Denver Nuggets

NBA Playoff Betting History: Western Conference Churning Out Champions

Doing your due diligence ahead of time to put yourself in the strongest position possible to succeed once the 2024 NBA playoffs get underway is what separates the contenders from the pretenders in the world of sports betting.

Here are some key facts and tidbits from the history of postseason action you need to take to heart as the regular season closes down with a champion soon to be crowned come June.

Success In The West Proves Best

Glossing over the standings in the Western Conference this season alone, you can instantly tell there's a massive discrepancy between the level of talent jockeying for position as opposed to that over in the East.

As of April 8, four teams in the West have 50 or more wins while the East has just one, and the fifth seed in the West would have a strong enough record to be the second seed in the East. 

The shift of power is even more apparent when remembering which teams have hoisted the Larry O'Brien trophy over the last ten years, with the West holding a 7-3 record over the East during that span. In fact, the only team to win consecutive titles coming out of the East since the Michael Jordan-era Chicago Bulls has been the Miami Heat with "The Heatles" in 2012 and 2013.

2023Denver NuggetsWest
2022Golden State WarriorsWest
2021Milwaukee BucksEast
2020Los Angeles LakersWest
2019Toronto RaptorsEast
2018Golden State WarriorsWest
2017Golden State WarriorsWest
2016Cleveland CavaliersEast
2015Golden State WarriorsWest
2014San Antonio SpursWest

Representatives of the West were favored in the odds for each of those matchups, as well, with the 2018 Golden State Warriors being the most sizeable favorite at a whopping -1075.

2023Denver Nuggets-430Miami Heat+330
2022Golden State Warriors-145Boston Celtics+125
2021Phoenix Suns-180Milwaukee Bucks+160
2020Los Angeles Lakers-350Miami Heat+290
2019Golden State Warriors-270Toronto Raptors +230
2018Golden State Warriors-1075Cleveland Cavaliers+688
2017Golden State Warriors-300Cleveland Cavaliers+250
2016Golden State Warriors-220Cleveland Cavaliers+180
2015Golden State Warriors-220Cleveland Cavaliers+190
2014San Antonio Spurs-155Miami Heat+135

"If you're not first, you're last"

Any team entering the playoffs as one of the two No. 1 seeds should undoubtedly be considered a heavy favorite to win it all, beyond the fact that having home-court advantage for most, if not all of the postseason, is an incredible advantage to have.

There have been 77 matchups in the NBA Finals and a No. 1 seed has prevailed in 51 of them, which equates to 66.2 percent of the time. Only the 1969 Boston Celtics (4th) and 1995 Houston Rockets (6th) have become champions with a fourth seed or higher. 

SeedNBA ChampionsLost NBA FinalsWinning Percentage

Take into account, though, that only two of the last six champions have been a No. 1 seed (2023 Denver Nuggets, 2020 Los Angeles Lakers). The 2022 Warriors and 2021 Milwaukee Bucks winning marked the first time since 1977-78 that a third seed emerged in back-to-back seasons.

Save it for the playoffs

The Celtics have been far and away the best team in basketball in 2023-24, and that may ultimately lead to their downfall. 

Having already clinched home-court advantage throughout the entirety of the playoffs, Boston faithful should be aware that the team which finished with the best overall record in each of the last four seasons didn't even advance to that year's conference finals. 

YearTeamRecord/Winning PercentageFinish
2023Milwaukee Bucks58-24/.707Lost First Round (Heat) 4-1
2022Phoenix Suns64-18/.683Lost Conference Semifinals (Mavericks) 4-3
2021Utah Jazz52-20/.722Lost Conference Semifinals (Clippers) 4-2
2020Milwaukee Bucks56-17/.767Lost Conference Semifinals (Heat) 4-1
2019Milwaukee Bucks60-22/.732Lost Conference Finals (Raptors) 4-2
2018Houston Rockets65-17/.793Lost Conference Finals (Warriors) 4-3
2017Golden State Warriors67-15/.817Won NBA Finals (Cavaliers) 4-1
2016Golden State Warriors73-9/.890Lost NBA Finals (Cavaliers) 4-3
2015Golden State Warriors67-15/.817Won NBA Finals (Cavaliers) 4-2
2014San Antonio Spurs62-20/.756Won NBA Finals (Heat) 4-1

Offense > Defense

The old saying goes that defense wins championships, but teams have to put the ball in the basket more than the opposition at the end of the day.

Since 2014, eight of the ten champions finished their respective season with a top-five offense overall. The two exceptions had generational talents in Stephen Curry and LeBron James at the helm, while also possessing top-three defenses to compensate for offenses which fell outside of the top 10. 

2023Denver Nuggets5th15th
2022Golden State Warriors16th2nd
2021Milwaukee Bucks5th9th
2020Los Angeles Lakers11th3rd
2019Toronto Raptors5th5th
2018Golden State Warriors3rd11th
2017Golden State Warriors1st2nd
2016Cleveland Cavaliers3rd10th
2015Golden State Warriors2nd1st
2014San Antonio Spurs5th4th
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