TIght NBA Division Races Out West: Southwest, Pacific, Northwest


Only 30% of the NBA regular season is complete, yet the Western Conference has three tight division races. The defending champion Las Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers are fighting for the Pacific division crown once again. The Northwest Division looks like a two-pony race between the red-hot Utah Jazz and slow-starting Denver Nuggets. Meanwhile, the Southwest division is wide open while the slumping Dallas Mavericks are caught in a free fall and the sizzling Houston Rockets are trending upwards.

NBA Division Races Southwest Utah Jazz Denver Nuggets Jokic GObert LA Lakers Clippers Pacific Southwest Houston Rockets Dallas Mavs
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, seen here blocking Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert, helped end the Jazz’s 11-game winning streak. The Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz are embroiled in a tight Northwest division race. (Image: David Zalubowski/AP)

DraftKings updated their divisional odds and the Lakers (16-6) are the favorites to win the Pacific for a second season in a row at -152 odds. The Clippers (16-6) are not far behind at +120 odds.

The Lakers are the consensus favorite to win the 2021 NBA Championship. DraftKings listed LeBron James and the Lakers as +250 favorites to win another title. The Clippers are the third-highest team on the futures board at +550 odds behind the Brooklyn Nets (at +385).

  • LA Lakers -152
  • LA Clippers +120
  • Utah Jazz -200
  • Denver Nuggets +180
  • Dallas Mavericks +110
  • Memphis Grizzlies +400
  • San Antonio Spurs +400
  • Houston Rockets +500
  • New Orleans Pelicans +1000

In the Northwest, the Jazz seek their first Northwest division title since the 2016-17 season. If they win, they’ll end Denver’s quest for a third-straight Northwest crown.

If the regular season were to end right now, the Utah Jazz (16-5) would earn the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

LA or LA?

Last season in the Pacific division, the Lakers ended a five-year reign by the Golden State Warriors. LeBron and the Lakers won their first division title since 2011-12 when Kobe Bryant led the Lakers to five-straight Pacific crowns.

The Clippers won the Pacific in back-to-back seasons in 2012-13 and 2013-14, but despite dominating the regular season, the Clips continued to suffer their postseason jinx and could never advance farther than the Western Conference semifinals.

Despite losing head coach Doc Rivers to the Philly Sixers and Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell to the Lakers, the Clippers are thriving.

New head coach Ty Lue guided the Clippers to 16 wins thanks to an improved defensive scheme. The Clips, 10-2 in their last 12 games, are ranked #4 in defense allowing 107.5 ppg.

The Lakers started out 10-0 on the road this season, but went 2-2 on their last four games of a lengthy seven-game road trip to the Eastern Conference. Frank Vogel’s Lakers notched impressive wins against the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, but they also suffered a head-scratching loss to the Detroit Pistons.

The Lakers are a better squad than last season after adding Dennis Schroeder and have a much stronger bench thanks to Trez. If LeBron and Anthony Davis remain healthy, the Pacific title is theirs to lose.

Northwest Rivals: Denver and Utah

The Utah Jazz (16-5) and Denver Nuggets (12-8) threw down in a seven-game playoff series inside the NBA Bubble at Disneyland last postseason. The Jazz choked and blew a 3-1 lead while the slow-starting Nugs won three elimination games in a row to advance to the Western Conference semifinals.

The Nugs stumbled out of the gate with a 1-4 record in December. Since then they high-flying Nugs went 11-4, including a 6-1 clip over the last two weeks that included back-to-back overtime victories over the Phoenix Suns.

The Nugs and Jazz split their two meeting this season, but the Nugs knocked off the Jazz on Sunday night to end their 11-game winning streak. Nikola Jokic tied a career-high with 47 points in the big win.

The Jazz have been winning to stellar defense (ranked #3 allowing 106.2 ppg) and thanks to a three-guard rotation that includes Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, and Sixth Man Jordan Clarkson. The scary thing about the Jazz is that Spida Mitchell is having an off year and sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic was stuck in a slump for most of the season.

Wild Southwest: Mavs, Spurs, Rockets, or Griz?

If you’re value hunting, then take a close look at the Southwest division. Only 3.5 games separate first and last place in the division. The Memphis Grizzlies (9-7) currently occupy first place, despite losing Ja Morant for a couple weeks with an ankle injury and missing several games due to COVID-19 protocol. The Griz are +400 odds to win their first-ever division title.

The Dallas Mavericks were the heavy favorites to win the Southwest division coming into this season, but the Mavs (8-13) struggled ever since Kristaps Porzingis returned from a knee injury. The Mavs dropped six games in a row and desperate to snap out of their losing funk. Aside from Luka Doncic, the rest of the Mavs have been inconsistent and erratic. The Mavs are still the favorite to win the Southwest division at +110 odds, but unless they start playing better, they’re doomed to finish in the middle of the pack and bubble the playoffs.

The Houston Rockets (10-9) continue to fly under the radar in the wake of the James Harden trade. If you’re a Harden hater, then you’re not shy about sharing your overrated assessment about Harden’s ballhogging abilities. Without Harden in the mix, the Rockets finally had a chance to develop a team identity under rookie head coach Stephen Silas. The surging Rockets won six games in a row and have the longest current winning streak in the NBA. They moved in second place in the division behind the Grizzlies. If you’re looking for a value pick, then fire away at the Rockets at +500 odds to win the Southwest


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