Lakers Favored & 4 Intriguing 2021 NBA Title Odds Storylines
Mark Strotman | 7 mins
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LeBron James and Anthony Davis guided the Los Angeles Lakers to an NBA title on Sunday night, completing the wildest season in league history with the franchise’s 17th championship.
The Lakers rewarded NBA futures bettors who backed them before the season – they were the third choice in odds behind the Bucks and the Clippers.
Top sportsbooks favor the Lakers to repeat in 2021, though it’s unclear when the 2021 season may begin — Christmas Day or early January seems like a good bet, but we should know more in the next weeks.
Fans of NBA betting will want to be nimble, but there are some storylines they need to be on top of.
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Early NBA 2021 Title Favorites
|Golden State Warriors||+600|
NBA odds current as of publication and via DraftKings
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2021 NBA Title Odds Early Storylines
Lakers Return With More Firepower
Repeat champions are common in the NBA, and there’s a reason LeBron and the Lakers are preseason favorites to win the 2021 title. It’s safe to assume James will be back for an 18th season and that Anthony Davis will either opt in to the final year of his contract or re-sign on a max deal with the Lakers.
That combo makes them title favorites in itself, but there could be even more help on the way. Most of the supporting cast will return, and the Lakers will have the full MLE and bi-annual exception to add quality role players. And you can bet that after winning a title with ease, free agents will be flocking to join the league’s best team.
That means the Lakers, assuming Father Time doesn’t make a huge comeback against James in the next few months, will be better than they were during this current championship run. They’re excellent value at +350 in early 2021 NBA title odds as the roster is only going to improve.
Who Will Be The Next Miami Heat?
The 2020 Miami Heat were for real. Jimmy Butler showed he’s a star, and Bam Adebayo may not be far behind him. But let’s also be honest about the Bubble setting: A lack of homecourt advantage and the most unique setting in league history evened the playing field for all teams, allowing underdogs to advance in the postseason. The Heat were the third lowest seed to make the Finals since 1984, and that wasn’t a coincidence given the unique circumstances in Orlando, Florida.
There’s also a real chance that NBA arenas are without fans next season, which could keep the playing field evened. That means another contender could seemingly come out of nowhere to win their conference and potentially a championship.
Looking for a serious longshot? How about the Dallas Mavericks, who behind Luka Doncic, who will be 22 and playing the Butler role, have all the pieces to contend in an admittedly difficult West. Their +1200 odds to win the West and +2200 odds to win the title seem like solid value. If fans aren’t part of the equation in 2021, consider underdogs.
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2 Contenders Get Injured Superstars Back
Remember Stephen Curry? A broken hand in October cost the two-time league MVP all but five games last season, and he played just once in March prior to the league shutting down. By the time he takes the floor in 2021, he’ll have played just one game in a full calendar year. The same goes for Klay Thompson, who missed all of 2020 after tearing his ACL during the 2019 NBA Finals.
If the new season begins in January, Thompson will have gone nearly 600 days between live action. But let’s also not count out the Warriors, who when healthy have appeared in each of the last five Finals before this past season. Draymond Green is healthy, Andrew Wiggins is coming off a career year, and the Warriors have the second pick in the NBA Draft.
They could become the favorites in the West in short order or they could be overcome with rust. Either way, their +600 title odds and +400 odds to win the West will be intriguing.
Curry and Thompson’s old teammate will also soon take the floor for the first time since the 2019 NBA Finals. Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets have the league’s widest potential range of outcomes: The East feels wide open after the Heat’s run in 2020, and a Durant-Kyrie duo is as good as any 1-2 punch in the conference.
Then again, few players return to their old form following an Achilles tear, and it’s not as though Irving has found much success since leaving LeBron’s side in Cleveland. Brooklyn does have young intriguing pieces who could be coupled together in a potential trade for a third star.
Will Milwaukee Add Another Piece
The Milwaukee Bucks have gotten two MVP seasons from Giannis Antetokounmpo and don’t have a Finals appearance to show for it. He’s still just 25, so we’re not worried about whether he can get the job done — the question is whether it will come as a member of the Bucks.
While we don’t expect him to be traded this offseason, he can become a free agent after the 2021 season. That means Milwaukee is going to pull out all the stops to win now, knowing this could be their last chance to keep Giannis happy. Expect an aggressive offseason — Chris Paul, anyone? — and plenty of in-season moves that keep the 2021 title front of mind.
Boston is only getting better, Miami is here to stay, and Brooklyn has the KD-Kyrie combo — but the Bucks are still the class of the conference. We understand if you have some hesitancy given their ugly playoff outs the last two seasons, but we believe they actually provide good value right now — +300 to win the East and +500 to win the 2021 title — given how talented they are.
How Will New Coaches Fare?
Four legitimate title contenders will have new head coaches in 2021, something the league hasn’t seen for quite some time.
Rockets: Mike D’Antoni’s unique system couldn’t get the Rockets to the promised land, and there’s real concern that James Harden’s style won’t ever win a title. Oddsmakers aren’t bullish on a new head coach making an impact as the Rockets are +2200 to win next year’s title, far longer odds than last season.
Clippers: They underachieved in The Bubble, and it meant the end of the road for Doc Rivers. But they still have the deepest roster in the league, led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Assuming every main contributor is back — Montrezl Harrell is the only question mark — the Clippers will be in the thick of it as they look for their first title.
Nets: Steve Nash’s team gets a healthy Durant back to pair with Irving and a young core that should compete in the East. Oddsmakers love Brooklyn’s value, pitting them with +900 title odds, fifth best in the league.
76ers: Will Rivers unlock Joel Embiid’s and Ben Simmons’ potential in a way Brett Brown never could? Philadelphia feels like the forgotten child in the East, but let’s remember they have two All-Stars and rock-solid complements that Rivers could mold into a contender. Don’t look past the Sixers' +3000 title odds and +1000 odds in the East. They aren’t favorites, but those could shorten in a hurry if Rivers gets them off to a fast start.