After seeing each NBA team play in more than 50 games this season, we have a good idea of who the favorites are and who will likely contend for the championship in 2013, but as always, there a few teams waiting in the wings, ready to pounce if the top dogs find trouble down the stretch. These are the dark horse teams and although they don’t have extremely good odds to become champions this season, they still have strong value as long shots because if they pull through, you are bound to be swimming in cash and if they don’t, you won’t stand to lose much. However, to really be considered a dark horse, you also need to be a team with a decent shot at winning and we’ve got three picks that fit the bill. Here are the top 3 NBA dark horses:
1. Denver Nuggets – 40/1
After going on a nine-game winning streak toward the end of the first half of the season, the Nuggets propelled themselves into the Western Conference title hunt with a 33-21 record going into the All-Star break. The Nuggets near flawless record at home (22-3) and their high-scoring nature (105.1 points per game, 3rd in the league) makes them prime dark horse candidate, as does their 40/1 odds. The Nuggets have beaten several of the league’s top teams already and if they can improve their position slightly up from 5th in the West, they’ll receive home court in the first round of the playoffs, which is almost an assured advancement with the Nuggets. With the Thunder, Clippers and Spurs all playing top notch basketball, it certainly won’t be easy, but the Nuggets are one team that could surprise people, but not us. Denver is very valuable at 40/1.
2. Golden State Warriors – 50/1
The Warriors also are unfortunate to be in the ultra-competitive Western Conference this season, but considering they are just one game behind the Nuggets, they too are in strong position and if they are able to make a run late in the season, they could climb right to the top. Buoyed by a versatile offense that includes big man David Lee and guard Stephen Curry, the Warriors are also a threat to take down the Thunder, Clippers and Spurs, simply because they can keep up on the scoreboard. The Warriors are scoring 101 points per game, but also are allowing 101 points per game, so they are a little more of a long shot at 50/1. Still, they have the capabilities of boasting a stronger defense in the second half of the season. They are slightly less valuable than Denver, but still a solid pick at 50/1.
3. Brooklyn Nets – 33/1
Although the Nets have better odds – which in some cases would decrease their value as a dark horse – they do have a fairly complete team with Deron Williams running the point, Joe Johnson on the outside and Brook Lopez in the middle. They also happen to be in the East, which is slightly less competitive, as evidenced by the West’s All-Star win on Sunday. They are still definitely a dark horse, but a good one with a 31-22 record, which is only six and a half games back of the East-leading Heat. They’ve also played well recently, winning their last two games, so they could be poised to go on a run. Because of the aforementioned reasons, the Nets are our No. 3 pick at 33/1.