NBA In-Season Tournament – Odds Update, Best Picks, Early MVP Favourites

The NBA decided to shake things up ahead of the 2023-24 season. This year, the league implemented the first-ever in-season tournament, to a somewhat mixed reception. Using unique court designs, the league has managed to create a separation between these tournament games and standard regular season games (these count as regular season games, though).

With a month of group-stage games in the books, we’re now into the knockout portion of this tournament, which will run until the final on Saturday, December 9. There are eight teams left, all of whom are hoping to claim their place in history as the first-ever in-season tournament champion.

In this in-season tournament update, we’ll provide a quick recap of the group stage, before touching on each team’s odds to win, and our picks for tournament MVP.

The Group Stage: An Overview

Each conference was divided into three groups – Group A, Group B, and Group C. In the West, the teams that advanced – Lakers, Suns, Kings, and Pelicans – were all 3-1 or 4-0. The only team with a 3-1 record to be left out was the Timberwolves, who finished second in Group C behind the 4-0 Kings.

In the East, the Pacers and Bucks dominated with 4-0 records. The Knicks out of Group B and the Celtics – winners of Group C – also advanced. The Bulls, Pistons, Spurs, and Grizzlies were the only teams to post a goose egg in the group stage, going 0-4 respectively.

Eight teams in total have now advanced to the knockout stage: the Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, New York Knicks, Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns, and Los Angeles Lakers. The quarter-final matchups are as follows:

  • Boston Celtics @ Indiana Pacers
  • New Orleans Pelicans @ Sacramento Kings
  • New York Knicks @ Milwaukee Bucks
  • Phoenix Suns @ Los Angeles Lakers

The 22 teams that did not advance will play both a home and road game on December 6 and 8. The teams that lose in the quarterfinals will play one another on December 8 as well.

NBA In-Season Odds

Now that we have eight teams in contention, it helps to know where they stand in the eyes of the oddsmakers. Let’s take a quick look at them together and then break down where they shake out compared to one another.

Celtics (+300). This should come as a surprise to no one. The Celtics have been remarkably consistent in recent seasons, and this year is proving no different. The Celtics went 4-0 in the tournament and are 14-4 on the year. They may have the deepest lineup of all the contenders, with high-end talent like Tatum driving the ship. The Pacers are an entertaining and unpredictable quarter-final opponent, however, and they’ll need to put in work to avoid an upset. Realistically, it feels very likely that the Celtics will be in the final on December 9, and as long as the odds still start with a plus sign, we quite like the bet on the Celtics to win.

Bucks (+330). Right behind the Celtics in the East, the Bucks are 13-5 and also went unbeaten through the group stage. With the addition of Damian Lillard, the Bucks feel like a genuine championship prospect again for the first time since they won the title. Giannis is heating up and that could prove to be too much for the Knicks (and anyone else) to handle. At +330, we think the Bucks are decent value, particularly if the four-man Lillard-Antentokounmpo-Middleton-Lopez unit continues to find its groove.

Boston Celtics to win the 2023 NBA In-Season Tournament


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Kings (+550). The Kings are one of the most intriguing teams in the knockout stage. De’Aaron Fox has been dominant and is one of the five best scorers in the league right now. At 10-7, the Kings are in the same area as the Lakers, Pelicans, Suns, and Thunder. At their best, they can beat anyone in the tournament. Still, their quarter-final opponents, the New Orleans Pelicans, have had their number in recent games: they beat them 129-93 and 117-12 on November 21 and 25, respectively, though both games were in NOLA. In short, provided they don’t let themselves down again against the Pelicans, a bet on the Kings isn’t strictly inadvisable, even if they aren’t our top pick.

Lakers (+550). The Lakers are the Lakers. As long as LeBron James and a healthy Anthony Davis are in the lineup, they have the potential to dominate. The Lakers are 11-8 on the year but went 3-1 in the group stage. The competition is stiff, and they have a very tough quarter-final opponent in the Phoenix Suns. As much as the Lakers are always a threat, at +550 we’re struggling to find the value in this bet. A quarter-final loss to the Suns feels too plausible, and with teams like the Pacers and Pelicans offering odds that are almost twice as good, we don’t love the ROI here.

Los Angeles Lakers to win the 2023 NBA In-Season Tournament


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Suns (+600). Along with the Bucks and Celtics, the Suns are arguably the most talented team in the league. Kevin Durant can take over any game and has Devin Booker right there when he’s off. The Suns are also starting to hit their stride at the right time. It’s still early in the tenure of this new supergroup, and this will be a great chance to show that they can win when the pressure is on. If this was a series-based competition, we might be a little more bearish on the Suns, but it isn’t. Three good games is all it will take, and with the kind of weapons in the Suns’ arsenal, we could see it happening.

Pacers (+1200). The Pacers have been arguably the most fun team to watch this year, and in our view are one of the more interesting value propositions from a betting perspective. They score in bunches, throwing up triple digits with regularity. Though they are 6-4 in their last 10, they are currently sixth in the Eastern Conference. They have an incredibly tough game against the Boston Celtics in the quarterfinals, which is why they are so far down when it comes to odds. However, it’s just one elimination game, and the Pacers could spring a surprise. If they do upset Boston, having locked in a wager on them at +1200 will look like a stroke of genius. It’s a risky play, but if you’re looking for a dark horse, we think the Pacers are it.

Indiana Pacers to win the 2023 NBA In-Season Tournament


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Pelicans (+1200). The Pelicans are a young team with a lot of potential, especially superstar forward Zion Williamson. They are hovering at the tail-end of the Western Conference playoff picture right now, but have been good in the in-season tournament so far. The Kings vs. Pelicans matchup is one of the toughest calls in the quarter-finals: the Kings are the better team, but the Pelicans have won recent matchups, and neither team is particularly consistent. It’s entirely possible that the Pelicans will earn an upset win in Sacramento, but we don’t see them getting further than that.

Knicks (+1400). Bringing up the rear are the Knicks. They are a talented group and have done well to hold their own in a stacked Eastern Conference. Drawing the Bucks as their quarterfinal matchup, however, will likely prove too much for them to overcome. Even at +1400, we would stay well clear of a bet on the Knicks to win the tournament.

Tournament MVP Odds

All of the remaining teams have top-of-the-line talent at their disposal. With the field now narrowed to eight teams, we have a few candidates who have emerged as favourites for the in-season tournament MVP. In this section, we’ve outlined three names that you might want to consider betting on in this market.

Jayson Tatum +500

Tatum is the undeniable star of the Celtics. He is not only in contention for the NBA IST MVP but should be in conversations for the NBA MVP. He has been steady in the four wins throughout the group stage. He had 17 points in a tight win over the Raptors but has scored at least 23 in the other three.

Tatum plays a complete game, and the flow of the offence often runs through him. Playing against stiffer competition – the Pacers can score better than just about anyone – Tatum will need to be at his best to push the Celtics into the semifinals and the finals. But if they do go on to win the tournament, as they’re currently favoured to do, Tatum will be a shoo-in for MVP.

Jayson Tatum to win In-Season Tournament MVP


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De’Aaron Fox +600

Fox is fourth in the league in scoring this season, averaging 30.7 PPG so far. He has been one of the best in the league offensively during the group stage of the NBA in-season tournament. He was a monster in the one-point win over the Warriors in the final group stage game, posting 29 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists.

He didn’t play against Oklahoma City but dropped 43 on the Spurs and 36 points on the Timberwolves, part of a double-double that night. If the Kings are going to provide a shock to the basketball world, it will be all down to Fox. If they beat the Pelicans, and especially if they make the final, look for him to become the favourite.

Giannis Antetokounmpo +650

The “Greek Freak” already has a pair of NBA MVP trophies in his collection, so why not add the very first NBA Cup MVP as well? He has been a force for the Bucks throughout the group stage, seemingly gathering steam with each passing game. With a deeper supporting cast, he doesn’t need to be dominant but can turn it on when needed.

In a tight 131-128 win over the Wizards, Giannis had 31 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists. He was somehow even better against the Heat in the final group-stage game. In that one, he went for 33 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists. He will need to be at his best to topple the talented Knicks, so don’t be surprised if he pushes it even further by topping the 40-point mark.

Breaking Down the Schedule

The knockout stage is set to begin and we have four QF games to look forward to. On Monday, December 4, the Celtics will battle the Pacers and the Pelicans will travel to Sacramento to face the Kings. Then, on Tuesday, December 5, the Knicks will head to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks, while the Suns take on LeBron James and the Lakers in LA.

The winners of those games will advance to a pair of semifinal games on December 7, with the battle for the NBA Cup – and $500,000 for each player on the winning roster – taking place on ABC at 8:30 p.m. on December 9.