Best bets to win the 2021-22 NBA title
The NBA season tips off on Tuesday with all four early title favorites in action against one another. But are those really the four teams with the best shot to win it all? And are they worth their short preseason price?
The Bucks cashed as +550 contenders a season ago, marking the fifth time in six seasons that the NBA champion entered the year with a price leaner than 6-1. The only exception was the Raptors (+1850), whose stellar dark horse run in 2018-19 highlights the value of scouting a bit further down the oddsboard.
Here are the current odds to win the NBA title at theScore Bet and our favorite bets to win it all:
|Los Angeles Lakers||+375|
|Golden State Warriors||+1000|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+1600|
|New York Knicks||+6000|
|New Orleans Pelicans||+8000|
|Portland Trail Blazers||+8000|
|San Antonio Spurs||+30000|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+50000|
Milwaukee Bucks (+800)
The Bucks managed a 60-win pace and finished with the NBA's best record for two consecutive seasons from 2019-2020 - only to be bounced from the playoffs in unceremonious fashion. But this team flipped a switch last year, unlocking an elite defense that carried them through an impressive title run.
What will they do for an encore? As we saw this past season, the Eastern Conference is wide-open - especially considering the uncertain situations of Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons with the Nets and 76ers, respectively. Meanwhile, Milwaukee returns its star trio of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday for only their second full season together.
History says the winner of the NBA Finals is very likely to be priced at 12-1 or shorter entering the season. The Bucks are the only team in that range without serious fit or availability concerns, and they've already proven capable of cashing in this market. With most of their championship core back, they're the safest bet to do it again.
Denver Nuggets (+2000)
In a market where two teams are largely expected to waltz through the competition - Nets and Lakers - you've got to shoot for elite upside over all. Only a few rosters boast the ceiling of these Nuggets, who briefly looked like one of the NBA's best teams a season ago.
In the four games after trading for Aaron Gordon at the deadline, Denver ranked in the top eight in offense rating (119.4) and defensive rating (106.7), and its starting lineup boasted the highest net rating (+33.9) in the league. That was before Jamal Murray tore his ACL in April, which effectively dashed this team's dream season.
Murray will likely be out until the All-Star break, but this team has the scoring punch to survive until then and his absence may actually help to empower a backcourt that looked overwhelmed in last year's playoffs. If we're lucky enough to see this five-man unit in full swing by April with a stronger bench behind them, watch out.
Atlanta Hawks (+2500)
Usually when a team returns the top 11 players from a roster that reached the conference finals, it earns more respect than a tie for 10th place in the title market. Yet that's the case for the Hawks, who opened at 40-1 and have slowly seen their odds tighten as the season nears.
Atlanta making the Eastern Conference finals as a No. 5 seed likely weighs in some bettors' minds, but this is virtually the same team that posted the NBA's third-best record (27-11) after promoting coach Nate McMillan on March 1. He'll take the reins from the get-go this season with a roster full of young and improving players surrounding rising superstar Trae Young.
The Hawks' All-Star point guard may need to take another step forward to elevate this team to title contention, but remember that his teammates pushed the Bucks to six games in the East Finals after he suffered a costly ankle injury in Game 3. If he's healthy for the postseason, who knows how far this team can go.
Portland Trail Blazers (+8000)
I gushed about the Trail Blazers' upside as one of my favorite preseason long shots, and I'm bullish on their playoff odds despite a short price. So it should come as no surprise that even in a harsh market for teams with long odds, I'm taking a shot on Portland to finally break through.
Damian Lillard is one of the best players in the NBA without a ring, and he's finally surrounded by a bevy of competent defenders after his team finished near the bottom in defensive rating each of the past two seasons. Portland's notoriously thin bench should also enjoy a jolt from former first-round picks Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little, who both profile as breakout candidates in 2021-22.
The Trail Blazers have long been talented enough to make a run, but injuries and poor coaching under Terry Stotts sealed their fate in previous postseasons. This team is built to compete with the depth to survive late into the season, setting up Portland for one final push to keep Lillard happy.