The NBA has done an impressive job of turning things around to prepare for the 2020-21 season after the NBA Finals finished just a little more than two months ago. The Lakers didn’t get long to celebrate their title as they’ll open the season on Tuesday night against the Clippers at Staples Center.
With a very short offseason and not many reps for teams who made numerous roster changes, it could be a tricky season to forecast early on. Rookies will jump into game action with no summer league experience and limited preseason playing time. With all of that being said, it will likely be smart to trust the teams with similar rosters as last year and played in the bubble. The worst teams from last year haven’t played since March and we will probably see some rust to shake off. Thankfully with a near-full schedule, teams will have plenty of time to find a rhythm in 2021.
Here are five futures bets that look like good numbers to attack before the NBA season starts.
Clippers to win the Western Conference (+275)
The bubble was a strange viewing experience for the NBA Playoffs. I’m taking most of the things that occurred in Orlando with a grain of salt. We saw some incredible shooting performances from some teams and plenty of surprises. The Nuggets and Jamal Murray taking down the Clippers was one of those surprises. With Los Angeles getting rid of Doc Rivers and adding another year of experience with Kawhi Leonard and Paul Georgie, I expect it to mesh even better this year after a solid first season with the two superstars.
The Clippers also added Serge Ibaka, who should fit in perfectly. The addition by subtraction with Montrezl Harrell should help the Clippers and hurt the Lakers. Harrell often looks good in games because of effort, but he was unplayable in the playoffs due to being a bad defender and floor spacer. He especially should be a bad fit next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. DraftKings has the Clippers at +275 to win the Western Conference compared to +140 for the Lakers. I see the two teams as being virtually even, which makes the Clippers bet a smart wager.
Bucks to win the NBA Championship (+550)
Along the same lines as the Clippers, the Bucks sitting at +550 to win the Championship feels like an overreaction to the bubble and the incorrect notion that Milwaukee does nothing to improve around Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks have the same odds as the Clippers and just slightly better than the Nets, while the Lakers are at +275.
Milwaukee has cemented Giannis in town for years to come which should improve the locker room vibes in general. It also replaced Eric Bledsoe with Jrue Holiday, who is a better fit in essentially every way. He works better off-ball, should catch and shoot more efficiently than Bledsoe and defends better. Torrey Craig is also a quiet addition who provides elite perimeter defense. Milwaukee should be priced around the same as the Lakers, yet you’re getting a very good number here you should take a chance on.
Hawks to miss the playoffs (+110)
The Hawks had a really strong offseason with some nice veteran signings around Trae Young to help him make another jump. Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic should give Young some great shooters and skilled offensive players to feed off of, while Kris Dunn and Rojon Rondo will provide needed backup. The issue with Atlanta is it’s still extremely young and expecting a lot out of Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter and Kevin Huerter. There hasn’t been much of a chance for those guys to play together and improve with the absence since March.
It’s almost impossible to see the Hawks making a jump over any of the top seven seeds in the East last season, which leaves Atlanta fighting multiple teams for that final seed. We’d need to see them make quite a rare and drastic jump in wins to squeak in, and at +110, it feels like a smart bet to think a couple other teams edge them out and leave the Hawks somewhere around 10th in the conference.
Warriors to make the playoffs (-134)
This bet is basically a bet on Steph Curry to stay healthy. People may have forgotten, but healthy Steph is pretty easily a top five player in the NBA that can singlehandedly win a basketball game. While Klay Thompson won’t be helping him, Curry will get the help of Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre and rookie James Wiseman.
While the West is deep like usual, teams like the Rockets and Thunder who qualified last season may be transitioning into rebuilds. I expect Curry to lead his team comfortably to a top six or seven seed, which makes -134 odds on DraftKings very attractive.
Steph Curry to win the MVP (+800)
Easily feeding off the last bet, if Steph Curry stays healthy, this could be a pretty easy year for him to win MVP. Many of the league’s best stars are playing with one other superstar on the roster, which both limits their numbers and makes their accomplishments a little less impressive. The exception to that is Luke Doncic, who I expect to be Curry’s biggest rival for this reward. The difference is Doncic sits at +400 compared to Curry’s +800 on DraftKings.
Curry bouncing back to lead the Warriors to the playoffs after they finished 15-50 without him would be a clear showcase of his importance on an NBA roster. It’s also safe to assume he’d average nearly 30 points a game with at least seven or eight assists if Golden State has a successful season. Take your chances with Steph having a healthy year and proving once again he’s a top player in the NBA.