The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in six games to win the 2020 NBA Finals. It was undoubtedly the craziest season in memory, with the last three months played in an Orlando bubble. However, now it’s time for 2021 NBA handicapping.
Despite the unusual resumption of the season after the COVID-19-induced pause, the level of play was exceptional. Ratings were down, but the excitement level was great for the fans who decided to watch.
THE HOW TO GUIDE: BETTING ON SPORTS
2020-21 NBA Season Start Date
The 2020-21 season start date has not been announced by the league. The earliest date that has been reported is Dec. 22, with Christmas Day projected to be another possibility.
The NBA Draft is scheduled for Nov. 18, and free agency will open sometime shortly thereafter, probably Dec. 1. To start in December would require a short free-agency period, but anything is on the table at this point.
The league wants to crown a champion before the Olympics begin on July 23, 2021. To accomplish that goal, it will most likely go with a 72-game schedule. There has been talk recently of reducing the schedule, so don’t be shocked if the move is permanent.
Favorites to Win the 2021 NBA Finals
The current champions, the Los Angeles Lakers, expect to have Anthony Davis back for next season. He has a player option to remain or become a free agent. His agent, by the way, is Rich Paul, who also represents teammate LeBron James.
Most league pundits, including me, feel that he’ll opt in for the upcoming season. Then he will probably sign a max deal that only the Lakers will be able to offer after that. In addition to Davis, several other Lakers will be free agents, but none are integral to their success. Where Davis goes will have a big effect on 2021 NBA handicapping.
When looking at NBA futures, currently, the Lakers are the betting favorite with odds of +350 American or 7/2 fractional. Either way, a $100 bet on the Lakers to repeat will pay $450.
The LA Clippers, the Lakers’ arena mates at Staples Center, flamed out early in the 2020 playoffs. They reacted by parting ways with head coach Doc Rivers, who they replaced with Tyronn Lue. The former Cleveland head coach led James and the Cavaliers to the NBA title in 2016.
With Kawhi Leonard and Paul George safely on board, there is no reason to believe the Clippers won’t contend again. Obviously, online sportsbooks agree and have the Clippers just behind the Lakers at +400 or 4/1.
The Milwaukee Bucks, who also had a premature playoff exit, are again the favorites in the Eastern Conference. Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo missed the team’s last two games with an injury but expects to be at full strength. The Bucks are at odds of +650 or 13/2 for the NBA championship.
The second pick in the East is the Boston Celtics, losers to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics might have been a higher pick, but they could lose Gordon Hayward to free agency.
Although it’s not likely, since he has a player option, there is still a possibility that he will leave. The Celtics carry odds of +1200 or 12/1 to win the title in the 2021 NBA season.