After a shortened offseason and a Los Angeles Lakers 2020 title, we are already back in action for the NBA season. The 2021 odds are out, and no surprise to see the Lakers as favorites again on DraftKings Sportsbook. The Clippers, Bucks, and Nets round out the final four, and then we start getting into some deeper odds for other teams. With a rather lackluster offseason for free agency, we did get many trades, but the Nets got healthy, which changed a lot in the Eastern Conference and the NBA. Over the span of a 72-game season, a lot can happen, but we see a pretty strong group of four that will likely be making deep playoff runs. That doesn’t mean there isn’t some deeper value to look at, so let’s dive in.
Battle In Los Angeles
The Lakers are +230 to repeat as back-to-back champs. This is not a big surprise as the Lakers have arguably the best duo in basketball at the moment with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Los Angeles knew they needed to improve their roster after last season as the Western Conference is very deep. Adding Dennis Schroder is a big addition for the Lakers because it gives them a shooter and another ball-handler now that Rajon Rondo has left. Wesley Matthews isn’t what he used to be but will give the Lakers some decent depth. The Lakers adding Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell to be their center-platoon will be a major upgrade over what they had last season. Having a better supporting cast will help keep LeBron fresh, as Frank Vogel has talked about shortening minutes.
As for the Clippers, they have made moves themselves. Starting at the top, Doc Rivers is now out, and Ty Lue is the head coach. Patrick Beverley and Reggie Jackson will need to be more consistent this season if the Clippers want to move on from where they were last season. This is still a good team, but the overall roster isn’t as attractive on paper. Lou Williams had a scoring drop last season, and we don’t know what we will get out of Nicolas Batum and Serge Ibaka in the frontcourt, given their age. The core remains Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, who certainly is a good enough duo to win a title, but the Clippers need to get back on track after a rocky bubble playoff and offseason.
Brooklyn Nets +600
Now is the time to buy on the Brooklyn Nets. They have the fourth-best odds to win the title, but this team is loaded from top to bottom with talent. We have seen Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving come out of the gates red-hot and Durant looking like his old self is huge for the Nets and the NBA product in general. The rest of the roster is extremely talented, and there is so much depth that their bench is going to be an x-factor in a lot of games. They have Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie as secondary options, who have really elevated their play in the past few seasons. Joe Harris is going to see a ton of open shots, and he is a lethal shooter. All the space is going to do well for the Nets. Jeff Green, DeAndre Jordan, and Jarrett Allen all make up the frontcourt.
Brooklyn has many options and is a real threat to win the east, with Milwaukee slightly ahead of them currently. You can’t say any of the Eastern Conference teams got much better as the Bucks slightly improved with Jrue Holiday, but the bench is still a question mark. Boston and Miami made deep runs last year but relied more on their roster taking another step rather than adding pieces. Toronto is starting their regression, and the 76ers are still a work in progress.
Outside of the top-four teams, you have many teams that made deep runs last year and have strong rosters to make a repeat. Getting over the hump of teams in LA, Milwaukee, and Brooklyn will be the toughest part. Denver is +2000 who made a deep run against the Lakers in the WCF last season but fell short. I like this group a lot with Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic. If Michael Porter Jr. takes another step and we get a healthy Will Barton for the year, Denver will be in the thick of it again. Out of the Western Conference teams not in Los Angeles, they have the best odds and the best team to make a deep postseason run. One of the reasons they are behind Miami and Boston is because of the conference. The West has 10-11 playoff worthy-teams, and the 6-8 seeds in the west are far more dangerous than those that will come out of the East.
Speaking of Miami and Boston, I can’t see them finishing any higher than the three seed. Milwaukee and Brooklyn should be one and two. If every top seed in the East advances, Boston and Miami will have a tough time as they could face a combination of Brooklyn/Milwaukee in the semis and finals in the East. Boston’s depth is a major question mark, and they don’t have consistent scoring options outside of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Kemba Walker’s knee remains troublesome, so the Celtics are not looking good heading into this year as a championship bet. Miami has a deeper group and will run back the same team that got them to the finals last year. They will look for more out of Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro. If they don’t get those next-year jumps, Miami is still at a disadvantage facing a team like the Nets with so much depth.
There is one thing to add with the James Harden rumors of a trade. There have been teams like Denver, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Boston all rumored to have some sort of interest, but it is hard to tell how noisy these rumors really are. Houston isn’t in a spot to win a title, and Harden could certainly be on the move to start that rebuilding process. Odds would certainly change for the team that lands him and the field in general if that were to happen.