After months of game postponements, cancelations, and a compressed schedule, finishing the NBA season will be an accomplishment in and of itself. The season just recently reached its half-way point, as the annual All-Star festivities took place two weekends ago.
With the second half of the season starting up again last week, teams are gearing up for their shot at the NBA title.
The six teams with the highest betting odds to win the 2021 NBA Championship include the Los Angeles Lakers, the Brooklyn Nets, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Utah Jazz, and the Philadelphia 76ers (per VegasInsider).
- Los Angeles Lakers (14/5 odds)
The Los Angeles Lakers, the defending champions, are tied for the highest betting odds to win the NBA championship. The Lakers will be led by their two superstars, All-Star duo Anthony Davis and LeBron James. Despite Davis being sidelined with leg injuries for the past month, LeBron James, dubbed “The King,” has continued to perform at an incredible level. James was recently voted a Captain for this year’s All-Star game, making him a seventeen-time All-Star out of his eighteen seasons in the league (he missed out on the All-Star game in his rookie year). He leads the Los Angeles Lakers with 25.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 7.8 assists per game (which all rank in the top 25 of the league this season).
The Lakers have also had significant contributions from free-agent acquisitions Dennis Schroeder and Montrezl Harrell. Schroeder has stepped up as the Lakers’ starting point guard, averaging just under fifteen points and five assists a night. Harrell, a 6’7” center and last year’s Sixth Man of the Year, averages around fourteen points per game and makes an incredibly efficient 63.7 percent of his shots from the field (4th-highest FG percent in the league).
Any team led by James, who has willed his team to the NBA Finals in nine of the last ten years and won four of them, always seems to be in the championship discussion. The Lakers, who have struggled as of late without Davis, currently sit in third place in the Western Conference behind the Utah Jazz and the Phoenix Suns. However, there is no doubt that the Lakers have their eyes on the defense of their championship rather than a mere first place finish atop the regular-season standings.
- Brooklyn Nets (14/5 odds)
The Brooklyn Nets made a splash acquiring nine-time All-Star and former league MVP James Harden from the Houston Rockets in mid-January. Since joining the Nets and forming an incredible trio with superstars Kevin Durant (eleven-time All-Star, two-time NBA Champion) and Kyrie Irving (seven-time All-Star, NBA Champion), Harden is averaging around 23 points per game to go along with 8.4 rebounds a game and an NBA-leading 11.1 assists per game. With eleven triple-doubles in just around two months, Harden jumped to second in the Nets’ all-time triple-double list behind Jason Kidd, with 61.
The trio of Durant, Irving, and Harden average 29.0, 27.4, and 25.3 points per game, respectively, and account for nearly 82 of their team’s points each night. As a result, the Nets are first in the league in points per game (120.6). If this trend continues, the Nets could become the highest-scoring team in terms of points per game since 1985.
There is no doubt the Nets’ superstar trio will light up the scoreboard each night, but perhaps the key to the Nets’ success will be their effort on the defensive end. The Nets, who also recently acquired six-time NBA All-Star Blake Griffin, have all the talent in the world and are poised for a serious run at the NBA Championship.
- Los Angeles Clippers (21/5 odds)
The Los Angeles Clippers have one of the deepest rotations in the NBA this season; the Clippers have ten players playing right around twenty minutes or more each night, with all ten of these players averaging 7.5 or more points per game.
Though the Clippers are an incredibly deep and well-rounded team, they do not lack their share of superstars. They are led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who were both selected to the All-Star team this year. Leonard, a two-timeNBA Finals MVP and two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, is one of the best two-way players in the league, consistently smothering opponents on the defensive end while taking over on the offensive end. He averages 26.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game, all of which ranks him in the top 50 players in the NBA. After earning the unfortunate nickname “Pandemic P” for his lackluster performance in the NBA Bubble and subsequent NBA playoff last year, George, a seven-time NBA All-Star and elite two-way player, has silenced most of his critics thus far by averaging 23.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game.
To bounce back from last season, where the Clippers fell well short of expectations by failing to even make the Western Conference Championship, the Clippers will need to lock in for this imminent playoff push.
- Milwaukee Bucks (15/2 odds)
The Milwaukee Bucks rank 2nd in the league in points per game (119.4), trailing behind only the Brooklyn Nets. If this were to hold up, they would become the second highest scoring team since 1985, behind the aforementioned Nets team.
The Bucks are led by back-to-back Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has averaged 29 points and snagged 11.7 boards per game this season. Although the Bucks lost five games in a row from February 10th to the 18th, they have won nine of their last ten, with Giannis leading the team with 32.2 points and 12.0 rebounds per game during that stretch.
The Bucks have a strong core of Giannis, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday. Middleton, a two-timex All-Star, is averaging 20.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game and has been incredibly efficient from the field, shooting 49% from the field, 42.4% from the 3PT line, and 89.3% from the free-throw line. Holiday, whom the Bucks acquired from the Pelicans in the offseason, is one of the NBA’s best defensive guards. He averages 15.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 5 assists with 1.8 steals a night (which ranks second in the NBA).
After signing superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo to a five-year contract extension worth an estimated $228 million this offseason and trading for star Jrue Holiday, the Bucks are all-in on their championship aspirations this season.
- Utah Jazz (8/1 odds)
The Utah Jazz boast the top record in both the Western Conference and the entire NBA. From January 8th to February 17th, the Jazz won 22 of their 24 games. Donovan Mitchell, an All-Star reserve, leads the Jazz in scoring with 24.7 points per game and averages just around five rebounds and assists per game (career highs in each of those categories). The strength of the Jazz, however, is primarily in their depth.
Along with Mitchell, Mike Conley and Rudy Gobert were also selected as All-Star reserves. Conley, who was selected for the All-Star game for the first time in his fourteen-year career, averages 16.4 points to go along with a team-high 5.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Gobert, a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, averages 14.4 points, 13.5 rebounds, and a ridiculous 2.8 blocks per game (second highest in the league) as a defensive stalwart for the Jazz. The Jazz also have an impressive reserve of six players who average ten or more points per game (Mitchell, Conley, Gobert, Jordan Clarkson, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Joe Ingles) making them an extremely well-rounded team.
- Philadelphia 76ers (14/1 odds)
After being swept by the Celtics in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs last year, the Philadelphia 76ers have impressively climbed to the Eastern Conference’s first seed thus far.
Much of their success has been attributed to the work of Joel Embiid, who has played at a ridiculously high level this season. Embiid, whom many believe to be the MVP frontrunner thus far, is averaging 29.9 points per game (secondnd in the league), 11.6 rebounds per game (fifth in the league). He is also incredibly efficient, shooting 52% from the field and 41.6% from behind the arc. With his 40-point, nineteen-rebound effort in a win against the league-leading Utah Jazz just under two weeks ago, Embiid passed Charles Barkley for the most games with 40+ points and 15+ rebounds by a Sixer since the three-point era (1980).
Like the Bucks and the Nets, the 76ers similarly have a trio of stars in Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris. Simmons averages 15.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, 7.7 assists, and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 58 percent from the field, and Harris averages 20.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game to round out this formidable trio. With Embiid set to miss 2-3 weeks with a bone bruise, Simmons and Harris will need to continue to play at a high level for the 76ers.
The 76ers’ offseason additions of Seth Curry and Danny Green, three-point sharpshooters, have also been a major factor in their success. The 76ers hope to put their past playoff struggles behind them and take the next step as a championship-contending team under new head coach Doc Rivers.
Though these are the six teams who have the best betting odds of winning the NBA title, they are by no means the only contenders. Right behind these teams include the Denver Nuggets at 28/1 odds as well as the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat, the defending Eastern Conference Champions at 30/1 odds. With just over 30 games remaining in the season for each team, look for these teams and players to lock in and focus on the ultimate goal of winning the NBA Championship.