NBA 2021 Season Preview

It feels like it was just yesterday when LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA title. Actually, it was October 11 when the Lakers beat the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the Finals, but that still leaves us with the shortest offseason in league history. Preseason games for the 2020-21 campaign are already underway, and Bovada Sportsbook’s NBA betting odds have the Lakers at the top of the class heading into their first title defense in 10 years. 

Top 4 Teams to Win NBA Title in 2021

The Lakers may have bossed the 2020 playoffs inside the Orlando bubble, but they didn’t have to face any of the other title hopefuls on this year’s list of leading contenders. Here are the top three teams (including ties) on the NBA 2021 odds board at press time.

1. Los Angeles Lakers (+210)

The Lakers almost led the odds race wire-to-wire last year, after bringing in Anthony Davis to pair with LeBron James. Their dynamic duo remains intact for the new season, and they’ll have some fresh reinforcements; Montrezl Harrell and Dennis Schröder were 1-2 in Sixth Man of the Year voting, and Marc Gasol (who won his first title with Toronto) is a former Defensive Player of the Year who still has plenty to offer at that end of the court.

2. Brooklyn Nets (+550)

This might be the most polarizing team in the NBA. The Nets didn’t make it out of the first round last year, but that’s partly because they didn’t have Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving inside the bubble. Both of these former champions are back in uniform, but can either of them stay healthy? And if they do, will their unusual coaching arrangement with Steve Nash bear fruit? 

3. Milwaukee Bucks (+600)

It must feel like a slap in the face for the Bucks to slip behind Brooklyn on the NBA 2021 betting board. They’re coming off back-to-back seasons at No. 1 in the regular season standings, with Giannis Antetokounmpo winning MVP honors both times. But Milwaukee didn’t even make it to the Finals. That could change this year after the Bucks acquired point guard Jrue Holiday; however, their attempted signing of Bogdan Bogdanovic (now with Atlanta) fell through.

3. Los Angeles Clippers (+600)

If the Clippers are concerned about Paul George’s subpar performance in the 2020 playoffs, they aren’t showing it; George just signed a fat four-year, $190-million contract extension. Perhaps he’ll return to form now that teams (most of them, at least) are playing in their home arenas. George and Kawhi Leonard played well enough during the regular season, at least when healthy, to keep the Clippers at or near the top of last year’s NBA betting odds. They’ve lost Harrell to the Lakers, but Leonard will be reunited this year with Serge Ibaka, his former teammate on the title-winning Raptors.

Top 3 Underdogs to Win NBA Title in 2021

After a very quick offseason of wheeling and dealing, the top title contenders managed to break away from the rest of the pack; the next tier is led by the following three teams, all of them qualifying as underdogs at these odds.

1. Boston Celtics (+1600)

It’s been a while since the Celtics had a bad offseason. Losing Gordon Hayward (now with Charlotte) in free agency was a surprise, but he probably wasn’t worth the money the Hornets were willing to pay. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are driving this bus, especially with Kemba Walker not expected to return from his left knee injury until sometime in January.

2. Philadelphia 76ers (+1700)

After another disappointing early playoff exit, the Sixers might actually be the best value on the board at this price. They ended the Al Horford experiment after one failed season, shipping him to Oklahoma City for a package that includes Danny Green (who was with the Lakers last year), still one of the league’s better 3-and-D wings. Then they signed Seth Curry to add even more perimeter shooting around their axis of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. It just might work.

3. Miami Heat (+1800)

Falling this far down the list seems unfair for the reigning Eastern Conference champions. But this won’t be quite the same team that went 4-2 ATS against the Lakers during the Finals. Jae Crowder departed for Phoenix in the offseason; he’ll be replaced by Maurice Harkless (formerly with New York), who was the best of a very thin crop of free-agent signings for Miami. They’re counting on Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler to stay healthy and anchor another deep run into the postseason.

Top 3 Sleeper Teams to Win NBA Title in 2021

Every once in a while, an outsider on the NBA betting odds gets to hoist the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. Each of this year’s top three sleeper candidates won the title during the previous decade; any of them could do it again in the Roaring Twenties.

1. Golden State Warriors (+1800)

The Warriors have the same odds as Miami, but they feel like more of a long shot after losing Klay Thompson (Achilles) for the entire 2020-21 campaign. Stephen Curry and Draymond Green are still around from their championship years; Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre Jr. might not be enough support to get them over the top.

2. Dallas Mavericks (+2000)

These aren’t Dirk Nowitzki’s Mavericks anymore. Luka Doncic may prove to be even better – he’ll lead a talented and deep team that got sideswiped by injuries last year. Kristaps Porzingis (right knee) isn’t due back until late January, but Dwight Powell is back from his Achilles injury to help fill the void in the frontcourt.

3. Toronto Raptors (+2800)

Leonard took off for LA last year, and now Gasol and Ibaka have joined him. The Raptors still have Kyle Lowry to point the way for at least one more season; this will be the ultimate test of their home-grown talent, with Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet and others taking on bigger roles while playing their home games in Tampa.

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