- The Philadelphia 76ers’ NBA Championship odds have shortened over the past week
- Philly’s Atlantic Division rivals – Boston and Toronto – have been fading
- Which team represents the best bet to win the title?
There has already been significant NBA Championship odds movement. While the Lakers remain comfortable favorites, their three nearest challenges have shuffled around. On January 11th, Brooklyn holds the status of second favorites, narrowly ahead of the Bucks and Clippers. Best of the rest falls to the Philadelphia 76ers – Philly has started the season strongly and owns a 7-3 record.
A COVID-19 outbreak has depleted the Sixers, and left them in an impossible situation when they faced the Denver Nuggets, yet they have moved to fifth-favorite. Boston has been hit just as hard by COVID protocols, but they have seen their championship odds slide with Kemba Walker still unavailable.
Toronto, with a 2-7 record, has drifted out to +2500.
2021 NBA Championship Odds
|Los Angeles Lakers||+230|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+550|
Odds taken on Jan. 11 from FanDuel
The Sixers are a different team. New players, a new head coach and a new front office has resulted in a Sixer team barely comparable to the one which fell in the first round of the bubble playoffs. Ben Simmons has been healthy to start the year (though he’s now reportedly dealing with knee soreness), Joel Embiid has been playing at an MVP level and the shooting of Seth Curry and Danny Green has made the offense flow in a way it didn’t in 2019-20.
A team with Simmons and Embiid should be elite defensively. The Sixers were good, but not great, on that end last season. In the games when both Simmons and Embiid have played, Philly has the best defensive rating in the NBA by a distance.
Tobias Harris has been good on offense and a much better player defensively than he was last season – he’s benefited from the departure of Al Horford, allowing him to defend more fours than threes.
Doc Rivers has brought in more pick-and-roll and upped their pace. Embiid’s conditioning, at least so far, appears better than in previous seasons.
Until they prove it in the playoffs, the fit of Embiid and Simmons will be questioned. For now, though, they are co-existing, and doing so effectively, with shooting around them. It’s been a favorable schedule so far, of course, and until they beat some of the league’s elite, their odds will not come close to the Clippers, Bucks and Nets.
Philly’s improvement has hurt Boston’s chances of winning it all. It likely makes the Celtics’ path to the Finals tougher after they swept the Sixers in the first round in Orlando. It’s also notable that Kemba Walker is yet to play a minute this season, and his injury situation is increasingly unclear.
Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have been brilliant, but the Celtics need a healthy Kemba Walker to be a legitimate contender.
As good as Brown and Tatum are, this isn’t a championship roster without Walker, particularly after Gordon Hayward departed for Charlotte. The two big lineups have been hit-and-miss, more the latter than the former. There’s some upside on this roster, but it’s also not unreasonable to say a 7-3 record flatters Boston.
Sitting 22nd in defensive rating is unfamiliar for a Brad Stevens team. The offense has been more reliant on isolations than seasons past. Boston has a lot to figure out before they can be considered a real title challenger, and Walker needs to prove his fitness.
Toronto is 13th in the East, already 4.5 games off the Sixers and Celtics. They are 2.5 games behind the Knicks, too. Nick Nurse has seen his team blow leads, and watched several of his key players miss open shot after open shot.
The 2019 NBA champions have already endured two three-game losing streaks this season. An impressive win over the Sacramento Kings ended the second of those slumps, but the Raptors followed it up with a disappointing defeat to the Warriors.
That loss to Golden State was a microcosm of Toronto’s season. They did so much right, holding Steph Curry to 16 shots and two made field goals, but they missed some good looks and at times looked lost on the offensive end. They shot a shade over 40% from the field in the game, even with Kyle Lowry’s fourth quarter heroics. That continues a trend – Toronto is 28th in field goal percentage.
The Raptors are missing Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka at both ends. Perhaps playing in Tampa is having a greater impact than most have considered, too.
They should still be a playoff team, but Toronto are a long way from title contention right now. It’s a surprise they aren’t at longer odds.