NBA Futures: 2020-21 NBA Championship, Odds, Preview, and Best Bet
Amazingly enough, the 2020-21 NBA season is one week away. If it feels like we haven’t had any downtime at all from basketball, well…you probably aren’t alone. The Los Angeles Lakers captured the 2019-20 title just two months ago, after which there was the NBA Draft and a free-agent frenzy. With the dust now somewhat settled (other than James Harden’s ongoing trade requests to leave the Houston Rockets), it’s time to look ahead to the upcoming season.
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NBA title favorites
Los Angeles Lakers (+275) – The rich got richer, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis obviously back in the fold and now joined by Montrezl Harrell and Dennis Schroder. The Lakers were already the best team in the league last season; now they have an improved roster on which James is surrounded by more youth.
Los Angeles Clippers (+550) – The Western Conference Finals was supposed to be an all-L.A. showdown between the Lakers and Clippers. However, the Clippers got bounced in round two by the Denver Nuggets—leading to head coach Doc Rivers’ departure. On the bright side, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are back and new coach Tyronn Lue has title-winning experience.
Milwaukee Bucks (+550) – There are doubts surrounding Milwaukee’s ability to get the job done during the regular season. The playoffs, however, have been a much different story for reigning two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and company. Although Jrue Holiday is a big addition, missing out on Bogdan Bogdanovic hurts.
Brooklyn Nets (+600) – After missing this past season with a torn Achilles, Kevin Durant is back in action. Thus we will get to see the Durant-Kyrie Irving duo on display, where those two stars will get support from Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. One question mark: how good of a head coach is Steve Nash going to be?
Underdogs worth a look
Miami Heat (+1500) – It’s hard to classify the defending Eastern Conference champions as underdogs, but really everyone other than the Lakers qualifies as such this season. Odds of +1500 suggest the same. At those relatively long odds, picking Miami to go one step farther is not a bad move. Basically everyone is back and the experience from 2019-20 is invaluable.
Denver Nuggets (+2000) – Losing Torey Craig in free agency was not ideal, but if Michael Porter Jr. takes the next step in his progression, Craig’s absence won’t matter. A team with Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic, and Porter can never be discounted. The Nuggets should be extremely confident, too, following last season’s run in the bubble to the Western Conference Finals.
Golden State Warriors (+3000) – The Warriors were supposed to come back with a vengeance from last season’s disastrous, injury-plagued campaign. Then Klay Thompson suffered a torn Achilles on draft day during a pickup game. Nonetheless, Thompson is being replaced by Kelly Oubre Jr. and—most importantly—Steph Curry is back.
Houston Rockets (+6000) – There are a lot of factors in play here. If Harden actually gets traded, avoid the Rockets like the plague. John Wall also hasn’t played a basketball game since Dec. 26, 2018. DeMarcus Cousins hasn’t played a basketball game since the 2018-19 NBA Finals. They also have a new coach (Stephen Silas). Still, at +6000 odds it’s worth a shot on the chance that the Harden-Wall combo works.
Prediction and best bet
NBA champion: Los Angeles Lakers (+275) – The only asterisk that belongs on the 2019-20 champion is that it was actually harder than normal to win. Chaos from extracurricular factors (in this case coronavirus problems, the social-justice movement, the bubble, a neutral site, etc.) only made for a more level playing field, but the favored Lakers still managed to get the job done. Hopefully 2020-21 will be at least somewhat of a more normal season, giving them all the more reason to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy yet again. Assuming James and Davis stay healthy, this team is just too talented for the rest of the league’s contenders.
Best value bet: Golden State Warriors (+3000) – Nobody is going to jump with reckless abandon back on the Warriors bandwagon, but at +3000 odds you have to take a long and hard look. Curry should have a few more prime years left and he has plenty of help even without his fellow Splash Brother in the form of Oubre, Andrew Wiggins, and Draymond Green. Although No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman is a project on the offensive side of the ball, Golden State by no means needs him to produce on that end of the court right away. If Curry returns to an NBA MVP level (he is a +800 third choice), the Warriors can contend.