NBA betting: Warriors, Suns, Joel Embiid favored for title, MVP as season restarts

The Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers are looking up at the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves in the standings as the NBA restarts its season after the All-Star break.

If you were waiting to tune into the NBA until after the Super Bowl, it got a little crazy while you were gone.

The NBA is always interesting. There were some big trades, including a blockbuster among Eastern Conference contenders. A few young, upstart teams find themselves leading preseason title favorites. With a little less than two months before the playoffs start, let's take a look at where the NBA stands from a betting angle.

Who are the favorites to win it all?

Here are the NBA Finals odds at BetMGM:

Warriors +425

Suns +450

Bucks +600

Nets +600

76ers +700

All other teams are at least +1000 odds. The Warriors started the season on a tear, then the Suns surpassed them for the top spot in the West. The Suns lead the West by 6.5 games and look like they want to get right back to the NBA Finals, where their season ended last year.

Joel Embiid is the MVP favorite and the 76ers are among the teams with the best NBA Finals odds. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Joel Embiid is the MVP favorite and the 76ers are among the teams with the best NBA Finals odds. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

What's the best value to win it all?

The Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls are tied for the best record in the East, and neither team is listed among the top five favorites above. The Heat are as good as anyone in the East, with fewer questions to answer, and they're a juicy +1000 to win it all. The Bulls are an even juicier +2500. Either one is worth a play at those odds. It seems like there are about six legitimate contenders in the East.

It's harder to find a dark horse in the West, but the Utah Jazz at +1600 is interesting.

What about the Nets and Lakers?

The Nets and Lakers were preseason favorites to win it all, but both have had rocky seasons. The Nets have the eighth-best record in the East and the Lakers are No. 9 in the West. We'll get to the Lakers in a bit.

The Nets decided to break up the Kevin Durant-James Harden-Kyrie Irving trio, shipping Harden to the 76ers for a package of players that included Ben Simmons. Seeing how Simmons meshes with Durant and Irving (at least in road games; Irving is unvaccinated and still can't play at home) will be fascinating.

Durant has been out with a knee injury. Assuming he comes back healthy for the playoffs, he can be the unquestioned top scorer with Harden gone, and Simmons can facilitate and play defense. Maybe that's a better fit. The Nets also got Seth Curry, a 3-point shooter who can stretch a defense, and Andre Drummond, a quality big. The Nets are in a strange place, with a team that can make the NBA Finals but might have to do it out of the play-in tournament. They're still a quality team, though it might be a while before they're a good bet on a game-to-game basis. The reshaped roster might need some time to figure things out.

Who have been this season's most disappointing teams?

You'd think the Lakers would have the NBA's worst record against the spread. They are 27-31 overall, which is stunning given the preseason expectations. Injuries have been a factor. Russell Westbrook has not looked comfortable all season. The Lakers are 25-32-1 against the spread, according to The Action Network's ATS standings, which is bad but not as bad as it could have been. Oddsmakers have adjusted to how bad the Lakers have been.

Five teams are worse than the Lakers against the spread: the Washington Wizards (22-35-1), Houston Rockets (23-34-1), Brooklyn Nets (24-35), Portland Trail Blazers (24-35) and New York Knicks (25-33-1). The defending champion Bucks are right behind the Lakers at 26-35. The Knicks have been a huge disappointment after making the playoffs last season. The Bucks have had stretches of good play but have dropped many games they have no business losing. Perhaps teams like the Bucks and Nets are saving themselves for the playoffs.

Who have been the best teams against the spread?

The Memphis Grizzlies take this title. They're 39-21-1 against the spread, according to The Action Network and have been great to bettors from the start of the season. The emergence of Ja Morant as an MVP candidate has boosted the Grizzlies.

The other ATS leaders are among the league's most surprising teams: the Chicago Bulls (36-23-1), Oklahoma City Thunder (35-19-4 ... they're just 18-40 overall but have consistently covered huge numbers), Toronto Raptors (34-23), Cleveland Cavaliers (34-23-1) and Charlotte Hornets (33-24-3). The Cavaliers have been a great story and a great team for bettors, and are currently tied for the No. 3 seed in the East at 35-23.

Joel Embiid leads MVP odds

There is still a lot of games to go this season, but Embiid's dominant season has put him in position to win MVP. He's +125 odds at BetMGM to win the award. Nikola Jokic, who is having a phenomenal follow-up to his MVP season, is next at +275. Giannis Antetokounmpo is third at +375, and all others are at least +1200 odds.

There's time for someone like Ja Morant (+1600) or Demar DeRozan (+2200). But anyone, including Jokic and Antetokounmpo, probably needs an Embiid injury to take the award. That's possible since injuries have been a big part of Embiid's career, but he is in the middle of an MVP-worthy season. We'll see if a championship alongside Harden is also in his future.