By Mark Strotman | | 6 mins
Average NBA Title Odds For Top Teams Shortest Since 2011-12
It was perhaps the wildest offseason in NBA history, and two of the biggest occurrences created parity the league hasn’t seen in more than a decade. It began with two-time Finals MVP Kevin Durant tearing his Achilles in Game 5 of the Finals, and Klay Thompson tearing his ACL 48 hours later.
That effectively ended the Warriors’ five-year dynasty and opened the door for the Raptors to begin one of their own. That was, until about three weeks later when Kawhi Leonard made history by bolting for the L.A. Clippers.
The aftermath of all that chaos was that there is no real favorite in the NBA for the upcoming season. More than that, there are 10 or more teams that have a realistic shot of winning the 2020 title. The league is as wide open as it’s been since before LeBron James owned the Eastern Conference, and oddsmakers agree with the parity.
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Average NBA Title Odds Shrink
The average title odds of the top six contenders are the shortest they’ve been since 2012, and the average of the top 10 contenders are the shortest they’ve been since 2014.
|Year||Top 6||Top 10|
The last three seasons were certainly a result of the Warriors’ dominance. They were minus-odds NBA Finals betting three seasons in a row, the first time a team had been minus since at least 1985 (as far back as Basketball Reference’s odds go).
The closest a team had ever been was the 1997 Bulls (+100), so the numbers had been heavily skewed since 2017, when the Warriors signed Kevin Durant to a 73-win team.
But 2020 will have more parity than the LeBron/Spurs dynasty runs. Consider that in 2013, the Boston Celtics had +2000 odds to win the title that upcoming season, the sixth best odds in the league. In 2020, the Utah Jazz have the sixth-best odds to win the 2020 title at +1300.
It’s more than just the top of the odds shifting everyone else’s odds. From top to bottom, 2020 will be wide open. Five teams have odds within +1000: Clippers (+325), Lakers (+425), Bucks (+650), Rockets (+800) and the Sixers (+900). That has happened just three other times in the last 14 seasons (2015, 2012, 2007).
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Clippers not a Runaway 2020 NBA Favorite
The Clippers won 48 games last season and swapped Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and All-NBA First Teamer Paul George in the offseason. But even one of the biggest offseason victories in NBA history wasn’t enough to catapult the Clippers into elite favorite status.
Yes, they did jump both the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks as +350 favorites to win the 2020 championship. But those +350 odds aren’t exactly a vote of confidence that Doc Rivers’ group is going to run away with the NBA Finals next June. In fact, those are the longest preseason favorite odds in more than a decade.
Recent Preseason Odds for NBA Favorites
With LeBron James moving to the Western Conference last season after eight years of Finals berths in the East and the Warriors’ dynasty breaking up in the wake of their 2019 Finals loss, there’s a new favorite at the top for the first time in 10 years.
The Lakers wound up winning the NBA championship in 2009 despite not being all that heavy a favorite. But they did so by beating the Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic, who were just +2000 to win it all, the 11th-best preseason odds.
The last time there was this kind of parity at the top of the title odds, a major surprise leapt into the Finals. That could certainly be the case in 2020.
How NBA Parity Impacts Bettors
There are five instances of the NBA favorite being +275 or longer entering a season, which we’ll define as true parity in the league. Anything better than +275 and it becomes a pretty clear-cut favorite. In those instances – and 2020 will be one – here’s who wound up winning the NBA title:
There’s a significant range of winners, and the 2020 season feels more even across the board than any of these seasons. 2015 may be the only exception, and that produced the most unexpected winner on this list and the start of the Warriors dynasty run.
While there’s more value on the board than NBA betting fans have seen in a decade, it’ll be a challenge determining a winner. Made even more difficult is that many of these teams added talent in the offseason, and it’s difficult to figure out how the new pieces will fit.
Of the six favorites in 2020, five made significant additions (Leonard and George to the Clippers; Davis to the Lakers; Westbrook to the Rockets; Horford and Richardson to the Sixers; Conley to the Jazz). There’s not a whole lot of past results to go off of when making wagers.
And remember those Durant and Thompson injuries that shaped this whole parity theme? Those two could return at some point in the season and bring both the Golden State Warriors (+1500) and Brooklyn Nets (+2500) serious title contenders. There’s value on the board, but locating it won’t be easy.
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