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A little more than two months after closing out a most unusual postseason, pro basketball makes its return and we welcome it back with some 2021 NBA championship predictions!
While this still won't be a conventional season, the NBA's return does represent some sense of normalcy for fans since the league is traditionally up-and-running by this time of year.
But regardless of the season's exact dates, basketball remains incredibly popular to wager on and online sportsbooks in NJ and other states are already busy accepting futures wagers on the new season.
2020-21 NBA Season Format
The 2020-21 NBA season will look somewhat different than what we are accustomed to, but we've got all the details for you right here.
The 72-game regular season is slated to begin on December 22, 2020 and is scheduled to run through May 16, 2021. There will be a several-day hiatus at the midway point from March 5 through 10 that we can look at as a pseudo All-Star break, although it is likely there won't be any festivities during that time.
The first half of the regular-season schedule has been released and the second half will follow at another point in time. The league aims to maintain flexibility in the event that any games need to be rescheduled.
The postseason will begin on May 18 and culminate with the NBA Finals in July, with the winner being crowned on July 22 at the latest.
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2021 NBA Championship Betting Lines
As is always the case with futures odds, there are plenty of choices when looking at odds to win the NBA championship.
There are a host of teams at the top with low-paying odds but the likeliest chances of winning, and there are also some teams with astronomical odds. These teams may be a long shot to lift the trophy, but they offer plenty of value and a chance at huge profits if something unexpected happens in this most unpredictable time.
For now, let's look at the top of the odds board and go over the NBA championship favorites (odds as of December 15 at BetMGM Sportsbook):
- Los Angeles Lakers (+275): LeBron James and Anthony Davis will continue to make the Lakers one of the best teams in the league. The team managed to handle losing a couple of pieces as Montrezl Harrell, Dennis Schroder, Marc Gasol, and Wesley Matthews all came in to play roles.
- Milwaukee Bucks (+550): Giannis Antetokounmpo is back for five more years and that will keep the Bucks in the hunt in the conferernce. The Greek Freak also has plenty of help on the roster with fellow All-Star Khris Middleton plus Jrue Holiday and Torrey Craig among those joining to take a run at the elusive Eastern Conference title.
- Brooklyn Nets (+600): Kevin Durant will finally play for the Nets after missing last season with an achilles injury. He and Kyrie Irving will make for one of the more dynamic duos for fans to watch this season. The hiring of Hall of Famer Steve Nash as head coach also makes Brooklyn an interesting team to keep an eye on.
- Los Angeles Clippers (+650): The Clippers experienced one of the ugliest playoff collapses in recent memory last season, resulting in Tyronn Lue replacing Doc Rivers. The team still has Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and added Serge Ibaka to the mix in free agency. They should remain strong contenders in the west.
- Boston Celtics (+1400): The Celtics' odds to win were hurt by Gordon Hayward's departure and ongoing injury concerns for Kemba Walker. But there are still many reasons why the Celtics will remain competitive in 2021, starting with Jayson Tatum continuing his ascension into stardom.
NBA Championship Predictions 2021 | Best Bets To Win NBA Finals
When it comes down to making 20201 NBA championship betting picks, there are more questions than answers and plenty of factors to keep in mind.
The most important and unpredictable part of the season involves the possibility of virus outbreaks on NBA teams and whether that will impact the amount of games played. Based on what's happened in other sports such as the NFL, there could eventually be at least some positive tests and rescheduled games. But whether that impacts the integrity of the season remains to be seen.
Since we are looking at futures odds for a champion before the season starts, we need to answer some of these questions ourselves. The best we can do at this point is narrow down our choices to teams with the deepest rosters and clubs that could sustain losing a player or two at some point, if it came to that.
Here are our NBA championship predictions for the 2020-21 season before it begins:
- Los Angeles Lakers (+275)
It would be tough not to bet on the defending champions after what general manager Rob Pelinka has done for the Lakers this offseason. In addition to keeping LeBron James and Anthony Davis together, he brought in Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell from the other side of town along with Marc Gasol and Wesley Matthews.
The Lake Show are the favorites for good reason and we wouldn't be at all surprised to see a repeat. The odds at +270 may not be great but the chances of this team winning are pretty great, so shop around for the best line.
- Brooklyn Nets (+600)
There are high hopes in Brooklyn and it's easy to see why. Kyrie Irving didn't play in the bubble and Kevin Durant was rehabbing his achilles injury, but now both are back and surrounded with tons of talent as well.
Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert should both be in store for big seasons once while Joe Harris is another name you can't forget. Especially in the east, the Nets are an instant title contender with this kind of depth and in addition to Nash, they've got Mike D'Antoni and Amar'e Stoudemire on the coaching staff.
There isn't a ton of value at +600 but there also aren't many teams in the east who can stack up with this lineup, assuming everyone stays healthy.
- Denver Nuggets (+1800)
The Nuggets are an up-and-coming team with a couple of deep playoff runs under their belt in recent seasons, and this team could be finally ready to turn the corner. Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic are bonafide stars, and the success will begin there but there's several role players including Gary Harris, Michael Porter Jr. and JaMychal Green that should provide plenty of support.
This line has some of the best value out there because of the team's quality compared to the odds. Playing in the west won't make things easy but it is a large payout at +1800 for a team this solid.
- Miami Heat (+1800)
The Miami Heat won the east last season and even though they came up short, we're hard-pressed not to expect big things from this group again. Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic re-signed with the team this offseason and coupling them with role players like Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson helps keep the strong nucleus around Jimmy Butler for the foreseeable future.
Expect the Heat and coach Erik Spoelstra to make a significant impact once again in 2020-21. At +1800 odds, Miami could be worth a wager.
- Toronto Raptors (+3000)
Nick Nurse and the 2018-19 NBA champions are forced to begin the season in Tampa with hopes of returning to Toronto at some point. There's no telling how this change of pace will impact the team but since they are coming off the recent bubble experience, this may not be a huge deal.
We know Toronto has plenty of talent starting with Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, and Fred VanVleet, but the question will be how they stack up with teams such as Milwaukee, Brooklyn, and Miami. The Raptors may not be as appealing as some of the other top teams in the east but are an experience-laden group after falling one possession short in Game 7 of the conference semifinals.
Nurse should still have one of the best defensive units in basketball, which goes a long way in the postseason. Don't forget about Toronto, especially at a lofty +3000.
We feel all of these choices are appealing ones when making NBA champion betting predictions, but it's important to proceed with caution heading into this season. With so many questions about how things will go and so few answers, there's no telling what will happen.
One smart way to do things from a wagering perspective is to wait it out the first few weeks of the NBA season and make your picks after seeing a few teams play. Track the futures odds and shop around at multiple sportsbooks to get the best lines you can.
Photo Credit: Associated Press