Who wins the NBA championship? Odds, best bets, sleepers, and predictions

Kawhi Leonard layup Clippers
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Ricky Dimon

NBA· 5 months ago

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

The 2020-21 NBA playoffs are underway, and this time no bubble is required. It will be a more traditional postseason than the one that took place entirely in Orlando last summer and fall, although a play-in tournament in each conference was held before the eight-team brackets were confirmed.

It should be a wild ride, with the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers having to make do as the No. 7 seed and take on the Phoenix Suns in the first round.

Who are the favorites for the NBA championship? Which teams could make a surprising run like last year’s Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat? Let’s break down some of the contenders and discuss their accompanying odds.

Longshot: Phoenix Suns (+1800)

It’s not often that you can get a No. 2 seed in a conference at +1800 odds to win it all… but here we are. The public should have been believers after the Suns went undefeated in the regular-season bubble last summer; they should be again now that Phoenix finished second in the West behind the Utah Jazz (just one game back). Instead, head coach Monty Williams’ crew is the seventh favorite to win it all and the fourth favorite just to emerge from the Western Conference and reach the NBA Finals. The Suns shouldn’t be disrespected like that, however.

They were already one of the best teams in the league by the end of 2019-20 and that was before Chris Paul joined the party. With Paul and Devin Booker manning the perimeter while Deandre Ayton controls the paint, this is a well-rounded club. If Phoenix can get past either the Lakers or Golden State Warriors in the opening round, watch out.

Value pick: Philadelphia 76ers (+650)

The Philadelphia 76ers are the top seed in the Eastern Conference for a reason. Joel Embiid is going to finish either second or third in the NBA MVP voting and his supporting cast includes Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Danny Green, and Seth Curry. Green is a multi-time NBA champion and Doc Rivers is a title-winning coach. There is plenty of experience in this locker room. It should also be noted that the 76ers were an East-leading 29-7 at home and they have home-court advantage throughout the conference playoffs. With a favorable draw in which they would avoid the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks until the Eastern Conference Finals, there is a lot to like about Philly.

Joel Embiid shooting player props

Prediction: Los Angeles Clippers (+500)

The title has a good chance of staying in Los Angeles. Yes, the Lakers are in the mix again; but the thinking here is that it will change hands to their in-city rivals. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are one of the association’s dynamic duos. Leonard is an NBA champion and so is head coach Tyronn Lue. It’s not like the Clippers are a two-man show, either. Leonard and George are supported by Marcus Morris, Patrick Beverley, Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson, Rajon Rondo, and plenty of other contributors. This team has all the tools to go all the way.

Although the Nets are tempting, you have to think something is going to go wrong wither Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, or James Harden (and maybe with all of the above) at some point during the playoffs. And as +250 favorites, the value simply isn’t there anyway.

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