When an NBA team wins one title, another is expected.
The Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers (twice) have won consecutive championships this century. When you have the NBA’s best player, as the Lakers do with LeBron James (Anthony Davis isn’t far behind), you will always be a title contender.
Given that, the Lakers’ popularity and the star power of James and Davis, it’s no surprise who is favored to win the NBA championship this season.
The Lakers are +275 to win it all this season, via BetMGM’s odds. No other team is less than +550.
It’s hard to take any team in any sport at such low odds to win a title. It’s worth looking to see if there’s value elsewhere.
Who are the best bets to win the NBA Finals?
Here are the top five favorites, in terms of BetMGM’s odds. Every other team is +1800 or more.
The problem with not betting the Lakers is finding another team you trust.
The Bucks might be a great regular-season team that can’t get it done in the playoffs. The Nets are relying a lot on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving staying healthy. The Clippers are still the Clippers. The Celtics lost Gordon Hayward and don’t know when Kemba Walker will be back from injury.
Long shots rarely hit for the NBA title, but two teams further down the odds are intriguing.
The Toronto Raptors finished very high in advanced stats, point differential and were the NBA’s hottest team before the season shut down in March. They have players with championship experience. The lack of a superstar is one reason their odds are all the way down at +3000, but it’s a strong, efficient team.
If you prefer a superstar, the Dallas Mavericks might be worth a shot at +2500. Luka Doncic is the MVP favorite. Like the Raptors, the Mavs ranked in the top six in net efficiency and point differential last season. The Mavs are an excellent offensive team, new addition Josh Richardson could help the defense and it’s easy to talk yourself into Doncic making another leap and carrying Dallas to a deep playoff run. Especially if Kristaps Porzingis is fully healthy by playoff time.
Five NBA season bets
Only one team wins a championship, of course, which means a lot of losing bets in that market. Here are five interesting non-Finals team bets from BetMGM for the regular season:
1. Portland to win the Northwest Division (+375): The Trail Blazers have a superstar in Damian Lillard, a good supporting star in C.J. McCollum and a quality big in Jusuf Nurkic who played well in the bubble after he got healthy. The trade for Robert Covington should also pay off, and it’s not like the Nuggets or Jazz are unbeatable.
2. Nuggets under 44.5 wins: Because of the 72-game schedule, there’s an adjustment in math to put win totals in perspective. The Nuggets played .630 ball last season and would have to play at a .625 clip to reach the over this season. That’s possible but the Nuggets did lose some depth pieces, particularly at backup center, and an injury to Jamal Murray or Nikola Jokic would probably ensure the under.
3. Celtics under 44.5 wins: Boston is still a quality team, but they’ll need to adjust without Gordon Hayward and Kemba Walker. That’s 37.9 points per game lost from last season. Walker should be back from a knee injury, but presumably the Celtics won’t push him too hard during the regular season.
4. Phoenix Suns make the playoffs -140: The Suns were very good in the bubble and it’s not hard to talk yourself into them being a playoff team. Chris Paul bounced back last season and should have at least one more quality season left at age 35. He’ll set up more easy baskets for Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton.
5. Nets under 46.5 wins: The Nets went 35-37 last season. They’d need to improve by 12 wins to reach the over. Hitting 47 wins means a 65.3 winning percentage, and only five teams reached that last season. Even if Kevin Durant bounces back strong from a missed season due to a torn Achilles and Kyrie Irving stays healthy, it seems likely the Nets will not push them too hard. The Nets certainly have the upside to be a top-five team this season but it seems just as likely that injuries and load management become part of their regular season.