What are the Boston Celtics odds to win the NBA Championship?
Times are good for the Boston Celtics at roughly the halfway point of the NBA season. Fresh off a run to the 2022 Finals they now stand atop the NBA standings with a stellar 31-12 record, outscoring their opponents by a league-best 6.1 points per game. They also lead the league in offensive efficiency, scoring 115.8 points per 100 possessions.
Needless to say, the oddsmakers give the Celtics an excellent chance to win the 2023 NBA title. In fact they are the favorites as per BetMGM.
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Despite having the steepest Championship odds on the board, the Celtics title chances are actually underpriced according to some advanced statistical projection systems. The +400 at BetMGM implies that they have a 20% shot at the title. FiveThirtyEight projects the Celtics to finish 58-24 with title odds of 26%. ESPN’s Basketball Power Index has roughly the same record prediction but with a 33.7% shot at the trophy. TeamRankings also rounds to 58 wins, but a 35.3% title shot.
On the surface the NBA looks wide open in 2022-23. Yes the Celtics top the league, but not by all that much. Memphis and Denver are both 28-13 in the West, while Brooklyn and Milwaukee sit within range in the East at 27-14 and 27-15 respectively. The Sixers are further back, but projection systems love them too, just not as much as they adore the Celtics.
What gives? Well the Celtics have by some measures the best player in the league this year in Jason Tatum. Real Plus Minus (RPM) is the “player's estimated on-court impact on team performance, measured in net point differential per 100 offensive and defensive possessions. RPM takes into account teammates, opponents and additional factors” according to ESPN. Tatum’s mark of 9.07 leads the NBA as do his “Wins” which incorporates both RPM and the number of possessions actually played. Most impressively Tatum’s RPM “splits” are almost even, with a 4.67 Offensive RPM and a 4.39 Defensive RPM. Only Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic, Tatum’s biggest rivals for league MVP, exceed 3.00 on both ORPM and DRPM.
Tatum excels in traditional stats as well, scoring 30.6 points per game (PPG) with 8.2 rebounds per game (RPG) and 4.2 assists per game (APG). He has improved in PPG and RPG in each of his six seasons in the league.
Jaylen Brown has simultaneously grown into a star as well. He is 19th in the league in RPM at 4.72 and ninth in Wins with 7.88. He does not trail Tatum by much in traditional stats either with 27.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG and 3.2 APG. Unfortunately Brown is injured and out for a couple weeks.
Beyond these two, the team is filled with excellent secondary and role players. Robert Williams is an effective Big, especially on defense, but has played only 11 games since returning from an injury that knocked him out for the early part of the season. He finished 11th in Defensive RPM in 2021-22 at 5.74 and 25th in overall RPM at 4.82. He sits below water at -.81 in RPM in 2022-23 so if/when he rounds into form it is effectively like the Celtcs adding a star defender to the mix.
Who poses the biggest challenge to the Celtics? The betting markets say it is the Bucks, but the advanced stats sites say not to Fear The Deer. FiveThirtyEight gives Milwaukee a 5% chance while ESPN BPI has them down at 1.1%. Giannis is still great but their second best player, Kris Middleton, has missed much of the season.
Speaking of injuries, the Brooklyn Nets looked unbeatable for the month both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving actually played together. But shockingly (not shockingly) KD is down again, this time for at least a month. FiveThirtyEight and ESPN BPI both give the Nets a 6% title shot. Four years into the Nets SuperTeam Era they have yet to get past the second round of the East or fielded a healthy team in the playoffs.
That could describe the Sixers as well, who also have yet to make it past the second round. Embiid is an absolute star, James Harden even in his decline phase is still great and they run pretty deep. They have not played particularly well in the regular season so far and the betting odds of +1600 imply they have a 5.8% chance to win the title. FiveThirtyEight says that’s underpriced as they calculate it at 9% while ESPN BPI is even more bullish at 12%.
Someone has to win the West. The Warriors have a bit of a title hangover on top of losing Steph Curry for a month. Neither FiveThirtyEight (3%) or ESPN BPI (1.3%) feel a repeat. It is very tough to buy the advanced stats here given that unlike all the top teams in the East except the Bucks, the Warriors have won titles. Both advanced sites favor the Grizzlies in the West, with FiveThirtyEight giving them a 17% shot and BPI 13.3%. If Ja Morant can stay healthy into spring, the young Grizzlies do figure to make some noise.
While the Celtics are perhaps not quite as overwhelming as some past NBA powerhouses, they are a very solid team with an absolute superstar in Tatum, another near-superstar in Brown and a solid roster up and down that figures to get even better on the defensive end. Their status as title favorite is warranted.