The NBA returns with a two-game offering Tuesday night featuring four of the most popular teams in the game. The defending champion Milwaukee Bucks open the season as underdogs against the Brooklyn Nets, regarded as the favorite to win it all despite All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving sitting out due to his reluctance to get vaccinated.
The Lakers are the Western Conference favorites, getting about 2-to-1 odds at DraftKings to win the conference. The next closest team is a Warriors squad that is expected to get Klay Thompson back in December, which makes them a fun team to back at +550, since their odds to win the West may come down toward where L.A.’s currently reside once the Splash Brothers reunite and shoot out a winning streak. Not surprisingly, Golden State and L.A. were chosen to square off in the season opener, filling out a wonderful early two-game card.
Check out: Sportsbooks offer NBA Opening Night bonuses
NBA MVP Odds
Although MVP favorite Luka Doncic (+380) got stuck watching the first night’s festivities like everyone else, seven of DraftKings’ 13 top candidates to be named the league’s most valuable player were pitted against one another to get the 2021-22 NBA party started.
Pitting Giannis Antetokounmpo (+800) vs. Kevin Durant (+600) and James Harden (+2000) in one of half of a doubleheader ensures people tune in. Follow it up with LeBron James (+1800), Anthony Davis (+2500) and Russell Westbrook (+2500) teaming up against Stephen Curry (+900) in the nightcap — boom, more eyeballs.
The NBA is star-driven, but gambling rewards those willing to take chances.
That’s why, as far as futures are concerned, you have to isolate longshots few others see coming to try and secure a big score. Even though the Nets could get Irving back at some point and become the unbeatable super team most expected they would be last summer, he could sprain an ankle landing on someone’s foot like he did in Game 4 of last June’s Eastern Conference finals and be put out of commission. Harden strained a hamstring and was never himself in the postseason. LeBron was the MVP favorite into March before a sprained ankle took him out. The Lakers were never the same again last season.
While we’ll stop short of recommending the currently injured Zion Williamson (+4000) to stay healthy and lead the Pelicans to prominence, we also will steer clear of Doncic, who may not have enough help to truly flourish and has a new head coach calling the shots in Jason Kidd.
For a longshot MVP consideration, keep reading….
Suns Set But Can Rise Again
Because of Davis suffering a groin injury in Game 4 of last season’s first-round playoff series, many viewed Phoenix’s elimination of L.A. as a fluke. Never mind the Suns finished with the NBA’s second-best regular-season record with lock Hall of Famer Chris Paul leading the charge, very few saw their run to the NBA Finals coming.
After eliminating the Lakers, the Suns went on to sweep MVP Nikola Jokic’s Nuggets and take advantage of Kawhi Leonard’s season-ending ACL tear to reach their first championship round since Charles Barkley teamed up with Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle in 1993.
Although Paul was the leader and young center Deandre Ayton emerged as the x-factor, Devin Booker transformed from young star into certified superstar. Kobe Bryant’s influence on him became a major story since he embodied a “Mamba mentality” as a 24-year-old who backed down from no one. He averaged 27.3 points per game and reached the NBA Finals in his first postseason. Although he struggled some when it came time to win it all, keep in mind his idol and mentor was eliminated in three straight postseasons before he finally tasted glory in 2000.
At +2500 at DraftKings to win 2021-22 NBA MVP, it’s worth a gamble that Booker takes a major leap forward, leads the Suns past the Lakers and Warriors, and proclaims last season as no fluke. As a correlation, Phoenix is +650 to win the Western Conference and +215 to win the Pacific Division (the Warriors are +425 in division futures). Backing the Lakers at +100 in the Pacific, when they have so many new pieces and moving parts that they could not even win a preseason game in six tries seems foolish.
Lakers, The Public Favorite
The betting market believes the Lakers are the team the rest of the loaded Western Conference will have to get through after bringing on high-profile additions Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Trevor Ariza and much-needed shooters Wayne Ellington and Malik Monk to complement James and Davis. Bettors may ultimately be proven right, but everyone knows the Lakers are a public favorite. They’re a brand the casual fan loves to back. LeBron, even as a 36-year-old, is a driving force who has won so often he’ll always draw attention from the betting public.
Between bookmakers mitigating risk and knowing the Lakers would draw big bets, it’s not stunning to see L.A. as the favorite in the division and conference. We’ll see them on Opening night, Christmas, and as often as possible as since they join Brooklyn as the biggest draw in town.
Vegas bookmaker: Public ‘enthralled’ with Lakers
For eyeballs, popularity dictates. For winning wagers in the futures game, you have to take some big swings. Who would’ve thought Utah would finish with the most wins last season? Many figured Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert being at odds would be too much of a distraction. Instead, everyone and everything came together.
Finding this season’s Jazz or the 2020-21 Jokic and will make you a happy camper after 82 games are played. Backing Booker to win MVP and the Suns to again emerge as Pacific Division champs could pay major dividends.
East Would-Be Beasts and Other Longshots
The Nets and Bucks – the teams delivering the first regular-season showdown – are the chalk in the Eastern Conference. Even with the Ben Simmons shoe not dropping before the regular season opens, it’s hard to imagine the 76ers not being able to move him at some point. Joel Embiid is saying all the right things about how Simmons’ defense, passing, and versatility make Philadelphia better, but Simmons doesn’t want to be there, and the feeling is mutual as far as the 7-footer is concerned.
How are two guys going to work together after Simmons went on record saying he can’t do what he’s most comfortable with due to Embiid commanding the paint? This isn’t a Mitchell/Gobert situation. It’s oil and water.
The belief here is that riding the Sixers at +750 to win the East sounds lucrative but is akin to dumping money down the drain without a resolution for Simmons in place. Instead, taking a look at 2020 NBA Finals participant Miami (+900) makes more sense.
The Heat are hungry. What they were able to accomplish in the bubble, upsetting their way through the East’s beasts to represent conference against the Lakers, is being written off as a pandemic-related fluke.
If there was a homecourt advantage to deal with, Miami would’ve never gotten past a Bucks team they absolutely destroyed. Beating the Celtics in Boston wouldn’t have been possible. This is all preposterous, a slap in the face to what the Jimmy Butler-led group accomplished. Everyone remembers the sight of an exhausted Butler leaving it all out there because there was nothing more he could give, but most forget that Goran Dragic was injured against L.A., limiting Miami’s chances when all the chips were on the table.
Tyler Herro became a household name as a rookie, which just served to haunt him when the sophomore slump hit and rumors he hadn’t handled stardom well began to surface. It’s a good sign and no coincidence he’s had an incredible preseason.
Although Dragic was moved, Kyle Lowry is on board with plenty to prove and brings championship pedigree and another leader, alongside Butler, who can motivate and push teammates. Bam Adebayo didn’t make the All-Star Game last season. Herro fell off. Jae Crowder, who helped Phoenix reach the NBA Finals, was missed terribly.
Don’t be surprised to see the Heat bounce back in a big way, which is why betting them to win the Southeast Division at even-money (BetMGM) seems like a steal.
The Atlanta Hawks flourished last season once Nate McMillan replaced Lloyd Pierce as coach and went on to make a surprise appearance in the Eastern Conference finals, but they beat the Heat by only a single game in the division despite Miami’s struggles.
With a lot of guys with a massive chip on their shoulders and Erik Spoelstra steering the ship, look for the Heat’s resurgence in 2021-22.
More Bets To Consider
Other awards worth taking a shot on include Rockets No. 2 pick Jalen Green (+200 at DraftKings) emerging as Rookie of the Year and Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. (+1600) edging out Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker (+3500) as Most Improved.
While Doncic-led Dallas is a -230 choice to win the Southeast, expect the Grizzlies to blow out their projected season win total (41.5), and don’t be surprised if they claim their division, which would net a neat +350.
Surprises are set to be in store. Take a few swings.