The NBA season is currently at a standstill, with the coronavirus pandemic preventing games from going on as scheduled. But that has not stopped the futures markets, as bettors can still back any of the teams in playoff contention to win the NBA Finals once the season resumes.
The league might currently be on hiatus, but there's growing optimism that the NBA will be able to finish the season. The Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers are the top seeds in the Eastern and Western Conference, respectively. With the uncertainty around the league, it's safe to assume that Lebron James' Lakers and Giannis Antetokounmpo's Bucks will lock up the No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences, and be the favorites for the NBA Championship.
Without further ado, let's take a look at the current 2020 NBA Championship odds, according to DraftKings' sportsbook.
Miami Heat: +4000
Whereas the Sixers have underperformed this season, the Miami Heat have exceeded expectations. Thanks to the addition of Jimmy Butler, the Heat have made the most of a young roster, going 27-5 at home and positioning themselves for a potential first-round series with home-court advantage.
Outside of Butler, it is hard to believe that the Heat have the players to make a run all the way to the title. But if a couple of upsets happen around them and the Heat can hold home court, it is hard to rule anything out.
Philadelphia 76ers: +3300
Philadelphia was one of the favorites to win the NBA Finals heading into the current campaign, but they have not been as good as everyone expected. The lack of development from Ben Simmons and the inconsistency of Joel Embiid has seen the Sixers slide backward in the Eastern Conference standings this year. And without Jimmy Butler’s attitude and ability to bail their young players out, Philly might not even get home-court advantage in the first round of this year’s playoffs.
The road is where the Sixers have struggled this season, as they are an abysmal 14 games below .500 on the road. Philadelphia is 29-2 on their home floor this season but, without home-court advantage, may not be able to take advantage of the tremendous edge they have at home.
Denver Nuggets: +3300
Denver has quietly put itself into the top three in the Western Conference this season, behind just the Lakers and Clippers. While all of the attention has been paid to the two teams out West, the Nuggets have proven that their performance last season is anything but a fluke.
The concern for the Nuggets heading into the postseason will be exactly what it was last year: Who is going to make shots at the end of tight games in the playoffs? Last year, the Nuggets collapsed in the playoffs against the Portland Trail Blazers, simply because they couldn’t answer that question with timely shot-making. Against an even tougher Western Conference this season, the Nuggets need someone to answer the call.
Toronto Raptors: +2500
Despite losing Kawhi Leonard in the offseason, the defending champion Toronto Raptors have a title-worthy roster despite their status as longshots to win this year's NBA Finals.
Kyle Lowry has had his share of postseason struggles in the past but could do plenty of damage as the primary guard on this year’s Raptors. And with Pascal Siakam breaking out as a bonafide star, Toronto certainly has the potential to contend with the Bucks and Celtics for the Eastern Conference title.
Toronto is tied with the Clippers for the second-best point differential in the league, outscoring opponents by an average of 6.5 points per game. While they will need to replace Kawhi Leonard’s clutch scoring in the upcoming playoffs, they could be an excellent value play at 25/1 odds, with an entire nation supporting them in their quest for a repeat.
Houston Rockets: +2000
Houston might be the most interesting team in the NBA heading toward the postseason, even if they might not win this year’s NBA Championship. The Rockets got rid of the bulk of their big men this season, opting for a small-ball lineup that prioritizes three-point shooting over everything else. With James Harden leading the league in scoring, and Russell Westbrook always a threat to have a big game, the Rockets are a tempting choice to win the title at 20/1 odds.
The one question hanging over the Rockets is, how they will defend teams with size in the playoffs? P.J. Tucker serves as the center by default in many instances for this team, but Tucker just doesn’t have the size to match up with the likes of Anthony Davis. If the Rockets get hot from three-point range in the playoffs, they could earn their backers a pretty penny. But there are some structural concerns with their roster that need to be overcome.
Boston Celtics: +1200
The Celtics lead a group of teams outside of the top three that could bring bettors a substantial payout if they were to win the NBA Finals. Boston is not a team that plays a particularly attractive brand of basketball. But they allow the second-fewest points in the NBA and embody the hard-nosed style that worked for head coach Brad Stevens in the college ranks at Butler.
If anything is going to stop the Celtics from winning a title this year, it's the lack of star power on their roster. Kemba Walker is a high-level player in the NBA, while Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown could be superstars in the future. But Walker has yet to break out in the postseason — as he did in college at Connecticut — and there might not be enough firepower to get this team over the hump against the other elite teams in the East.
Los Angeles Clippers: +300
Rounding out the list of favorites to win the NBA Finals are the Los Angeles Clippers. Led by reigning NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers have coasted to the second-best record in the Western Conference this season. What should scare their opponents is the fact that they have done so despite the fact that Leonard and George have both missed significant due to injuries.
If there is a team that is poised to benefit from an extended break like this, it is the Clippers. With George and Leonard missing portions of the season due to injury and load management, respectively, this break should help both players be as healthy as possible for the postseason. With a potential Western Conference Finals series against the Lakers looming, both stars will need to be as healthy as possible.
All of this rest is nice, but what makes the Clippers really dangerous is their depth. Lou Williams is good enough to be the top star on a plethora of NBA teams but serves as an ace on the Clipper's bench. And with players like Montrezl Harrell, Patrick Beverley and Reggie Jackson lurking, the Clippers certainly have the talent to compete — and win — an NBA Championship.
Milwaukee Bucks: +225
If there is a team worth backing at the same price as the Lakers, it could be the Milwaukee Bucks. Milwaukee has the best record in the NBA and has been dominant in the Eastern Conference with a 34-5 record in conference games. With an easier path to the NBA Finals than the Lakers, the Bucks would appear to be a better play at the same price.
The Bucks are lead by Antetokounmpo, whose 29.6 points per game and 13.7 rebounds per game both rank third in the NBA this season. He has helped the Bucks outscore opponents by an average of 11.2 points per game, which is the best average margin in the league by nearly four full points. Mike Budenholzer’s team has lost just three times at home this season prior to the pandemic stoppage.
One must question if the Bucks will be impacted in a negative way by the break in this season, though. Whereas teams like the Lakers have veteran stars who might benefit from the long break, the Bucks are lead by younger players, whose momentum may be halted by having the extra time off. Only time will tell how the break impacts the Bucks, but there is no denying that they have the talent to win the title this year.
Los Angeles Lakers: +225
The Lakers were one of the hottest teams in the NBA before things came to a halt, with Los Angeles winning eight of their last 10 games. And, thanks to the play of LeBron James, the Lakers could easily claim the title when the season starts up again. James is leading the NBA in assists this year and is the only player averaging double digits in that category this season.
There is much more to this team than just James, though. Anthony Davis' all-world ability makes preparing for the Lakers a headache for opposing teams. Home-court advantage could also be a massive benefit for the Lakers, as they find themselves with a comfortable lead for the top seed in the Western Conference. If the Lakers can rely on their dynamic duo and a home crowd that has yearned for title contention for a decade, the rest of the league could have difficulty handling the purple and gold.
Naturally, the Lakers’ status as the hottest team in the league — along with having LeBron James — could make them overvalued in the futures market.
In a loaded Western Conference, there might be other teams to back at better prices with equal chances of getting to and winning the NBA Finals.
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