Every year, the NBA sees an unexpected team rise to become a real playoff threat. Often, these are young, overlooked squads like the Sacramento Kings last season. These are teams whose odds entering the season of making the playoffs are low, who are not considered gambling favourites, but whose young talent pushes them to the next level.
Looking at the odds on the top NBA betting apps, some of the big underdogs for the season are young, unheralded teams that could shock fans and oddsmakers. Let’s look at some of the young teams not expected to make much noise that could sneak up on the league this year.
The Orlando Magic has been a directionless franchise since Dwight Howard left a decade ago. Now, it finally feels like this team has a course. Paolo Banchero is the reigning Rookie of the Year and a ceiling-raiser, a real superstar who can handle, attack the rim, and pass. Franz Wagner is an excellent complementary piece that could also blossom into a star. They also have some role players with upside, like Wendell Carter, Markelle Fultz, and Cole Anthony. Young guard Anthony Black could also be a big piece.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder have a bright future, but don’t overlook their present either. The team has a first-team All-NBA star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, as well as many players who could become stars. Chet Holmgren is making his debut as a shot-blocking, shooting 7-footer. Jalen Williams looked like a star already last season and could get even better. And Josh Giddey is an elite passer and rebounder already, and he’s only 20. If these players start meeting their ceilings early, OKC could legitimately be a 50-win team. That’s a lot to put on such a young squad, but they have an absurd amount of talent.
The Indiana Pacers have Tyrese Haliburton, who is already one of the best point guards in the NBA. He is a game-changing passer and shooter and lifts this team’s floor significantly. They also have young players like Andrew Nembhard, Bennedict Mathurin, and Obi Toppin, who have the upside to make this team a scary opponent. And it isn’t just young talent on the Pacers, as Myles Turner and Buddy Hield are high-end veteran starters that make this team scary from deep. There are a lot of moving parts, but if everything gels, the Pacers could make noise.
The Houston Rockets might have had the wildest offseason in the league, bringing in veterans like Fred VanVleet, Jeff Green, and Dillon Brooks to make their young core a better team right now. It is an interesting strategy, but they have the dynamic up-and-coming players to make it work. Jalen Green is already one of the league’s scariest scorers when on. Alperen Sengun is a slick passer and rebounder who looks like an offshoot of Nikola Jokic. Jabari Smith can become an excellent 3-and-D player and maybe even more. And Amen Thompson has otherworldly athleticism and incredible passing instincts that make him a top-end point guard prospect.
The Detroit Pistons have been stockpiling talent for the past few years. They now have the makings of a promising core with Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Ausar Thompson, and Jalen Duren. The icing on the cake that could make them a legitimate force going forward is the addition of coach Monty Williams. Williams is a proven winner who can elevate the talent that this roster already has, and if the players are ready to start contributing to winning now, this team could be scary. Cunningham, in particular, has superstar upside. It is now on Williams to unlock it.