Free agency is wrapping up and although we’re still waiting on potential moves that could extract All-Stars Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, and Ben Simmons from their current situations, most teams have their plans for the 2021-22 season in place.
Betting markets have responded to the teams that have been perceived to have succeeded most in improving this offseason, which can be illustrated best by Chicago picking up 11 percent of bets at DraftKings. The Bulls trail only the favored Nets (+220), who have seen 10 percent of the handle come in on 12 percent of bets, and a Lakers team that seemingly always takes the lead this early after a season and to this point accounts to 33 percent of the handle on 32 percent of the bets.
The Lakers have moved from +400 to +380 and have indeed improved their team with the additions of future Hall of Famers Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwight Howard. L.A. also picked up much-needed shooters Malik Monk and Wayne Ellington in addition to a pair of veteran defenders in Trevor Ariza and Kent Bazemore.
Bulls Dramatically Improve To Boost East’s Depth
The Bulls moved from +10000 to +6000 at DraftKings due to DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball joining the team via sign-and-trades. Combined with the presence of All-Stars Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic and promising second-year Swiss Army knife forward Patrick Williams, DeRozan and Ball round out a potentially dynamic starting five.
Chicago managed to keep young guard Coby White and has Lauri Markkanen as an asset to either keep or turn into additional depth. It also added combo guard Alex Caruso from the Lakers and improving 7-foot center Tony Bradley from the Jazz, so head coach Billy Donovan has a solid rotation at his disposal.
While other Eastern Conference powers like Brooklyn, defending champion Milwaukee and Joel Embiid-led Philadelphia are still considered ahead of the Bulls on the pecking order, the home run value of a 600-to-1 shot that looks drastically improved clearly has drawing power. I’m of the belief Chicago has fared best of any team in raising the level of a roster that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2016-17.
The Knicks have seen their odds move from +10000 to +8000 after picking up point guard Kemba Walker and wing Evan Fournier without losing much. Guards Derrick Rose and Alec Burks joined center Nerlens Noel in re-signing and recent draft picks Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin are making strides in Summer League. If reigning NBA Most Improved Player Julius Randle can bounce back from a tough series against Atlanta and remains the catalyst he was in helping end New York’s eight-year postseason drought, the Knicks should continue to make strides.
Miami played for a championship in the bubble in 2020 but took a step back this past season after struggling during an inconsistent regular season and getting unceremoniously swept in the first round by eventual champion Milwaukee.
Heat culture has certainly become a thing over the past decade-plus under the Pat Riley regime, so it’s no surprise to see odds move from +3500 to +2800 given the team’s offseason additions. Although it cost Miami Goran Dragic and 2020 first-rounder Precious Achiuwa, point guard Kyle Lowry has come on board from Toronto to bring another leader with championship experience. Defensive stalwart P.J. Tucker just won a title with the Bucks but is also in the mix, so Jimmy Butler will have plenty of veteran depth to help him lead a resurgence.
The Heat need guard Tyler Herro and shooter Duncan Robinson to rebound from down seasons and are hoping Victor Oladipo can stay healthy enough to play a major role. If it all comes together, Miami has already proven it can play with the East’s big boys with head coach Erik Spoelstra pulling the strings.
One final curiosity to address among DraftKings betting line moves revolves around the Clippers moving from +1800 to +2200 to +2500 despite Kawhi Leonard re-signing. Since Leonard inked a long-term contract, L.A. is now expected to be extremely patient in having Leonard return from an ACL tear, which means he could miss the entire season. Considering how loaded the West is, the Clips aren’t likely to be a top-four seed with just Paul George leading the way.