With most teams in the NBA now having fewer than 10 regular season games left to play, eyes are now quickly turning to the Playoffs. May 22 marks the opening of the postseason at the conclusion of the play-in tournament, which has been included for a second year to compensate for the 10 lost games in the shortened 72-game regular season.
Unlike the recent seasons featuring the dynastic Golden State Warriors there is an uncertainty about the identity of the teams that will represent the Eastern Conference and Western Conference in the NBA Finals. Injuries have taken their toll on many teams including the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers, who have been without star players LeBron James and Anthony Davis for a significant chunk of the season.
That has left the door well and truly wide open for a number of teams that will fancy their chances of making a deep run in the Playoffs. Below, we have featured the odds of the current six bookies favourites’ to win the 2021 NBA Championship.
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Brooklyn Nets – 12/5
The still newly-assembled Brooklyn Nets have edged their way to become the bookies’ favourites to win the 2021 NBA Championship. No team can match the offensive firepower boasted by the Nets, who are led by the league’s premiere ‘Big 3’ in Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. Those backing Brooklyn will be doing so with the assumption that no team will be able to slow them down on offense, despite concerns that their own defense could let them down. They say defense wins championships, but the Nets could well debunk that theory by winning it all in the first year of having Durant, Harden and Irving on the same squad.
Los Angeles Lakers – 15/4
As previously mentioned, the Los Angeles Lakers have had an injury-ravaged season but remain the favourites to win it all out of the Western Conference contenders. The Lakers outlasted all in the endurance-testing bubble Playoffs of 2020 in large part due to the dominance of James and Davis. Both superstars have missed games through injury this season but look set to be healthy by the time the postseason rolls around and crucially have championship experience to call upon. When healthy, the Lakers are still the team to beat in the NBA.
Los Angeles Clippers – 17/4
The Los Angeles Clippers went out in flames during the 2020 Playoffs and will have a chip on their shoulder heading into the postseason. Both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were heavily criticised for their roles in allowing the Denver Nuggets to come back from a 3-1 deficit to beat them in the Western Conference Semifinals but will be buoyed by their recent form. The Clippers have been the standout team in the NBA since the All-Star Weekend and are slowly but surely convincing outsiders of their credentials. Critically, the Clippers also now have a floor general at point guard in two-time NBA Champion Rajon Rondo, whose leadership and intangibles should be a huge asset to this squad’s chances come May 22.
Utah Jazz – 8/1
Frontrunners of the Western Conference for the majority of the regular season, the Utah Jazz have responded well to blowing a first round 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in last year’s playoffs. The Jazz boast an excellently balanced roster with six players averaging double figures in points per game, which includes All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell and 2x Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. Still, the Jazz’s lack of recent playoff success means punters have been slightly cautious in their support of the top seed in the Western Conference. Their lack of star power is also worrying given that it’s unlikely they will have the best player in any series they play past the first round of the Playoffs. Still, that is compensated for by the fact they have one of the top coaches in the NBA in Quin Snyder, who has guided his team to the postseason in each of the last four seasons.
Milwaukee Bucks – 8/1
The Milwaukee Bucks’ lack of playoff success over the last two seasons left it inevitable that they would go somewhat under the radar during this regular season. That in itself is shown by the fact reigning two-time MVP Giannis Antentokounmpo is receiving very little MVP buzz this year despite once again posting comparable stats on one of the top three teams in the Eastern Conference. The ‘build a wall’ defensive scheme has been successfully used by the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat respectively in the last two seasons and resulted in the Bucks being eliminated with a whimper. The addition of Jrue Holiday has certainly strengthened their chances, however, giving them three All-Star calibre talents alongside Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. Despite their lack of regular season attention, all eyes will be on the Bucks to see how they fare in the Playoffs this time around.
Philadelphia 76ers – 12/1
Joel Embiid was on course for an MVP-winning season prior to his injury that has now allowed Nikola Jokic to become the frontrunner for the award. Embiid has been a monster on both ends of the floor for the 76ers and has really realised the dominant potential that many saw in him when he came into the league. Also having the talents of Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris and coached by NBA Champion Doc Rivers, the 76ers will be keen to improve on last season’s showing which saw them eliminated in the first round. There have long been questions around the Embiid-Simmons duo and failure to get out of the second round will see questions asked around why they didn’t trade for a disgruntled Harden whilst he was with the Rockets.