With the 2020-21 season underway, it’s time to dig into the latest NBA Vegas odds and find out how all 30 teams stack up in their bids for a championship.
Yes, preseason optimism is something fans of almost any NBA squad can talk themselves into, yet unlike other major sports leagues, the highest level of pro basketball tends to be top-heavy. Superstars drive title hopes, and the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers are clear favorites to repeat.
With LeBron James and Anthony Davis leading the way, the Lakers could well hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy again. Let’s see the latest betting lines on the Purple and Gold, along with all the other NBA futures odds, courtesy of VegasInsider.com.
NBA Vegas odds: 2020-21 championship futures
|Los Angeles Lakers||+230|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+550|
|Golden State Warriors||+3000|
|Portland Trail Blazers||+3500|
|New Orleans Pelicans||+7000|
|San Antonio Spurs||+15000|
|New York Knicks||+50000|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+50000|
NBA Vegas odds: Top 2020-21 championship contenders
Los Angeles Lakers (+230)
These Lakers got better during the offseason, acquiring first- and second-place finishers for Sixth Man of the Year in Montrezl Harrell and Dennis Schroder, not to mention a former Defensive Player of the Year in center Marc Gasol.
Harrell provides a unique big man off the bench with more athleticism and scoring ability than anyone L.A. had in its frontcourt rotation last season. He averaged 18.6 points per game for the Clippers in 2019-20. As for Schroder, he’s another ball-handler who can help LeBron work off the ball, and gives coach Frank Vogel more lineup versatility.
Whatever Gasol can provide is icing on the cake. If he’s anywhere near top form, Gasol and Davis would make one heck of a defensive duo in the paint.
It’s easy to see why the Lakers are so heavily favored. They might be worth betting now while the odds are this long.
Milwaukee Bucks (+550)
Between Holiday, Giannis and a third All-Star in Khris Middleton, the Deer may have the best trio of perimeter defenders in the Association. That’s not even to discuss what they each bring to the offense. All three can make plays off the dribble, and Holiday in particular is a true lead guard who can take the pressure off Giannis to have to make every play in crunch time.
Don’t sleep on the firepower Milwaukee boasts off the bench, either. Stretch 4 Bobby Portis and guards Bryn Forbes and D.J. Augustin all provide instant offense.
If Donte DiVincenzo can take another big step forward like he did in Year 2, there’s little reason to bet against the Bucks at least making it to the NBA Finals, if not winning.
Los Angeles Clippers (+550)
Losing Harrell to the Lakers hurts the Clips, who were already undersized and lacking offense off the bench. However, Serge Ibaka bailing from Toronto to reunite with Kawhi Leonard is a big deal.
Ibaka gives this Los Angeles squad rim protection it didn’t have before, not to mention a matchup problem on offense due to his ability to stretch the floor. Harrell does most of his damage around the rim, whereas Ibaka can step out to the 3-point line and knock down clutch shots.
The big wild card here is Tyronn Lue. Having won a championship with LeBron in Cleveland, Lue steps in for fired coach Doc Rivers. Those are big shoes to fill, and King James isn’t around this time.
Although there’s nothing to indicate Kawhi will leave the Clippers, he does have a player option for next season. If things go south, especially early on, L.A. could crumble and make the Lakers’ playoff path in the West easier to navigate.
Brooklyn Nets (+600)
Kyrie Irving toying with and insulting the media. Kevin Durant coming off a torn Achilles. A first-time head coach — and Hall of Fame player at Irving’s position — in Steve Nash.
What could possibly go wrong? A lot actually, but then again, if the Nets figure this thing out, these +600 odds to win the championship will seem overly generous.
Irving and Durant are quite volatile personality types who just so happen to have downright historic skill sets. Perhaps no one in basketball history has better handles than Irving, or can finish around the rim so ambidextrously. Durant may be the biggest matchup nightmare and purest, most versatile scorer there’s ever been.
Combine those elements with returning core pieces like Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, Joe Harris and Caris LeVert, and you’ve got a great-looking Brooklyn squad on paper. It all comes down to how well Nash can manage the locker room.
NBA Vegas odds: Best dark-horse value bets
Denver Nuggets (+2000)
Being slotted eighth after reaching the NBA’s version of the Final Four last postseason is some serious disrespect for Denver.
Beyond the ascent of point guard Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic establishing himself as the prototype for a modern center, Michael Porter Jr. is a real X-factor.
The 22-year-old who fell in the 2018 draft because of a back injury is proving to be a big hit in Denver. Porter’s per 36-minute averages from this past season? 20.4 points and 10.3 rebounds. His shooting splits were 50.9/42.2/83.3. Those are bonkers numbers from an efficiency standpoint.
In a four-game stretch during the Orlando bubble seeding games, Porter saw the biggest minutes of his young pro career, and responded with 29.2 ppg. If he’s who we think he is, look the heck out for the Nuggets.
Dallas Mavericks (+2200)
How far can Luka Doncic take the Mavs, and how soon? Already an MVP-caliber superstar at age 21, those questions account for one of the league’s most fascinating storylines.
A compelling argument can be made that if Doncic hadn’t suffered a sprained ankle, and Kristaps Porzingis wasn’t dealing with his own injury problems, Dallas would’ve knocked off the Clippers in the opening round of the bubble playoffs. As it stood, the Mavs still pushed L.A. to six games when they had no business doing so.
Doncic can create open shots for his teammates in ways so few players can. His size, strength and knack for drawing contact to get to the free throw line are bettered by no one besides James Harden. The difference is, Doncic hasn’t shown himself to be a selfish player.
If Dallas’ relatively unheralded supporting cast can do enough around him and Porzingis is healthy, these Mavs may well be ready to contend for a title now.
Portland Trail Blazers (+3500)
This line is rightly moving, going from +5000 before the season started and shrinking already through the first week. It really should, because Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum might be the NBA’s best backcourt right now.
Lillard lifted his game to another level in the bubble, yet the Blazers’ defensive limitations were on full display when the Lakers dominated them in the postseason’s opening round. To be fair, center Jusuf Nurkic was inconsistent, because he was knocking the rust off after returning from a serious leg injury. That was a big part of the equation.
Portland made a huge defensive upgrade in landing dynamic wing Robert Covington in a trade with Houston. While Covington can also knock down treys at a decent clip (35.6% for his career), his real value is on defense thanks to his length, ability to switch and guard about any position on the floor. He may prove to be the most underrated acquisition for any playoff contender of the 2020 offseason.
New Orleans Pelicans (+7000)
Is this the 2021 playoffs’ version of the 2020 Miami Heat? It’d be a bunch of young studs banding together on a rapid ascent, led by second-year phenom Zion Williamson, reigning NBA Most Improved Player Brandon Ingram and a fiery, NBA Finals-experienced coach in Stan Van Gundy.
Ingram was among numerous ex-Lakers who were involved in the Anthony Davis trade. How poetic would it be if this long-shot group were the ones to upend the defending champs?
As far as dark horses go, the Pelicans aren’t a supreme stretch. If Zion plays big minutes and stays healthy, he could well dominate in a way never seen before. His blend of athleticism, strength for his size and playmaking ability, along with defensive upside, make Zion a true 1-of-1 NBA player.
Landing center Steven Adams to start at center will upgrade the Pels’ struggling defense. Adams should also help the locker room as a great mentor to sleeper breakout candidate Jaxson Hayes, and a key veteran leader to pair with ace sharpshooter J.J. Redick.