Dec 18, 2020
Dec 18, 2020

Who will be 2021 NBA champions? The return of the NBA

A re-cap of last season

Key acquisitions to team rosters

Who are the favourites?

Are there outsiders worth considering?

Who will be 2021 NBA champions? The return of the NBA

The greatest basketball competition in the world returns after the shortest preseason on record. The incredible drama, skill, and memorable moments are all within touching distance as the NBA is back outside the ‘bubble’. Who will become NBA Champions? What do the odds currently suggest? Are there any outsiders worth backing? Read on to inform your NBA betting ahead of the new season.

A re-cap of last season

In a stop-start season that was heavily impacted by the global pandemic, the NBA ‘bubble’ was born, creating incredible drama and shock upsets in the NBA playoffs.

Potentially acting as the great equaliser, the absence of fans and travel meant that teams would have to rely on their basketball ability alone to see them move through the rounds, rather than a favourable seed, hostile environment, or travel fatigue having the impact it usually does in a series.

We saw many shocks during the playoffs, with the Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks severely underwhelming by both losing in their respective Conference semi-finals after being tipped for NBA glory, whilst teams like the Denver Nuggets and finalists Miami Heat performing above expectations.

It culminated in preseason outsiders the Miami Heat (priced at 61.00 before the start of the season before moving to 3.79 heading into the Championship Series) meeting the preseason favourites the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA finals.

Unfortunately for the spirited Heat team, the Lakers were a step too far, with the incredible duo of Anthony Davis and LeBron James proving too difficult to contain as the Lakers won their 17th NBA Championship in six games.

As for this season, let’s take a look at some of the acquisitions, rookies, and players returning from injury to the team rosters.

Biggest Trade and Free Agent moves

Biggest Trade and Free Agent moves

Player New Team
Dennis Schröder Los Angeles Lakers
Gordon Hayward Charlotte Hornets
Jrue Holiday Milwaukee Bucks
Chris Paul Oklahoma City Thunder
John Wall Houston Rockets
Russell Westbrook Washington Wizards

Top 5 Draft Picks

  • Minnesota Timberwolves (No. 1): Anthony Edwards, SG, University of Georgia
  • Golden State Warriors (No. 2): James Wiseman, C, University of Memphis
  • Charlotte Hornets (No. 3): LaMelo Ball, PG
  • Chicago Bulls (No. 4): Patrick Williams, SF, Florida State University
  • Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 5): Isaac Okoro, PF, Auburn University

Who are the favourites?

Los Angeles Lakers 

Odds to win NBA Championship - 2.900*

How did they perform last season? – NBA Champions

Key Acquisition - Dennis Schröder PG (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Key Players - LeBron James (25.3 PPG, 10.2 AST, 7.8 TRB), Anthony Davis (26.1 PPG, 9.3 TRB, .503 FG%)

Season preview - It’s difficult to envisage anyone being able to seriously challenge the Lakers heading into the new season, and they are odds-on favourites to retain the NBA Championship and win it for the 18th time in their history.

Tying down the best duo in the NBA, in the form of James and Davis, to new contracts along with the shrewd acquisition of Schröder, the Lakers have strengthened an already strong roster with more proven talent that will solidify their position as the team to beat.

Barring major injury to James or Davis, the Lakers look set to be top dogs in the West and will more than likely reach the Conference finals at the very least.

Milwaukee Bucks

Odds to win NBA Championship - 6.400*

How did they perform last season? – Top of Eastern Conference, eliminated by Miami Heat in Eastern Conference playoff semi-final.

Key Acquisition – Jrue Holiday PG/SG (New Orleans Pelicans)

Key Players - Giannis Antetokounmpo (29.5 PPG, 13.6 TRB, .553 FG%) and Khris Middleton (20.9 PPG, 4.3 AST, .497 FG%)

Season preview – Having just signed the largest supermax contract in NBA history, the Bucks have nailed down their franchise player Giannis Antetokounmpo to another five years in Milwaukee, which is crucial if they are going to be able to challenge for the NBA title.

The ‘Greek Freak’ is undoubtedly one of the best players in the NBA, with few being able to combat his aggressive slashing style to the rim. It’s his perimeter game – which is called upon more so in the playoffs - where Giannis needs to improve.

The addition of Jrue Holiday to compliment the team’s best perimeter shooter, Khris Middleton, is a shrewd move by the Bucks, one they hope will see them finally make the Championship finals, having made it to the Conference finals and semi-finals in the last two seasons.

Brooklyn Nets

Odds to win NBA Championship - 7.600*

How did they perform last season? – Seventh in Eastern Conference, eliminated by Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference playoff first round.

Key Acquisition – Kevin Durant (Return from injury)

Key Players - Kevin Durant (10.780* to be regular season MVP) and Kyrie Irving (27.4 PPG, 6.4 AST, .478 FG%)

Season preview - Kevin Durant’s return from injury has propelled the Nets into Championship contention after the missing the entirety of last season. Instead, the Nets relied on another all-star in the form of Kyrie Irving, who despite all of his off-court controversies, is one of the best ball handlers in NBA history and had a great season by all accounts.

Injury disrupted Irving’s season also, leaving the Nets finishing in seventh place in the Eastern Conference and setting up a playoff with the well-drilled outfit the Toronto Raptors – a series they inevitably lost.

This season under new head coach Steve Nash, should Durant and Irving stay healthy, the team look set to push the Bucks for top spot in the East and make a deeper run in the playoffs.

Los Angeles Clippers

Odds to win NBA Championship - 8.230*

How did they perform last season? –  Second in the Western Conference, eliminated by Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference playoff semi-final.

Key Acquisition – Serge Ibaka (Toronto Raptors)

Key Players - Kawhi Leonard (KL = 27.1 PPG, 7.1 TRB, .470 FG%) and Paul George (21.5 PPG, 5.7 AST, .439 FG%)

Season preview - Much was expected of the Clippers following the signing of Leonard and George, with many experts tipping them as the Lakers’ biggest challenge to the Championship.

After an impressive regular season, the Clippers’ playoff series against the Nuggets in the ‘bubble’ provided perhaps the biggest shock of the season, as the Clippers squandered a 3-1 lead to get eliminated 4-3, thanks to inspired performances from Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, that coincided with poor performances from Leonard and George in particular.

The Clippers have fired head coach Doc Rivers, replacing him with Tyronn Lue, as they look to make amends for their shock exit and go one step further to set up a potential Western Conference final clash with their city rivals, the Lakers.

The addition of Serge Ibaka to add Championship-winning experience (a championship he won with Kawhi Leonard) should boost an already talented roster who will be looking to prove the doubters wrong this upcoming season.

Outsiders to consider

The Boston Celtics (19.540*) have had issues in the off-season since their narrow playoff loss to the Miami Heat in six games, with Gordon Hayward leaving for the Charlotte Hornets and Kemba Walker still dealing with the knee injury that troubled him for most of the playoffs. The signing of experienced centre Tristan Thompson looks a decent one and they will once again be building their offence around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

Stephen “Steph” Curry’s return and the addition of number two overall draft pick James Wiseman may push the Golden State Warriors (20.540*) almost certainly back into postseason contention after finishing at the wrong end of the Western Conference last season. Had Klay Thompson avoided a season-ending Achilles injury, many would have tipped the Warriors for a deep run into the playoffs, but the cruel blow just before the start of the season may have dented any small championship aspirations they had.

The aforementioned duo of Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic for the Denver Nuggets (21.090*) were responsible for their run to the Western Conference final and they will be looking to match and build on those ‘bubble’ performances heading into the new season.

If the Philadelphia 76ers (22.130*) can finally deliver on all the potential that has surrounded them and get the most out of all-star duo Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, there’s no reason why they can’t challenge for a top spot in a very competitive Eastern Conference.

Last season’s beaten finalists the Miami Heat (23.150*) will be looking to build on their impressive run to the finals and will hope their more experienced younger players Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo, and Duncan Robinson will take the next step on their upward trajectory to compliment the floor general Jimmy Butler.

At the time of writing, Luka Doncic is the current favourite to be named regular season MVP (4.520*), so if the Dallas Mavericks (28.570*) can utilise his incredible talent alongside the ‘unicorn’ Kristaps Porzingis, the 2011 NBA Champions will hope they can secure a higher seed in the Western Conference and make a strong challenge in the postseason.

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Odds subject to change

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