Before the Milwaukee Bucks even threw their parade following their first championship in 50 years, odds for who will go on to hoist the title following the 2021-22 season were widely available.
The Brooklyn Nets, who lost to the Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals due to injuries to guards James Harden and Kyrie Irving, are favored over the pack. As for sports betting odds, BetRivers and FanDuel list the Nets as +200 choices, paying out double your investment. BetMGM has a larger return available at +225. Given the volatility involved in a typical NBA season, backing Brooklyn at that number isn’t advisable since you’ll probably see a better figure down the road if it starts slowly or one of its stars suffers another injury.
It does go to show you that most oddsmakers expected the Nets to win these most recent NBA Finals if they had stayed healthy. At one point this past postseason, they were nearly an even money favorite to win the championship. Harden wound up sidelined by a hamstring issue and Irving injured his ankle after landing awkwardly and Durant still almost got them past Milwaukee in a Game 7.
BetRivers actually lists Brooklyn as a -121 favorite to win the Eastern Conference next season, while defending champion Milwaukee comes in second odds-wise at +250. The Philadelphia 76ers are third at +800 while the two teams expected to vie for the Southeast Division title, the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks, come in at +1600 just to win the East.
Pistons In The Mix As The Longest Of East Longshots
Bringing up the rear alongside the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic are the Detroit Pistons, who can be had at +25000 to win the Eastern Conference at BetRivers. They’re at +25000 to win it all at FanDuel, so there’s definitely more value at BetRivers, while BetMGM has Detroit at +50000 to win the NBA championship in 2021-22.
The Pistons do have a solid young core they’re likely to put in place next season, highlighted by the return of Olympian Jerami Grant for a second season and the debut of the likely No. 1 pick in the draft since they won the lottery for the right to select first. Barring a surprise move or a trade, Detroit is expected to take 6-foot-8 guard Cade Cunningham to pair with last year’s top pick, Killian Hayes, in a young backcourt.
Forward Saddiq Bey and center Isaiah Stewart were also productive as rookies, so there may be value in backing Detroit to overachieve and reach the playoffs once those odds are released closer to the start of the season, but head coach Dwane Casey is certainly in the midst of a massive rebuilding job given all the youth on the roster.
Based on the odds alone, the Nets, Bucks, 76ers, Heat, Hawks, Celtics, Wizards, and Pacers are expected to be the eight teams that will reach the playoffs when the regular season concludes next April, but the NBA has already announced that it will keep the play-in format and give the ninth and tenth-place teams in both conferences an opportunity to qualify for the top eight.
Warriors’ Expected Resurgence to Make Path in West Much Tougher
Klay Thompson should be back in the fold for Golden State after he suffered an Achilles tear in a pickup game one month prior to the start of this past season, foiling the Warriors plans to compete in 2021.
It seems like it’s been quite a while since the Splash Brothers dominated games with their long-range shooting, but Stephen Curry reminded everyone how capable he is after his own struggles with injuries, nearly leading the Warriors to the playoffs alongside Draymond Green and an otherwise unproven roster.
There’s talk that Golden State may use last season’s top pick, center James Wiseman, and this year’s lottery pick in order to pick up another high-level player to compete for a championship immediately, so there may be some value in getting in early before that shoe drops.
BetRivers lists the Warriors at +400 to win the West, second only to LeBron James’ Lakers (+175). The site lists Golden State as +1000 to win its first NBA title since 2018. FanDuel has the Warriors at +1300 to win it all and BetMGM is in the same neighborhood at +1200, so be wary of shopping around to find the best odds.
The Lakers are in the +450 to +600 range and there’s seemingly some value there too unless you believe James will no longer have the same impact he has had throughout his career. The legendary star will turn 37 years old on Dec. 30 but people forget he was at the forefront of the MVP conversation before suffering the first of a host of injuries that derailed L.A.’s season this past spring.
There could be value in getting in on the Lakers before they find a way to make a move since the team is said to be actively seeking to upgrade the roster by moving pieces like Kyle Kuzma, Dennis Schroder, and Talen Horton-Tucker in exchange for an established star like a Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook given the need to capitalize while James is still playing at a high level.
Suns, Jazz And Nuggets Unlikely To Fade
Paul can exercise a player option in his contract that would pay him over $40 million to stay put in Phoenix, keeping him out of free agency. That’s one of the bigger dominoes set to drop over the coming months and is in play after the Suns fell just short of their first championship in franchise history, surrendering a 2-0 series lead against the Bucks in the NBA Finals.
Even if Paul moves on, Phoenix is still in great shape given young pieces like Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, and Cameron Johnson who gained vital experience in reaching the league’s biggest stage.
Utah edged out the Suns for the NBA’s top record in a truncated 72-game season and will have one of the league’s young stars in Donovan Mitchell and its top defensive center in Rudy Gobert back in place for another run at it. With Phoenix in the +1200-+1400 range and the Jazz in the +1200-+1600, oddsmakers clearly expect both to factor in the Western Conference race in 2021-22.
Denver is going to have point guard Jamal Murray back to help reigning MVP Nikola Jokic following his ACL tear suffered in April, so it too has some value given all the talent on its roster. Michael Porter, Jr. made great inroads in an enhanced role and should be even better given his upside, so getting the Nuggets at +2000 to +2400 depending on where you shop is also a nice move.
The Clippers are also getting love from oddsmakers after reaching the Western Conference finals but bettors must be wary that Kawhi Leonard won’t return from the ACL tear that cost him the rest of this past postseason until he’s completely healthy, which means Paul George will have to do the brunt of the heavy lifting in a loaded Western Conference.
Dallas is always going to be a threat with Luka Doncic in place, but it will have a new regime in place with Jason Kidd taking over for long-time head coach Rick Carlisle. There’s also uncertainty in Portland with Terry Stotts gone and Damian Lillard pushing for changes after his team failed to thrive despite a number of special performances. Make no mistake, the Western Conference will be loaded in 2021-22, which makes backing the favored Lakers a questionable choice unless you’re of the belief they’ll find a way to put a third key cog next to James and Davis.