- The reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers are the heavy 2021 Finals favorites after three big additions on the opening weekend of free agency
- Despite missing out on Bogdan Bogdanovic, the Milwaukee Bucks are second favorites
- See updated odds for the upcoming NBA title race below
The majority of big names are off the board after the opening weekend of NBA free agency. With the offseason well underway, there has been movement in the NBA championship odds, yet the Lakers still lead the way ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers.
Milwaukee was an early mover after the trade for Jrue Holiday, though the proposed deal for Bogdanovic fell through – the Kings wing signed an offer sheet with the Atlanta Hawks. The Lakers got better, the Clippers added guard and frontcourt help, and the Nets continue to be linked with a trade for James Harden.
Below are the NBA title odds for the upcoming season, followed by some discussion on the contenders.
2020-21 NBA Championship Odds
|Los Angeles Lakers||+290|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+650|
|Golden State Warriors||+2500|
Odds taken from FanDuel on November 23rd
Lakers Get Better
JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, Danny Green and Avery Bradley are gone. The Lakers were not happy to run it back – they have overturned much of the roster that won the title in Orlando.
Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell, Wesley Matthews and Marc Gasol will join for the title defense, and the Lakers will be hoping they can re-sign Markieff Morris to give them another option in the frontcourt.
Rob Pelinka has been bold this offseason, and it’s impressive. Swapping Rondo and Green for Schroder and Matthews is an improvement. The same goes for McGee and Howard becoming Gasol and Harrell. The make-up and balance of the roster has altered, but this remains a championship caliber group.
While the defense has perhaps taken a hit, the offense has so many more options with the passing and shooting of Gasol, the pick-and-roll game of Harrell and the all-round package of Schroder.
Pau and Marc Gasol would be the first set of brothers to each play for the Lakers at any point in their careers ? pic.twitter.com/oNJz3RfuSY
— ESPN (@espn) November 23, 2020
The Lakers were already the team to beat. They have become an even more formidable opponent, deserving of their status as favorites to win the title. If healthy, it’s hard to see who can stop this group.
Clippers Keep Pace
Harrell, JaMychal Green and Landry Shamet out, Serge Ibaka and Luke Kennard in, is a decent offseason for the Clippers. Harrell was a liability in the playoffs. Ibaka brings better defense and experience, along with shooting from the five – the Clippers didn’t have a proper stretch five last season. Kennard can do a bit of ball handling and shoots the three as well as anyone on the roster.
At worst, the Clips have treaded water. The offseason moves look good, and Ibaka is a really nice addition, but they still lack a pure point guard. Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook trade rumors have proven to be no more than that. Rajon Rondo has gone to Atlanta. There’s still time for the Clippers to trade for a point guard (George Hill could be an option), but as this roster stands, their offense could have much of the same issues on the offensive end that troubled them against the Nuggets.
It’s a bit surprising to see the Clippers behind the Bucks and Nets in the title odds. That’s probably more of a reflection on how much backing the Lakers have had than a judgement on the Clippers – they are still comfortably the second favorite in the West.
Bucks Price Too Short
Depth was a concern if the Bucks signed Bogdan Bogdanovic. The hard cap would have left them filling out the roster with minimum players, but it gave them the best starting five in the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee has better depth than they might have done, though it’s much less exciting than partnering Bogdanovic with Jrue Holiday in the backcourt.
Bryn Forbes, Torrey Craig, DJ Augustin and Bobby Portis all bring something to the table. There’s shooting in that group, there’s defense from Craig. It’s fine – unfortunately for the Bucks, it’s nothing more than that.
The Bucks, while keeping their best three players (Giannis, Khris, Brook Lopez), swapped out two underachieving point guards for Jrue Holiday, and added DJ Augustin and Bobby Portis for some playable depth, while holding onto Donte DiVicenzo. They are significantly better.
— Ti Windisch (@TiWindisch) November 21, 2020
Milwaukee’s price shortened when Bogdanovic was signed. They became favorites for the East, a status they still hold. With the two-time MVP and having added plenty of reinforcements, that’s understandable. Barring a James Harden trade, the Bucks will probably be the East’s favorites on opening night next month.
Yet to prove it in the playoffs, there will be understandable skepticism around Milwaukee’s status as title contenders. While the West’s Finals representative is very likely to come from Staples Center, the East is wide open.
Teams to Watch
The defending Eastern Conference champions are as long as +2000. Imagine Jimmy Butler’s reaction when he sees that price.
Miami Heat roster as of now
EC champs look deadly on both ends ? pic.twitter.com/3PZajptLnX
— Top Ball Coverage (@TopBallCoverage) November 23, 2020
Boston are the third favorites in the East at +1500, odds that should attract plenty of interest, particularly after the signing of Tristan Thompson to bolster their interior defense. None would be favored in a series over the Lakers or Clippers if it started tomorrow, but the Boston, Miami, Philadelphia group are all worth watching out for.
Miami has brought back Goran Dragic and made smart signings on the perimeter. The Celtics might have lost Gordon Hayward (they could still pull off a sign-and-trade), but they addressed a need and can expect Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to improve further next season.
Philly have a new coach, and Daryl Morey has quickly changed the look of the roster, adding shooting in the form Danny Green and Seth Curry. Just a couple of seasons ago, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid surrounded by shooters was one of the best lineups in the NBA – how dangerous can they be under Doc Rivers?
Of course, it would be foolish to overlook the Raptors despite waving goodbye to Ibaka and Gasol. Aron Baynes fits nicely there, and it’s not unreasonable to expect another step forward from Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and the now-very-rich Fred VanVleet.
The top of the East is inferior to the West’s Los Angeles juggernauts, but don’t write them off. It’s wide open – any of the top six could make the Finals next summer.