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The 2022 NBA championship race is starting to take shape with the playoffs only a few weeks away. The Eastern Conference is loaded with contenders from top to bottom, whereas the Western Conference seems to be a three-team race between the Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies, and Golden State Warriors.

But the Los Angeles Clippers are quietly starting to get healthy at just the right time, and with odds as high as 55/1 to win the title, they have to be the best bet on the futures board right now.

Paul George is finally back for the Clippers, and more help is on the way

Paul George and Kawhi Leonard sit on the bench.
Paul George and Kawhi Leonard of the LA Clippers sit on the bench | Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Clippers have remained afloat in the Western Conference despite missing Paul George and Kawhi Leonard for a majority of the 2021-22 season. LA currently sits in the eighth spot in the West standings with six games remaining on the regular-season schedule. Considering the Clippers are six games behind the No. 7 spot and 4.5 games ahead of ninth, they’re nearly a lock to head into the play-in tournament as the No. 8 seed.

It’s been an impressive feat for the Clippers to remain in the playoff hunt with all the injuries they’ve dealt with this season.

George missed the last 43 games due to a torn UCL he suffered in December. Norman Powell, who joined the Clippers at the trade deadline, fractured a bone in his left foot after playing just three games with his new team. He still hasn’t returned to the lineup. And Leonard? He hasn’t seen the court since tearing his ACL in the playoffs last June.

LA finally received some good news when George was surprisingly cleared to return on Tuesday night against the Utah Jazz, and he looked like his old self right out of the gates. George poured in 34 points on 10-of-20 shooting and added six assists and four steals in the game. Thanks to his presence, the Clippers were able to erase a 25-point deficit and defeat the Jazz, 121-115.

The comeback victory marked the fourth time this season LA has won after trailing by at least 24 points. This team has no quit in them, and they haven’t been close to healthy all year long.

That might be about to change.

Bet the Clippers 55/1 to win the title before it’s too late

The Clippers’ odds to win the 2022 NBA title are already on the move. You could’ve found LA in the 70/1 range before George returned to the lineup on Tuesday night, and that price has already shot down to 55/1 or lower at most sportsbooks.

Still, it’s the best futures bet to make right now in the NBA. Let me explain.

Not only is George finally back on the court after his extended absence, but Powell is also expected to return in time for the playoffs. Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN reported this week that Powell could be back in 7-10 days, which would be a huge boost to a Clippers offense that’s struggled to score at time this season.

Powell might not make as much of an impact as George or Leonard, but he’s still a talented scorer at 18.8 points per game. He even dropped 28 in just 23 minutes in his LA debut back in February.

As for Leonard, his return has always been the most mysterious of the bunch. We haven’t heard a peep out of his camp for quite some time, but ESPN recently reported the two-time NBA champ might be able to return after the play-in tournament in a few weeks.

The first round of the playoffs will begin on April 16, which will mark nine months since Leonard underwent surgery to repair his torn ACL. That’s right around the typical recovery time for an ACL injury.

We know Leonard likes to keep to himself, so it’s entirely possible returning for a playoff run has been the goal for him all along. If that official announcement ever comes, you can say goodbye to LA’s 55/1 price to win it all.

What the Clippers’ playoff road could look like

The Clippers are essentially locked into the No. 8 seed in the West, which means they’ll most likely face the No. 7 seed Minnesota Timberwolves in the play-in tournament next month. Win that game and LA will draw the No. 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies (with Ja Morant still nursing an injured knee) in the first round.

In that scenario, the Clippers wouldn’t have to face the Suns until the Western Conference Finals in late May. And by that point, Leonard will be 10 full months removed from ACL surgery.

The Clippers can beat any team in the West at full strength. With that possibility looking more and more likely by the day, 55/1 on the Clippers is a must-bet.

All betting odds courtesy of FanDuel as of 3/30.

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