In June, the Toronto Raptors got past the Golden State Warriors in six games to win their first NBA Finals in six games.
While the Raptors were expected to be a very good team heading into the season, you could have made a nice sum of money betting on their championship odds. The Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets and even the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers sometimes were placed as more likely teams to win the championship according to the American-friendly sportsbooks.
This season, the odds are much more spread out, as both the Raptors’ and Warriors’ squads were broken up in the offseason.
USAbetting has taken a look at this season’s title odds for each team in the league and here are three bets that it might pay to make:
Philadelphia 76ers at +900 with BetOnline & SportsBetting
I’m fascinated at what the 76ers’ projected starting lineup of Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Joel Embiid can do in the Eastern Conference. While they do lack some quickness on the perimeter, they are just so long and skilled on both ends of the floor. Simmons and Embiid are still young and improving, too. By the end of the season, I’m predicting that it will be the best five-man unit in the NBA.
Anytime you can get title odds like this on the team with the best starting lineup in the NBA, I think you should take them. Especially since the 76ers are in the weaker conference.
Philly’s depth is a bit of a question mark. The ball-handling and shooting off the bench is sparse, and the squad will be depending on young, unproven defensive-minded wings Zhaire Smith and Matisse Thybulle to play some important minutes.
I think the top-end talent of this team will shine through and the Sixers will very much be in the conversation as one of the top title contenders throughout the season.
Milwaukee Bucks at +635 with 5Dimes
These odds are not as good as the 76ers’ odds, but I feel that oddsmakers in general are underestimating the Eastern Conference a bit in terms of title betting. Not only does the East have fewer elite teams to contend with in the playoffs, the East representative in the Finals could be fresher by the time June rolls around.
Milwaukee should be a strong Finals contender in its own right, though. I believe Giannis Antetokounmpo will be the NBA’s best player this season and the Bucks’ roster is still stacked with capable three-point shooters and good, team-minded defenders around him.
With no Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic this season, the team will likely look for Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe to up their usage a bit as the No. 2 and 3 options around Antetokounmpo.
Last year, the Bucks led the NBA in regular-season wins and net rating. The only team that gave the Bucks significant trouble in the playoffs was the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals, a series in which Toronto won 4-2. They seemed to limit Giannis in a way that no one else could. Now that the Raptors are disbanded, though, it seems unlikely that they’ll provide that resistance again.
Oklahoma City Thunder at +42500 with Bookmaker
Here’s definitely your best deep sleeper bet to take. OKC is all the way down at 23rd in title odds with Bookmaker, behind teams like the Atlanta Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings.
Honestly, I’m not super high on the Thunder overall. I think there are a lot of things that could go wrong, with Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari and Andre Roberson all being quite injury-prone. The team’s depth is not good, and it could get even worse if injuries strike. The team’s core is new and may not mesh well. Finally, who knows if Paul will even stay on the roster for very long, if the team decides it wants to jump head-first into a total rebuild.
I think their potential for their top seven players or so is very high if everything goes right, though. Paul is 34 years old, but he is also just two years removed from finishing five straight years as the best player on a 50-win Los Angeles Clippers team. Gallinari and Steven Adams weren’t too far from being All-Stars last season. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a young, long guard with tons of potential. Roberson and Nerlens Noel are strong defenders, and Dennis Schroder is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate if he improves his shot selection.
The Thunder could challenge for the worst record in the NBA, but they could also be an upper-tier playoff team with good injury luck, chemistry and a leap from Gilgeous-Alexander.