Bettors Favor First-Time NBA Champion; Here’s The Value Play
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A fresh NBA champion is guaranteed in 2021. Of the eight teams remaining in the NBA playoffs, five have never won an NBA title. The three past winners are the Hawks, Bucks and 76ers. The most-recent winner is Philadelphia. Led by Dr. J., Moses Malone and Andrew Toney, those Sixers won a ring in 1983.
A look at the NBA betting markets for the 2021 NBA Finals sees those odds weighted toward a potential first-time league champion. Bettors and oddmakers at sports betting sites won’t be able to rely on recent franchise history when looking ahead at the NBA futures prices.
Odds via FanDuel and current as of publication
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Recent History Not A Factor
Those seeking value don’t have to factor in the recent historic record of any would-be champion because all eight teams are on equal footing. The focus when betting this year deep into the NBA playoffs is on the here and now. The last time the NBA Finals did not include either James, Curry or Bryant was 15 years ago when Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat eliminated the Mavericks in six games.
The Bucks last won a title in 1971 – led by regular-season and NBA Finals MVP Lew Alcindor. He would change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar soon after. The Hawks won the 1958 NBA title while they were still in St. Louis. The New York Nets won an ABA title in 1974. The Utah Stars – who are no relation to the current-day Jazz – won an ABA crown in 1971.
The list of past conference champions still alive in the postseason is thin with teams that have done it in recent memory. In the past 50 seasons, only the Bucks (1974), Suns (1976, 1993), Jazz (1997-98), Sixers (1982-83, 2001) and the then-New Jersey Nets (2002-03) have even reached the Finals.
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With the development of NBA super teams, wholesale roster changes often render what’s happened in recent years irrelevant. Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving have found their game and that elusive chemistry thus far – crushing Boston in the first round and dominating Milwaukee so far in the second.
Durant and Irving teamed up with the Nets after the 2018-19 season. Durant did not play at all last year due to a ruptured Achilles. Irving did not return for play inside the NBA Bubble last summer. The Nets dealt for Harden, who played with Durant in OKC, before the trade deadline in January.
NBA Title Value Lies Out West
These markets are extremely fluid. After the Nets throttled the Bucks 125-86 to go up 2-0 Monday , Brooklyn moved from +160 to +105 at DraftKings. The Bucks, meanwhile, tumbled to +1200 after being at +700 before Game 2. The Suns surged to +750 from +1200 to win it all by virtue of beating the Nuggets 122-105 in Game 1 of their series.
There is no value in taking the Nets this soon at +105 to win the Finals. The biggest threat they face in the East may be themselves, depending on the long-term prognosis for Joel Embiid and the Sixers. Again, go West for value. Both Phoenix and the LA Clippers appear to be overlooked by bettors and shorted by oddsmakers. They are your best plays right now.
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