Nets open as '21-22 favorites; Lakers, Bucks next
The Brooklyn Nets have opened as the favorites to win the 2021-22 NBA championship, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks.
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"This season, the Nets and Lakers drew so much more money than any other team," Nick Bogdanovich, William Hill U.S. director of trading, told ESPN, reinforcing how liability on popular teams will always drive odds.
Bogdanovich also indicated that talent is a factor.
"In a normal year, if those guys stay somewhat healthy, they definitely figure to be the best team," Bogdanovich said of the Nets.
Perennial All-Stars Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving played only eight regular-season games together for Brooklyn. The Nets' playoff run was disrupted in the Eastern Conference semifinals when Irving suffered an ankle injury and Harden battled a hamstring injury. They ultimately lost to the Bucks in overtime of Game 7.
In recent years, free agency has played an enormous role in the futures market. Sharp bettors have occasionally caught oddsmakers off guard, anticipating significant signings and pouncing on long odds, but this summer figures to be relatively quiet. Kawhi Leonard and Chris Paul both can become free agents, as they hold player options on their current contracts. However, Leonard will be coming off surgery for a torn ACL, and Paul is 36.
"We are anticipating that there will be more impact in the trade market than the free agent market," Las Vegas SuperBook assistant manager and head NBA oddsmaker Jeff Sherman told ESPN. "Who knows if [Damian] Lillard is going to get dealt. If he ends up getting traded, then that would be bigger than any free agent out there."
Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons could also be traded, given how his postseason shooting struggles contributed to the conference's top seed losing in seven games to the Atlanta Hawks in the East semifinals. The Sixers (18-1) would undoubtedly receive talent in return.
Phoenix reached the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993 and nearly cashed as title longshots in the neighborhood of 50-1. However, the Suns won't sneak up on oddsmakers this time with 15-1 odds, which are the fifth-shortest.
"I don't know what Chris Paul has left in the tank," Bogdanovich said. "[Devin] Booker and [Deandre] Ayton are great to build around. This year was no fluke."
The Golden State Warriors (10-1) did not even reach the playoffs, but they hold the fourth-shortest odds. Sharpshooter Klay Thompson is expected to return from an Achilles injury, and the Warriors could package their two lottery picks for a top-tier established player that would help them compete in the short term. Two-time MVP Stephen Curry is 33, and three-time All-Star Draymond Green is 31.
The preseason betting favorite has won the NBA title in four of the past six seasons. Over the past 35 seasons, only four teams have won the championship with odds of 15-1 or longer.