According to SportsBook.com, the Los Angeles Clippers are currently sitting on 12-1 odds to win the 2013 NBA championship—the same odds as the New York Knicks and Memphis Grizzlies—behind only the Los Angeles Lakers (7-1), San Antonio Spurs (5-1), Oklahoma City Thunder (4-1) and Miami Heat (8-5).
If you're thinking about jumping on the Clippers' bandwagon, it's too late. That train has already left the station.
The Clippers' title odds opened the season at a juicy 33-1 (per Pregame.com) and have steadily risen throughout the opening quarter of the NBA season.
Why is that?
Well let's start by looking at some numbers that bettors like to check out.
The Clippers rank in the top seven in the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The offense, ranked fourth in the NBA, is scoring two points per 100 possessions more than it did last year.
But the biggest reason for optimism is the defense, which is allowing nearly four points fewer per 100 possessions than it did a season ago. That's allowed the Clips to jump from 18th to seventh in defensive efficiency.
Glancing at the Clippers' "Four Factors" (effective field-goal percentage, turnover percentage, rebound percentage and free-throw attempts per field-goal attempt on both offense and defense—a quick snapshot of the team's performance that bettors look for), we see that they rank among the top 12 in the league in all four categories on offense and in two of the four on defense.
The most significant improvement on offense has been L.A.'s ability to draw fouls. They've risen from 20th to 12th in terms of free-throw attempts per field-goal attempt, and that's mostly without Chauncey Billups, who is arguably the best player on the team in that department.
The Clips are taking advantage of those extra trips to the line, too. They're making 74 percent of their freebies, well above the unsightly 68 percent mark they posted in 2012.
On the defensive side of the ball, they've been absolute ballhawks, forcing opponents into turnovers on nearly 17 percent of their possessions. That's the highest rate in the league.
Most of the turnovers the Clippers are generating come by way of steals. They lead the NBA in that category, and all the miscues they force are leading to transition opportunities where their athleticism can take over and run teams off the floor. That's one of the reasons their tempo has picked up this year. L.A. ranks 15th in the league in pace, up from 27th a season ago.
Another reason the Clips' championship odds have shot up is their body of work to date. They've won 70 percent of their games so far despite playing the second-toughest schedule in the NBA.
The Clippers have already racked up impressive early-season wins over the Heat, Grizzlies, Lakers, Hawks, Bulls, Jazz and Spurs (twice). Their average scoring margin is +7.80, trailing only the Thunder and Spurs in nightly dominance.
That sterling resume is why the Clips entered Monday ranked third in John Hollinger's daily power rankings (again just behind the Thunder and Spurs).
You would have been much better off wagering on the Clippers in the preseason, but if you like what you've seen through the first quarter of the NBA calendar, now is maybe your last chance to buy in at decent odds because they're only getting lower from here.
That's because after a rematch with the banged-up and once-defeated Bulls in Chicago on Tuesday, only three of L.A.'s next 20 games come against opponents with a higher winning percentage than the average winning percentage of all the teams the Clippers have faced thus far.
With that cushy stretch of schedule on the horizon, the Clips should hit the season's halfway point with one of the three best records in the West. If the Lakers continue to struggle and the Knicks and Grizzlies begin to slow down, the Clippers' championship odds will easily dip to below 10-1.
Now is definitely your last chance to get in on the ground floor of Lob City.
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