LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant, who were all at least 27 years of age.
Only time will tell who ends up winning it all, but it is going to be fascinating to watch nonetheless.