Sunday was a momentous night. The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to win the 2020 title. The victory secured LeBron James the fourth championship of his career. And the league patted itself on the back for the Orlando Bubble, deeming it a success. (Which, sure, depending on who you ask.) We finally made it to the end of the longest NBA season in history — which doubled as the Raptors’ extra-long championship reign. That’s over now too.
What isn’t over is gambling, and gambling on next season’s championship odds specifically. Almost immediately after LeBron hoisted that trophy, the email blast (from Sports Betting Dime; you can google them) went out.
Here are the opening odds for the 2021 NBA Championship:
1. Los Angeles Lakers - 5/1
2. Los Angeles Clippers - 6/1
3. Milwaukee Bucks - 9/1
4. Golden State Warriors - 10/1
5. Brooklyn Nets - 13/1
6. Boston Celtics - 15/1
7. Miami Heat - 16/1
8. Toronto Raptors - 19/1
9. Denver Nuggets - 25/1
10. Houston Rockets - 28/1
11. Dallas Mavericks - 33/1
12. Philadelphia 76ers - 34/1
13. Portland Trail Blazers - 45/1
14. Utah Jazz - 49/1
15. New Orleans Pelicans - 62/1
16. Phoenix Suns - 66/1
17. Oklahoma City Thunder - 88/1
18. Memphis Grizzlies - 119/1
19. Indiana Pacers - 122/1
20. Atlanta Hawks - 144/1
21. Chicago Bulls - 150/1
22. Washington Wizards - 160/1
23. Orlando Magic - 225/1
24. Minnesota Timberwolves - 275/1
25. Sacramento Kings - 305/1
26. San Antonio Spurs - 310/1
27. Cleveland Cavaliers - 395/1
28. Detroit Pistons - 398/1
29. New York Knicks - 485/1
30. Charlotte Hornets - 615/1
It’s heartening to see the Raptors still in the top ten. And why not? Even with their core (particularly Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka) getting a year older, the team’s defensive identity has never been stronger. And there’s reason to believe Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet (more on him a second), OG Anunoby, and the rest of the squad will improve for next year. Also, who knows what Masai Ujiri’s next move will be — it’s hard to bet entirely against the Raptors is my point, even if they’re not favoured once again.
Other striking things about the odds: the huge jumps from the Warriors and Nets, which make sense given the sudden influx of star power coming to both those squads for next year; the apparent middle-of-the-pack listlessness of the Mavericks and their presumptive future MVP Luka Doncic; the dramatic fall from grace by the Spurs, who should never be ranked this close to the Cavaliers, Pistons, Knicks, and Hornets. I should add though, all of these gambling lines are impossible to dispute at this time, and, quite frankly, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.
Also listed within is a prop bet for when the 2020-21 season will actually start. That little detail has yet to be calculated. The oddsmakers have put forth the initial over/under date of January 8, 2020 as the opening night of the 2020-21 — or, really, let’s just call it the 2021 season. That’s because the over/under date for Game 1 of the NBA Finals is set at June 30th. Yes, according to the gamblers, the NBA season will be wrapped up in seven months this calendar year.
My opinion on this: bet the over. I suspect we will not see NBA basketball until late January at the earliest, which will push things back appropriately. There are still too many safety variables involved, and too much number crunching left to do. Plus, it just feels like something needs to be settled in America’s political picture before trying to sort out travel plans for 30 NBA teams — or at least that’s how it feels to me. Anyway, we carry on.
In more local news, transaction odds! As it turns out, the Raptors pop up not just once, but twice in this upcoming off-season. First, for their one key free agent, and second for someone we’ve already reflected upon.
1. Raptors - 1/2
2. Knicks - 7/1
1. Clippers - 9/10
2. Heat - 6/1
3. Raptors - 7/1
4. Mavericks - 9/1
As the math suggests, bet on Fred coming back to Toronto and Montrezl staying in Los Angeles. The uncertainty of the times — and the current salary cap mystery — cuts two ways in this instance, and it feels like the NBA and its players are prepared to wait this next season out before the real free agent bonanza of 2021-22 and, uh, when this pandemic will presumably be over. That’s the hope, in any case.
Now then, let’s bookmark this page and see how these odds stack up come next August.