NBA Futures: Who Should You Bet on to Win the 2020-21 NBA Championship?
The NBA is set to return on December 22, and both free agency and the NBA Draft are right around the corner. The NBA season just ended a short two months ago, but players, coaches, and the league are ready to run it back for 2020-21.
It's hard to doubt the Lakers as LeBron has made the finals in nine of the last 10 years, so we'll start with them. But who else stands out at their current title odds? Let's take a look.
Los Angeles Lakers (+360)
The Lakers are the team to beat after a fantastic first season from Davis and James. The superstar duo was instrumental to the Lakers' success throughout the season as LeBron finished second in MVP voting and Davis second in Defensive Player of the Year, both losing to Giannis Antetokounmpo. While Davis is likely to opt out of his contract, it is expected that he's going to re-sign with the Lakers, so this tandem should be back.
The Western Conference is starting to weaken a bit, which primes the Lakers for a repeat. The Clippers fired Doc Rivers after an early playoff exit while the Rockets are discussing breaking up the James Harden-Russell Westbrook experiment after only one season. The Jazz and Nuggets aren't far away, but they aren't championship-caliber teams yet. And the Warriors will be good but are are something of a wild card after basically taking a redshirt year last campaign.
The Lakers have the option of resigning Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Jared Dudley, Markieff Morris, Rajon Rondo, and Dion Waiter. And they'll be an appealing destination for veterans looking to join a contender.
LA should return a core of LeBron, Davis, Avery Bradley, Alex Caruso, Danny Green, Quinn Cook, Kyle Kuzma, and JaVale McGee in 2020-21. And DeMarcus Cousins is looking to make his return from injury. This is a team built to win now, and I'm expecting the Lakers' front office to be aggressive in their efforts to maximize the final seasons of LeBron's prime. It's hard to find flaws here outside of their perimeter shooting, something the team will likely look to address this offseason.
Golden State Warriors (+750)
The Warriors return with a healthy and reloaded roster, dedicating 87.42% of their payroll for the 2020-21 season to four players -- Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andrew Wiggins. The four of them combine for $130,156,688 of the Warriors' $148,884,768 total cap. This will limit the Warriors and the amount of talent they can bring in, forcing them to rely on their already lackluster bench.
But the Dubs do have the second overall pick. That gives them a chance to either draft a sought-after player or to deal that pick in a trade for a big-time piece. What the Warriors do with that pick is one of the top stories of the draft, and it's certainly possible that they're able to turn that pick into a key cog to help them push for a 2020-21 title.
Injuries forced the Warriors to examine Jordan Poole, Eric Paschall, Ky Bowman, and Damion Lee last season. As well as these guys played in spurts, it remains to be seen if the Warriors' front office views any of them as vital spokes in the wheel or if they'll be packaged with said number-two pick.
If the Warriors make a big move, the +750 number they're at now will likely disappear. But even without making a big trade, the core of Green, Curry and Klay is enough to help this squad push for a title. The big question is what can they cobble together for a second unit. We'll have to see, but there's a chance we look back at these +750 odds as being way off if the Dubs are able to round out their roster with a few good additions.
Brooklyn Nets (+950)
This is my favorite bet of the season. The Brooklyn Nets are ready for a championship chase, and you can get them at +950. That's a steal for a team with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, two of the best players in the game.
The reason Brooklyn is where they are in the futures market likely has to do with inexperiece. Not only has the KD-Kyrie duo not played together (in addition to both coming off injuries), they'll be coached by Steve Nash, a first-year coach with no bench experience. This trio enters their first year together and will be a highly scrutinized team, but we've seen first-year coaches like Steve Kerr and Nick Nurse have instant success with talented squads.
But what most gives me confidence in the Nets is the supporting cast they have around their two superstars.
Brooklyn should return Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, DeAndre Jordan, Caris LeVert, and Taurean Prince in 2020-21. Those six, along with Irving and Durant, are a legitimate eight-man playoff rotation, and they stack up against any top-eight in the league. The Eastern Conference has become much more competitive since LeBron left. Maybe it is always was, and he was just that dominant; still, as the Nets learn how to play together and Nash gains experience, this team should enter the postseason as a very tough out in the East as long as KD and Irving are healthy.
Late in games, I'll take Brooklyn's pair over any other Eastern Conference duo. While it may be a tall order for them to win it all in Year 1, Kyrie and KD can be a special duo, and the surrounding pieces are good enough that the Nets won't have to rely on their star tandem to do it all.
I believe Brooklyn offers the most realistic chance outside of the Lakers of cashing this bet, and the Nets are a nice return on investment at +950, which is only the fifth-bets odds.