The Toronto Raptors are champions but don’t look like serious contenders next season. The Golden State Warriors dynasty is over as we know it. The Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics look totally different. And the league suddenly appears to revolve around not one but two dominant teams in Los Angeles.
So who will win the NBA championship next summer? Bovada has released odds for every team, but only ten of them have a real, genuine chance to win the title. Let’s run through the ten favorites from longest to shortest odds and see where we can find the best bet.
Boston Celtics +2500
The Celtics have only the tenth best championship odds on the board, but they’re a pretty intriguing betting option at +2500. Boston will be a different team this year without Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, and that is scaring many bettors away with so much change. But we’ve already seen this team succeed without Kyrie Irving in the playoffs two years ago, thanks mostly to the play of their young wings, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Those two had a rough season last year but so did everyone on this roster, with just about everything going wrong. Boston had the year from hell and yet still had a pretty strong season, much better than their record if you dig into the advanced stats.
Tatum and Brown could play for Team USA in China, and they might be joined there by Marcus Smart and new Celtic Kemba Walker. We’ve seen in the past that players can make a real leap forward after a good Team USA summer. Boston gets to basically field its entire lineup there and could develop some quick chemistry with Kemba and a chance for a few of them to really move their games forward. Walker is the perfect fit as the Kyrie / Isaiah Thomas scoring role, and the defense should still be very strong with Smart and the good wings. Gordon Hayward is two years removed from his horrific injury and could also return to All-Star level. There’s a ton of talent on this roster, plus one of the best coaching staffs in the league.
Al Horford’s loss will be felt, and unlike Irving, he wasn’t really replaced. Horford was the most important player on this team with his all-around play, giving them floor spacing and passing on offense plus wisdom and organization on defense. Rookie Grant Williams could step into Horford’s role long term, but that’s a big ask for a rookie, and Enes Kanter can’t be relied upon deep into the playoffs. Boston has plenty of other interesting young pieces too, and we already know these Celtics perform best when they’re counted out. Tatum, Brown, and Hayward should all be much better this year with a more defined role. Boston will feel they can beat anyone, and they’ll be a very tough out next spring. In the more open East, they could have a path to the Finals, and then you’ll have a shot at a huge underdog payoff, or at least a great hedge. They’re a very interesting long-shot bet.
Brooklyn Nets +2200
The Nets are an interesting dark horse just because you’re betting on a different team next spring than the price you’re getting right now. Make no mistake about it. If you think the Nets have any chance to win a championship this year, it’s because you’re placing a huge bet on the return of a healthy Kevin Durant next spring.
Durant tore his Achilles in June and has an unknown timetable returning from injury. Some players return as soon as six months from an Achilles injury, but others take longer. The fact that his injury was so late meant the team could choose to have him sit out and recover the entire year. Even if he does return late in the season, he likely won’t be at full strength and will be adjusting to an entirely new coaching system and set of teammates on the fly. The Nets will be mostly the same team as last year until he returns, swapping in Kyrie Irving for D’Angelo Russell. That’s an upgrade, sure, but this team should still be one of the mid-lower seeds in the East.
If you bet on Brooklyn, you’re betting on a lot of things going in your direction. Durant has to come back in time and still be Durant for the playoffs. Kyrie has to stay healthy all year. The locker room has to work with two guys with questionable histories. And the team has to win at least three road series while learning to play together on the fly. It’s a tough ask, but you’re getting pretty good odds if you’re a believer.
Denver Nuggets +1600
If you are a believer in continuity and team basketball, the Nuggets are the team for you. In a wild summer filled with blockbuster trades and huge free agency signings, the Nuggets mostly stood pat, confident in the young roster they’ve built and feel good about. It’s hard to blame them as good as the young Nuggets looked in this year’s playoffs, taking two series to seven games and seeing Nikola Jokic blossom into an absolute superstar.
A bet on Denver is first and foremost a bet on Jokic taking that final step, putting himself firmly into the MVP race, and having a season like Giannis Antetokounmpo last year. Jokic can do it all on offense, and he showed a willingness in the playoffs to increase his scoring while facilitating the rest of the offense. He’s also improving on defense. That’s the area the team will need a further step forward this year, and they’ll be helped by the arrival of Jerami Grant. They also need another step forward from Jamal Murray and Gary Harris.
This team plays well together and has made steady progress. They could contend for the top seed in the West, and that would give them a key home court advantage throughout the playoffs. But how far can Jokic take this team? Can they play enough defense to ride the youth all the way to the title? That still feels one or two steps too far.
Utah Jazz +1400
It’s hard to remember now, but there was about a one-week window in June when the Jazz was everyone’s favorite sleeper for the upcoming season. Utah finally made its big move, trading pennies on the dollar to add Mike Conley to its lineup, finally giving young star Donovan Mitchell a star offensive player to pair with. Conley will upgrade Utah’s offense in a big way and take some of the pressure off young Spida, and the signing of Bojan Bogdanovic will help give the team more shooting and scoring options.
But what will the cost be on defense? Bogdanovic will mostly take minutes from the now-departed Derrick Favors, and Conley from Ricky Rubio. Those are both big defensive downgrades, and even Rudy Gobert can’t play defense all on his own. This could be a really tough regular-season team with a lot of balance, but do they have another gear for the playoffs? It might still be up to Mitchell to go get a bucket in the biggest games, and if Utah makes it to the Conference Semifinals or later, their opponent will likely have the best player in almost any series. In many cases, they might have the best two players.
Utah could be ready for a deep run, but a title? That depends on them being something like the 2004 Detroit Pistons, winning with a lot of defense and the right balance on offense. Utah could fit that formula, but that was also at a bit of a downturn in talent in the NBA, and the Pistons didn’t have to beat any great teams or anything like the superstar duos the Jazz would face.
Golden State Warriors +1000
Remember, you’re betting on the May and June Warriors, not the ones you see right now. First and foremost, that means you can count on Klay Thompson. ACL tears aren’t what they used to be, and Thompson is a hard worker. He’ll miss a lot of the regular season, but there is every reason to believe Klay should be back by the end of the season and full speed ahead by the playoffs. That gives this team four All-Stars come playoff time, including the addition of D’Angelo Russell.
The optimist will look at this roster and see that the core of the team is still there. Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson have been the core three to lead the team to five straight Finals, and they’re all back and will absolutely believe they have a shot next spring. But Andre Iguodala was a key part of that core too, and he’s gone, along with Shaun Livingston. Obviously, Kevin Durant is gone too, and Steph and Draymond are much older and worn down and can’t do what they once did. The Warriors could face a rocky regular season with everyone still gunning for them while at half strength after five straight grueling summers of playoff ball.
Can they withstand the regular season gauntlet and get healthy for a playoff run? Maybe so. But these odds are likely to swing more in your favor as the year starts out and the Warriors struggling to adjust to a very different roster, one without a real starting small forward until Klay Thompson gets back. If you do believe in Golden State, you’ll likely get them for a much better price later this fall when they start to fall off the radar.
Philadelphia 76ers +900
The 76ers underwent a full-scale makeover yet again this summer as the team continues to grow and change. This version of the roster looks like it could finally be the team going forward. Robert Covington and Dario Saric are long gone, and now so are Jimmy Butler and J.J. Redick. Redick will be replaced by Josh Richardson coming over from Miami. That’s a mostly like-for-like replacement but should help the team. Redick is a better shooter and more threatening scorer, but Richardson is a huge improvement on defense, especially in the playoffs. The bigger change comes trading in Butler for Al Horford, the summer’s surprise signing.
Horford is terrific and one of the league’s best big men come playoff time, doing a little bit of everything and taking nothing off the table. But he’ll be an interesting fit next to Joel Embiid, and the team could take a while to adjust. Can teams really play two big men together successfully in the modern NBA? Philly will have a huge starting lineup, especially with Ben Simmons at point guard, and they could be nasty defensively. The offense will be the key. Horford spaces the team just fine, but the team still hasn’t figured out how to use Simmons and now has no way to play him off the ball with so much other muscle already in the paint.
As much as the other changes matter, this will still come down ultimately to Simmons and Embiid. Can Simmons finally learn to shoot a little so he isn’t so muted in the biggest playoff moments? He’ll have more of the ball this year without Butler and that should help. Can Embiid stay healthy for enough minutes, and can he play them at a high enough level to be the star his talent indicates? His defensive play slipped last year and he couldn’t hit top level in the playoffs often enough. But those two represent Philly’s ceiling, which is unknown in a good way. They have easily the highest ceiling in the East, and they’ll be confident matching up against Milwaukee, the team likely standing between them and the Finals. They have a whole 82 games to figure this thing out. They look like a very intriguing bet.
Houston Rockets +800
What in the world are we to make of the Houston Rockets? They return mostly the same roster from last season… with the exception, of course, of looking totally and entirely different after swapping out Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook. No one knows exactly what to think about the Westbrook addition. He and James Harden played together in Oklahoma City but that was years ago, and both of them are far different players now.
Westbrook’s shot got worse than ever last year, so it seems he’ll need to play de facto point guard in Mike D’Antoni’s offense. That offense has been predicated on spacing and shooting of late, but D’Antoni knows how to adjust his offense and should put Westbrook into more of a Steve Nash role and up the tempo to fit his strengths. That’s all well and good but likely takes the ball out of James Harden’s hands more often, and it’s hard to take the ball away from your 36ppg MVP candidate. Will less Harden mean a healthy and more rested version in the playoffs? Will the two of them play enough defense?
As many unanswered questions as there are between those two, the bigger problem might be the rest of the roster. P.J. Tucker is getting old and can only do so much, and he and Clint Capela can’t play defense by themselves. This team got crushed last year with a paper-thin bench and basically returns the same unit this year. But that matters less in the playoffs if Russ and Beard are dominating all game. If Westbrook and Harden can succeed together, this could be one of the most decorated backcourts in NBA history. In a guards game, that’s what you’re betting on if you think Harden and the Rockets can finally make that final step.
Milwaukee Bucks +500
The Bucks are the East’s answer to the Denver Nuggets. If you like consistency and continuity, the Bucks are probably your best bet. Milwaukee lost Malcolm Brogdon this summer along with Nikola Mirotic, but both of those guys were role players, and many of their contributions can be replaced by names like Wes Matthews and Kyle Korver on this year’s roster. The core of the team is still in place now that the team re-signed Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, and Brook Lopez.
But we’ve buried the lede, that being Giannis Antetokounmpo. The reigning NBA MVP is the reason to believe in the Milwaukee Bucks next spring. With LeBron James gone, Giannis might be ready to step forward and take his place with a long run of Finals appearances out of the East. And for two games in the Eastern Conference Finals in May, it sure looked like that would happen, after the Bucks took a 2–0 lead over the Raptors. A couple different bounces in one overtime game and Milwaukee could have been the team playing a depleted Warriors roster. They could be defending champions.
But they’re not, and that should make Antetokounmpo hungrier than ever. The Greek Freak started making jump shots toward the end of last season and has improved every year, and he said this summer he’s still only 60% as good as he can be. If a player is already playing at MVP level and takes another step forward, just how good could that guy be? For the Bucks to step forward as championship favorites, it will ultimately come down to Antetokounmpo. Can he do enough, and will the roster around him give him enough help?
Los Angeles Clippers +325
The Clippers were the biggest winners this summer, trading away Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and just about every future pick available for Paul George and the opportunity to sign Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi had a heck of a summer, with an all-time postseason that led the Toronto Raptors to their first-ever NBA championship before spending a week in free agency choosing his new home in Los Angeles. The Clippers were scrappy underdogs last season, an 8-seed that pushed Golden State in the first round. Now they return the league’s best bench, led by Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, and insert PG and Kawhi into the starting lineup.
Suddenly the Clippers are essentially co-favorites to win the 2020 NBA championship. Kawhi has already shown he can lead a team to a title, twice now in fact, and he’s never had a running mate quite like Paul George. There’s nothing in the NBA quite as valuable as an elite do-everything wing, and the Clippers are the only team in the NBA with two of them. Against the league’s other great teams, they can throw Kawhi Leonard on LeBron or Giannis or Harden. If Kawhi gets switched off, Paul George is waiting, and even without those two, there are pesky defenders like Patrick Beverley, Moe Harkless, and Rodney McGruder waiting behind them. Add in defensive guru Doc Rivers and this team should have a dominant defense.
The offense should be great too. Kawhi showed in the playoffs that he can go get a bucket at any time, and don’t forget PG just finished third in the MVP race and became one of the game’s great scorers this year, too. This team has plenty of shooting and role-players as well. The one weakness on paper is at center, where it’s just Ivica Zubac and rookie Mfiondu Kabengele.
The Clippers look like the most likely NBA champion. The question here is when to get the best odds. On the one hand, the Clippers could still have another move to make. They could package some of their extraneous pieces for a better big man or a third star later this year and suddenly see their odds halved as they become clear favorites. At the same time, this team could start slow. Paul George is still recovering from shoulder surgery, and Kawhi from a long, full summer. Don’t be surprised if it takes the Clippers some time to find their stride. You might find their best odds a month or two into the season if they get out of the gates slow.
Los Angeles Lakers +300
But it’s the other L.A. team, not the Clippers, that are slight betting favorites. Lakers exceptionalism is back, and it ought to be with a roster headlined by two of the league’s most dominant players in LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Lakers reworked their roster, sending out most of their young talent to finally secure the Brow, then added Danny Green and Boogie Cousins to the team too. This is no longer a young team with upside around LeBron. This team is built to win now.
And remember, you’re not betting on regular-season record here. It doesn’t matter how much LeBron feels like trying in the regular season or how many games he or Brow misses. A team with LeBron and Davis is going to make the playoffs barring catastrophe, and when the playoffs begin, the Lakers will have the most talented duo on the planet. It’s possible LeBron has finally taken a step back now after his injury last season, but it’s also possible he’ll come back recharged and better than ever with arguably his most talented teammate ever. There’s never been anything quite like Playoff LeBron. Even if that version is not totally there, Anthony Davis is still just coming into his own himself. He’s never played with anyone even remotely as good as LeBron, and he’s always been at his best in settings around other talent like Team USA and All-Star Games, where he can play as a second option. Even if LeBron isn’t the best player in the world next spring, it’s entirely possible Davis will be the one taking his place. The Lakers could have the best two players in any matchup next summer.
Will they get enough from all the players around them? We know Danny Green can get the job done. Can Boogie Cousins get healthy enough to contribute in a meaningful way? Does Kyle Kuzma have another level to get to? Do veterans like Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Avery Bradley, and Jared Dudley have enough left in the tank? Did the Lakers add enough shooters?
Those are all really nice questions. But at the end of the day, some team is going to have to beat LeBron AND Brow four games out of seven next spring. And that’s why they’re the favorites.
L.A. Lakers +300
L.A. Clippers +325
Golden State +1000
Dallas, Miami, San Antonio, New Orleans +6000
Oklahoma City, Orlando +12500
Atlanta, New York, Sacramento, Minnesota +15000
Chicago, Detroit, Memphis +20000
Charlotte, Cleveland, Phoenix +30000