The 2020-2021 NBA season is beginning on December 22 after a truncated offseason due to the restructuring of the 2019-2020 season. The Los Angeles Lakers emerged victorious from the Orlando bubble, winning their 17th title.
With a late start, a rushed free agency and trade period and questions about the COVID-19 pandemic still looming, here is a look at who Odds Shark believes are five the teams with the best shot to win the NBA Finals in 2021.
5. Boston Celtics (+1200)
The Celtics lost to the Miami Heat in six games in the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals. Their biggest offseason departure was Gordon Hayward. They continued to add draft picks, as Danny Ainge continues to compile them in spades.
Boston’s highest draft pick was spent on small forward Aaron Nesmith, a pure scorer that can replace Hayward’s production if he continues his trends in the pros. The team as it is now absolutely has a chance to reach the NBA Finals. Expect to at least see them in the Eastern Conference Finals for a second year in a row.
4. Golden State Warriors (+700)
Golden State, after five straight NBA Finals appearances, earned a record bad enough to secure the second overall pick in the draft. They spent that pick on project big man James Wiseman.
Expected to enter the season with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson back in the lineup to pair with Draymond Green and James Wiseman, the Warriors suffered a huge setback. Thompson suffered a season-ending Achilles injury, damaging their title chances.
Curry and Green are still a fierce combo, and Steve Kerr‘s coaching surely will not have taken any steps back. The key to these odds improving, though is the emergence of James Wiseman.
3. Milwaukee Bucks (+550)
After disappointing in the Orlando bubble as the favorites to be the Eastern Conference representative in the finals, the Bucks had a very busy offseason. Without going into the details of the trades and signings, they have added a wealth of new players and subtracted some names as well.
Among those players added are Jrue Holiday, Bobby Portis, D.J. Augustin and Louisville standout Jordan Nwora with pick number 45. Role players like Robin Lopez and Wes Matthews have left, along with their first round selection, R.J. Hampton.
The odds are so high for this team despite its shuffled-up roster because of one man: Giannis Antetokounmpo, who repeated as NBA MVP. As long as they have him, they will be likely be a top five bet.
2. Los Angeles Clippers (+450)
If one team disappointed worse than the Bucks in 2020, it has to be the Los Angeles Clippers. Despite having Kawhi Leonard and Paul George along with players like Patrick Beverly and Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell, they continued the unfortunate distinction of being unable to reach a Western Conference Final.
In response to the relatively humiliating defeat at the hands of the Nuggets, the Clips let go of long time head coach Doc Rivers. Replacing him will be Tyronn Lue, who won a championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016.
Lost were Harrell and JaMychal Green, among others. Filling their shoes will be veterans Nicolas Batum and Serge Ibaka (who won a title with Leonard in Toronto). The talent on this team is enough for the odds to survive the shake-ups, though.
1. Los Angeles Lakers (+400)
Some odds sites have a much larger gap between the Lakers and the Clippers, however, as is usually the case, the edge is given to the reigning champions.
In addition to signing Anthony Davis long term, the gained 2020 Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell, Wesley Matthews, Dennis Schroder and Marc Gasol. Veterans Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo all departed, despite being central to either the Lakers’ regular season or playoff success.
Lest we forget, though, they still have LeBron James. That alone may be enough to make them betting favorites. But the success and the talent speaks for itself in spite of having the best player in the world.
Featured Image courtesy of Harry How/Getty Images
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