There is no clear-cut NBA Championship favorite as in year's past
One look at the NBA futures board this week will tell you the story. No one confidently knows who this year's NBA champion will be. Unlike past seasons when we could expect maybe four or five teams having a chance, there are up to eight legit teams that bettors could build a case for as of the second week of May.
Perhaps that might be the answer right there. It's almost mid-May and the NBA regular season is still underway. Traditionally that time belongs to at least the second round of the playoffs. In a Covid-19 world everything is a bit different, and this NBA season is no exception.
With the schedule out of alignment, the NBA champ is not expected to be crowned until mid-July. Hardly a rest for several NBA players because if the 2021-2022 season begins at the traditional time, all squads will barely get a breather before training camps break again in September.
Taking it to the Hoop
What this means for the astute handicapper is a rare opportunity to seize a much better than usual price for the several proposition bets now on the board at the top sportsbooks.
Many of the well-known brands have several future prop bets focused on the NBA Finals, including who will capture the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy, plus others pointed toward individual team matchups of who will meet there.
For example, a look at the current future board to win the NBA Championship at BetOnline yields at least eight teams with a legitimate chance. Although the odds are attractive, I would ignore the balance of teams going all the way.
|Odds to win NBA Championship
|Los Angeles Lakers
|Los Angeles Clippers
|The remaining teams are all +5000 or more. For complete NBA Championship odds, click here.
Though they are currently two games back in the standings behind the 76ers with only six games left in the NBA regular season, the Brooklyn Nets still hold a commanding favorite role in the abbreviated Coronavirus-shortened 72 game schedule. There are two to three compelling reasons why.
The Nets, led by superstars Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant were expected to win the NBA title from the start of the season IF they remained healthy. That has been a big "if", which will carry on through July. Add on they have not proven unbeatable with a consistent line-up that has often played like the regular season was a rehearsal for the playoffs. We'll see if that game plan proves right, while the favorite role will remain.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Lakers were the pre-season Western Conference version with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and a great supporting cast. Somehow, a current mediocre 37-28 record keeps them right behind the Nets at +375 to +400 at most of the online sportsbooks. Despite a recent losing streak, the line has not seriously dipped or dissuaded bettors. It's as if they're playing out the string, preparing for serious action, with the threat of injury, especially to a vulnerable Lebron, a much more priority concern.
Some Unglamorous, but Attractive, Opportunities
Likely the most attractive wager and the one team that probably will shift down in price shortly is the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clips are starting to gel at the right time and prove the championship form they were predicted for.
Superstar guard Kawhi Leonard seems 100% back from his foot injury to join all-star forward Paul George. Add on seasoned veterans Rajan Rondo, along with DeMarcus Cousins, and you have the nucleus of a great team with a ton of winning playoff experience. 6-1 isn't going to last for long, and if you like the Clippers it would be a wise move to shop among Bovada, WagerWeb, Bookmaker and the other top sportsbooks for the best price. Keeping the odds higher is an obvious red flag as the Clippers have never won an NBA title.
Speaking of bridesmaids, the Utah Jazz and the Phoenix Suns are often afterthoughts, despite their impressive records during the NBA regular season this year. No one seems to believe in the Jazz #1 standing at 48-18 with Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell leading the way. Right behind them are the rapidly improving Phoenix Suns at 47-19, with Devin Booker and Chris Paul comprising perhaps the NBA's best backcourt. They've put together a great supporting cast and no-doubt will give any NBA West foe trouble in the playoffs, yet are still +1100 or more to win it all.
In the NBA East it is anybody's guess if you don't believe the Nets can put it all together in time. Without making a crazy case, it is still possible for the Philadelphia 76ers or the Milwaukee Bucks to make a threat, especially the Bucks.
Milwaukee has been playing their best ball over the past month now that Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton have stepped up to support MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. At +1000 (or 10-1) they are a very worthy investment considering they could win the East and then have only a seven-game series to defeat an equal talent team in the NBA Finals. Another on the list to consider at a great price.
As for the Sixers, we know what we are buying. The +1100 longshot that Joel Embiid stays healthy and the balance of the Sixers roster including Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Tobias Harris are at their best. Like the Bucks, they have to get past the Nets first.
There's NO Place Like Home
What also makes this NBA regular season and especially playoff season different is there will be no actual home court advantage for any team. Attendance restrictions will take care of that. Perhaps that is why several teams have been ignoring late-season games and their playoff rankings in favor of getting their best players healthy. We’ve seen this occur, especially with the Lakers, who have fallen into the 6th playoff position and kept key players, including Lebron and Anthony Davis away as long as possible. In these upcoming seven game playoff series games, there simply is no true home court advantage to rely upon.
Many top sportsbooks have an array of future prop bets centered on the upcoming NBA playoffs. One that I especially like as an opportunity is the "head-to-head matchups" for the NBA Finals.
For example, Bovada lists several intriguing potential matchups with corresponding odds if you pick which team from the NBA East will face off against the correct foe from the NBA West. Many opportunities to choose from with the favorite being the Brooklyn Nets vs. LA Lakers at +475.
Among the approximate 50 scenarios are some great options at excellent value prices. An LA Clippers vs. Milwaukee Bucks NBA Final is not far-fetched at a juicy +1360. Nor is a Phoenix Suns-Brooklyn Nets at the same odds.
The overall point here is 2021 is a unique NBA season to take advantage of some special longshot opportunities with the right foresight and luck. The key is to do it NOW, while the basketball wagering market has yet to make up its mind.
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, including previews and picks from Glenn, click here.