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Now that the draft, a slew of trades and free company are within the rearview, the 2021-22 NBA marketing campaign is on the doorstep.
With out seeing a single minute of regular-season motion, loads of followers, analysts and bookmakers world wide have concepts about who would possibly (or will) win the 2022 Finals.
The defending-champion Milwaukee Bucks are betting on continuity. The Brooklyn Nets could convey essentially the most star energy to the dialogue. And the Los Angeles Lakers could be equal elements marquee names and query marks.
After these three groups, there are a number of others that affordable minds might again with their wallets. Earlier than the 2010-11 season, the Dallas Mavericks had the seventh-best odds to win the title. Might somebody round that vary, just like the Philadelphia 76ers or Denver Nuggets, win all of it in 2022?
Answering within the affirmative could also be optimistic, however now’s the time when optimism abounds. There are actually some organizations on whom bets could be totally wasted, however a handful of the chances listed under (from longest shot to shortest) are price consideration.
All odds are from FanDuel Sportsbook and proper as of Friday.
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If you recognize somebody contemplating a wager on the Orlando Magic (or actually anybody over the primary third to half of this slideshow) to win the championship, you might want to think about an intervention.
It is merely not going to occur.
That does not imply Orlando is not price following, although. Should you’re a sucker for rebuilding rosters full of intriguing younger expertise, the Magic are a very good choice.
R.J. Hampton, Mo Bamba, Jonathan Isaac, Wendell Carter Jr., Jalen Suggs, Chuma Okeke, Franz Wagner and Cole Anthony all determine to be closely concerned. The oldest of that bunch, Isaac, is simply 24. The No. 5 decide on this draft, Suggs, is 20.
Superior numbers aren’t tracked sooner than 2009-10 for school basketball on Sports activities Reference, however the one freshmen who performed 500-plus minutes and matched or exceeded Suggs’ marks for true capturing share, help share and utilization are Ben Simmons and Javion Hamlet. Add in steal share and Suggs is alone.
If he and two or three of the opposite gamers above pan out, the Magic might trigger some issues within the Jap Convention in 2025. For now, rely on loads of rising pains, the occasional frisky outing and a few attractive moments.
Championship Odds: +25000
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With Jerami Grant and Kelly Olynyk prone to play distinguished roles, the Detroit Pistons could also be barely extra reliant on veteran minutes than the Magic, however the long-term outlook stays the explanation to tune in.
Killian Hayes’ rookie marketing campaign was broadly panned, however he quietly confirmed some promise as a creator and passer. Amongst seasons from youngsters his peak (6’5″) or taller, only LaMelo Ball’s 7.8 assists per 75 possessions topped Hayes’ 7.6. The rest of that top five is Shaun Livingston, Luka Doncic and LeBron James.
That’s not to say Hayes has the same upside as those four, just that there’s at least one skill that appears NBA ready (or at least close to that level).
There’s also Saddiq Bey, a combo forward who shot 38.0 percent from three as a rookie, and Isaiah Stewart, a high-energy big who nearly averaged a double-double over his last 15 games in 2020-21.
The biggest reason for optimism, though, is playmaker Cade Cunningham. At 6’8″, he has the physique of a wing with the texture of a degree guard. In faculty, he performed at a very good tempo, not permitting defenses to hurry him up. And he confirmed loads as a one-on-one menace too.
In line with Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman, Cunningham “ranked 87th percentile out of isolation, (Synergy), the best mark among recent top draft picks with at least 50 possessions.” He additionally shot 40.0 % from three and 84.6 % from the road throughout his lone season at Oklahoma State.
Like Orlando, Detroit is years away from being aggressive, however there seems to be a robust basis in place for this rebuild.
Championship Odds: +25000
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The development of rebuilding groups with a handful of veterans continues with the Cleveland Cavaliers. And after Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, it is all concerning the children right here.
One season after averaging 24.3 factors, 22-year-old Collin Sexton ought to be poised for additional improvement. At the very least on offense, he looks like a stable match with the extra pass-first Darius Garland, too.
That backcourt reaching its ceiling may need so much to do with incoming rookie Evan Mobley, although. He is a talented massive who profiles as a possible ground spacer. That, after all, would open driving lanes a bit extra. Above-average passing for his place might give these guards extra catch-and-shoot alternatives too.
All of that’s seemingly years down the street, although. The 2021-22 marketing campaign is not about rivalry for the Cavs. It is about attempting to see how everybody matches with these three (or even when these three match collectively).
Is Mobley a 4 or a 5? Does he match higher with Jarrett Allen or Lauri Markkanen? Can Cleveland survive on protection if they begin two 6’1″ guards? Can Isaac Okoro be the kind of multipositional wing defender such a backcourt would require?
There are plenty of questions to ask this season, none of which are in the neighborhood of should I bet on Cleveland to win the 2022 championship?
Championship Odds: +25000
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There may be fewer sure things on the Oklahoma City Thunder roster than any of the three teams above, but they also probably have the best individual player.
Last season, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 23.7 points, 5.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds, with a 41.8 three-point percentage in just 33.7 minutes.
Luka Doncic (twice), LeBron James (three times), Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson are the only players in NBA history to hit all of those marks for points, assists and rebounds in an age-22 (or younger) season, and no one on that list was close to SGA’s efficiency from three.
He’d have to channel more than just MJ’s numbers for OKC to even sniff the playoffs, though.
There are reasons to be optimistic about the playmaking of Aleksej Pokusevski and Josh Giddey. There is some three-and-D potential for both Luguentz Dort and Darius Bazley. But betting on any of those four to be a star probably wouldn’t be the smartest way to spend your money.
Championship Odds: +25000
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Our last team in the “+25000 Membership,” the Houston Rockets may be somewhere between the OKC mold and that of Detroit and Cleveland.
One of the elder statesmen, John Wall, has already agreed not to play games for the Rockets as they seek a trade for him. D.J. Augustin and Eric Gordon aren’t at that point yet, but you have to figure they aren’t long for Houston if some contender comes calling for backcourt depth.
A big chunk of the team’s possessions figures to be used by playmakers Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. Alperen Sengun will probably get his shot as the go-to big for stretches. And then, there are a bunch of young-ish guys likely playing for their next contract. Christian Wood, Dante Exum and Jae’Sean Tate all fall into that camp.
The biggest reason to tune in might be Green. As an 18-year old, Green averaged 17.9 points, 2.8 assists, 2.1 threes and 1.5 steals in the G League last season. He also shot 36.5 percent from three, and he collected those numbers with a dynamic inside-out game.
Championship Odds: +25000
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We move now to the play-in contenders.
The Sacramento Kings have failed to make the playoffs and had a below-average defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) in each of the past 15 seasons. The Minnesota Timberwolves are the only team in the league with a worse winning percentage over that stretch.
And yet, there may be enough talent here for a top-10 finish in the West.
De’Aaron Fox is coming off an underrated age-23 campaign. Even in an era with numbers supercharged by increased pace and skyrocketing three-point-attempt rates, Fox’s 25.2 points and 7.2 assists deserve a nod and a little more context.
For one thing, Fox’s numbers weren’t as reliant on the extra threes as many others. His 1.8 threes per game were tied for 101st in the league, and he shot a well-below-average 32.2 percent from three.
Instead of lighting up from the outside, Fox boosted his numbers by finishing with the efficiency of a rim-running big. He was one of just eight players in the league last season who attempted at least 250 shots within three feet of the rim while making at least 75 percent of those shots.
Bam Adebayo, Jarrett Allen, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Deandre Ayton, John Collins, Rudy Gobert and LeBron James make up the rest of that list.
With that kind of slashing surrounded by shooting from Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes, plus the rolling ability of Richaun Holmes, Sacramento’s offense should flummox plenty of opponents.
They’re likely to get gashed on defense more often than not, though. Even though they’re a slightly better bet than the five preceding teams, thinking they can win the title is still borderline certifiable.
Championship Odds: +24000
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If the Minnesota Timberwolves can just keep Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards healthy, they’ll have a shot at the play-in tournament.
When those three were on the floor last season, Minnesota was plus-5.8 points per 100 possessions. If Edwards’ star turn continues, that number might climb even higher in 2021-22.
After the All-Star break, Edwards put up 23.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists, with a 34.9 three-point percentage.
His triples weren’t just the product of run-of-the-mill catch-and-shoot opportunities, either. He was sixth in total pull-up threes post-ASB. More surprising than that, his percentage on those looks (38.7) was better than three of the players ahead of him on that list (CJ McCollum, Jayson Tatum and Luka Doncic).
There was variety in his attack, too. Over the same span, he was also ninth in points from drives.
He looked like a legitimate star. If that keeps up, Minnesota will have two such players, as KAT is among the most gifted offensive big men of all time.
With a supporting cast that includes Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley and Jaden McDaniels, the Wolves could push for a .500-plus record. They certainly won’t push for a championship, though.
Championship Odds: +20000
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The San Antonio Spurs being this much higher than the T’Wolves is probably a nod to Gregg Popovich and the organizational stability this team enjoyed for much of the 2000s and 2010s.
In terms of potential star power, San Antonio is way behind Minnesota. It might trail Sacramento, too.
Respect for the system makes sense, though. The Spurs have a number of bona fide role players. And Popovich has long had a knack for getting the most out of talents like Keldon Johnson, Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Jakob Poeltl and Doug McDermott.
There’s also a hint of upside from wings Devin Vassell and Joshua Primo.
San Antonio will move the ball, stay connected on defense and generally take smart shots. And that’s probably enough to put them in that 35-40 win range. It’s hard to imagine them pushing much further.
Championship Odds: +16000
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FiveThirtyEight’s projection system forecasts LaMelo Ball to finish in the top 25 for wins above replacement in 2021-22. That same system only has six players (Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum and James Harden) ahead of him for five-year market value.
When you watch Ball, it’s not hard to see why the numbers love him so much. With his combination of size (6’6″), imaginative and prescient and audacity as a passer, Ball virtually singlehandedly made the Charlotte Hornets a League Cross darling in 2020-21.
Now, with a 12 months of seasoning beneath his belt, Terry Rozier within the backcourt and a hopefully wholesome Gordon Hayward alongside them within the beginning 5, Ball ought to lead Charlotte to play-in rivalry.
There is a stable supporting solid right here, too. Mason Plumlee is an underrated passer, giving the presumed beginning 5 loads of ball movers. Miles Bridges has graduated past human-highlight-reel-level dunker—he shot 40.0 % from three final season.
Kelly Oubre Jr., P.J. Washington and James Bouknight will all have their moments too, although these and all the above certainly will not be sufficient to legitimately contend for a title.
Championship Odds: +12000
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It is arduous to quantify teaching upgrades with something apart from wins. Thus, we can’t actually know the way a lot Rick Carlisle moved the needle until the 2021-22 season is wrapped (or largely wrapped). However it’s powerful to think about going from a one-and-done like Nate Bjorkgren to the Fifteenth-winningest coach in NBA historical past as something however a, properly, win.
Although he will not have a famous person just like the one he had with the Dallas Mavericks final season, Carlisle in all probability has extra depth.
Two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis leads the best way, however T.J. Warren, Caris LeVert and Malcolm Brogdon all have the flexibility to common 20-plus factors. Myles Turner is likely one of the recreation’s greatest defensive anchors. And T.J. McConnell, Justin Vacation and Jeremy Lamb are all stable function gamers.
Carlisle will set up a system that melds and maximizes these abilities, which ought to be sufficient to compete for a playoff spot. It nonetheless seems like this roster is approach behind the likes of Brooklyn and Milwaukee by way of star energy, although.
Championship Odds: +11000
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The New York Knicks are amongst a handful of groups forecast for a little bit of a regression in 2021-22. After securing 41 wins in final 12 months’s 72-game marketing campaign, FanDuel has their over-under at 41.5 for this upcoming 82-game slate.
Even with Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier changing Elfrid Payton and Reggie Bullock, the oddsmakers are cautious of New York’s capability to recreate final season’s success. Proving them flawed would require plenty of issues to go proper.
For one, Walker might want to keep comparatively wholesome. You would be hard-pressed to search out somebody who thinks the Knicks could be higher off with Payton, however Walker is growing older into his 30s and coming off an injury-impacted 12 months through which he performed simply 43 video games. His backup, Derrick Rose, is not the image of well being both.
If availability is sporadic for these two, New York may very well be in hassle.
One other issue to think about is Julius Randle’s capability to repeat his play from 2020-21. After six seasons hovering round average-level play, he out of the blue exploded into All-NBA rivalry with averages of 24.1 factors, 10.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists.
If that was extra of an outlier than a profession development, New York may very well be in hassle.
Lastly, there are the kids on this roster, led by RJ Barrett. Final season, he confirmed the playmaking and multipositional versatility that made him an intriguing No. 3 decide. Mitchell Robinson, if he can keep wholesome, appears to be like like a dynamic rim protector. Immanuel Quickley could already be one of many recreation’s higher heat-check guys.
If two or three of them stagnate, New York may very well be in hassle.
After all, there is a world through which every part goes proper with these listed above and the Knicks smash expectations once more, however they’re nonetheless approach too lengthy a shot to be thought of title contenders.
Championship Odds: +10000
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After a number of years as one of many recreation’s most steady organizations, the Toronto Raptors are lastly in the course of a transition part. The Kyle Lowry period is formally over, however it is probably not lengthy earlier than this staff is aggressive once more.
Pascal Siakam already has an All-Star look beneath his belt. Fred VanVleet, forecast to complete seventeenth in wins above substitute participant in 2021-22 by FiveThirtyEight, is an analytics darling. Chris Boucher has quietly develop into a singular three-and-D menace who can unfold the ground on one finish and swat jumpers on the opposite.
The velocity of this rebuild could also be extra reliant on OG Anunoby than any of the above, although. After averaging 12.6 factors and capturing 39.5 % from three over his previous two seasons, Anunoby figures to tackle a bit of extra offensive accountability in 2021-22.
To this point this preseason, he leads the Raptors in field-goal makes an attempt per recreation and his effectivity hasn’t suffered a bit. After all, all the everyday preseason caveats apply. The pattern dimension is simply too small, opponents aren’t deploying their actual rotations and so forth. But when he can develop into a bona fide first or second choice, Toronto may very well be aggressive as early as this season.
That time period is relative, although. The Raptors may very well be a headache for others across the league on a night-to-night foundation, however the days of title rivalry are gone (and sure just a few years away from returning).
Championship Odds: +10000
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One of the vital stunning revelations from this 12 months’s media day was that Zion Williamson underwent offseason surgical procedure for a fractured foot.
For a 6’7″, 284-pound player who missed much of his rookie campaign following knee surgery, another injury is concerning. We’ve never seen a player with his build move and explode off the floor the way he does. And it’s fair to wonder what kind of stress that puts on joints, ligaments and the body in general.
Until he plays a couple injury-free seasons, those concerns will probably linger.
If he’s healthy, though, the New Orleans Pelicans should be firmly in the play-in hunt. With his nose for cutting lanes, power and ability to adjust midair, Zion is one of the most dynamic scorers the game has ever seen. And he’s doing it without a three-point shot.
Among players with at least 1,000 career minutes, Zion’s 28.9 points per 75 possessions trails only Michael Jordan’s 30.3 and Joel Embiid’s 29.3. His 11.0 two-pointers per 75 possessions ranks first.
With a decent amount of shooting around him coming from Brandon Ingram, Devonte’ Graham, Trey Murphy and Jonas Valanciunas (who’s taking 1.5 threes per game in the preseason), Zion should be able to feast inside.
But again, that’s dependent upon how healthy he is. Even if he plays in most of the Pelicans’ games, there are enough question marks on the other end of the floor to worry if they’ll finish higher than the play-in range.
Championship Odds: +10000
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The Washington Wizards had a “star energy for depth” swap this offseason that makes them one of the East’s more interesting teams.
After averaging 30.9 points over the past two seasons, Bradley Beal might have even more possessions to use. Russell Westbrook is gone, and all of the incoming players are accustomed to deferring to stars.
They’re also better shooters than Russ is, meaning the middle of the floor should be wide open for Beal’s attacks.
Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Spencer Dinwiddie are joining holdovers Davis Bertans, Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija to form a solid floor-spacing core. Rookie Corey Kispert should help on that front, too, and Montrezl Harrell’s rim running should pull defenders away from the three-point line for all those shooters.
The “one star and depth” model isn’t one that has led to a ton of championships, though. Even in Dirk Nowitzki’s 2011 run, lumping in players like Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler as “depth” might be selling them a bit short.
Washington should remain competitive, but it’s not hard to see why the Wizards are still in the lower half of this list.
Championship Odds: +10000
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The Memphis Grizzlies’ ceiling is probably tied to Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.
The former has shown flashes of legitimate leading-man ability. In the 2021 playoffs, he went toe-to-toe with the top-seeded Utah Jazz and averaged 30.2 points and 8.2 assists. His overmatched Grizzlies even took a game off the Jazz.
The latter, meanwhile, has had a career plagued by injuries. He’s played in just 126 of a possible 227 regular-season games (55.5 percent), which makes it difficult to get a feel for how the two core pieces fit.
In theory, JJJ’s floor spacing makes sense next to Morant’s slashing. In practice, however, the team has had a better point differential when the point guard plays without the stretch big. This season could be as much about making that pairing work as it is about contending for a title.
With Dillon Brooks, Desmond Bane, Steven Adams, Kyle Anderson, De’Anthony Melton and Brandon Clarke also on the roster, there’s a solid supporting cast in place, but the best best-case scenario is probably a second-round appearance.
Championship Odds: +8500
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The foundation for the Portland Trail Blazers looked like it was on the verge of cracking earlier this offseason.
“The big backlash from the Portland Path Blazers’ course of to rent a brand new coach and his issues on whether or not a championship contender will be constructed have develop into elements that will push the franchise participant—Damian Lillard—out the door,” Chris Haynes wrote for Yahoo Sports.
But that obviously never happened, and if the Blazers core can remain healthy, they could play spoiler in 2021-22.
When Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic were all on the floor over the past three seasons, the Blazers were plus-8.8 points per 100 possessions. And that trio appears to be surrounded by a solid supporting cast including Robert Covington, Norman Powell and newcomer Larry Nance Jr.
They’d need a lot to break right to get into the championship picture, but that top three is only two years removed from a Western Conference Finals appearance.
Crazier things have happened.
Championship Odds: +8000
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It’s tough to imagine them leapfrogging Eastern Conference powers like the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, but if everything goes right for the Chicago Bulls, they might crash the tier below.
After an absurdly efficient 2020-21 in which Zach LaVine averaged 27.4 points with a 59.6 effective field-goal percentage, he now has a supporting cast that could give Chicago one of the game’s more explosive offenses.
Last season, Nikola Vucevic, LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball were 15th, 18th, 28th and 76th, respectively, in offensive box plus/minus. All four of them averaged at least four assists per 75 possessions.
Regardless of who the fifth player is, lineups with those four should feature plenty of ball and player movement, three-point shooting from LaVine and Ball, post scoring from Vucevic and everything in between from DeRozan.
It’s on the other end of the floor where the Bulls could get in trouble, though. Lonzo showed flashes of defensive upside with the Los Angeles Lakers, but he couldn’t lift the Pelicans on that front. DeRozan, LaVine and Vuc, meanwhile, have all earned their reputations as subpar positional defenders.
The Bulls will almost certainly outscore more opponents than they have in years past, but not enough to win it all.
Championship Odds: +6000
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After finishing right at .500 in 2020-21, the Boston Celtics shook up the bench, the front office and the roster.
Brad Stevens went from coach to executive. Danny Ainge’s run with the team ended. Kemba Walker left, and Al Horford came back. And now, the oddsmakers see the Celtics pushing the high 40s in wins.
With all due respect to the 35-year-old Horford, that vote of confidence probably has more to do with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown than anything else.
Those two are 23 and 24, respectively. Tatum has already shown bona fide superstar potential. Brown looks like he could be one of the game’s best No. 2s. And they’re still a few seasons shy of their primes.
If their trajectories keep heading up, Boston will have one of the game’s best duos. Additionally, Tatum and Brown have a supporting cast that seems to fit them well.
Marcus Smart will finally have his shot to be the starting 1. Horford and Smart can facilitate plenty of scoring opportunities for Tatum and Brown. Robert Williams has shown some playmaking ability, too.
If one or two of the reserves, like Payton Pritchard or Romeo Langford, take a step forward, the Celtics might threaten a return trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Championship Odds: +5000
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Like the Knicks they beat in the first round last postseason, the Atlanta Hawks may have been a bit ahead of schedule in 2020-21.
Few could’ve imagined they’d be in the Eastern Conference Finals before the campaign started, but there’s an argument that they might be even better in 2021-22.
Clint Capela and Bogdan Bogdanovic are at the start of their primes. Trae Young and John Collins are still shy of theirs. Leaps from De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish or Kevin Huerter could move the needle for the Hawks.
All of that doesn’t necessarily mean the needle will be closer to its target, though. Internal development may make the Hawks better, but Brooklyn and Milwaukee don’t appear to be going anywhere. Several other teams, including Boston, Toronto and the Miami Heat, could be better.
The natural next step for the Hawks might not be going from the Eastern Conference Finals to the NBA Finals.
Championship Odds: +4000
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The Dallas Maverick might be closer to the one-star model broken down in Washington’s slide than they are to the two-star construct of the Celtics.
At his peak, Kristaps Porzingis would qualify for star distinction, but that peak’s appearance has been sporadic, at best.
If Dallas is going to seriously compete for a championship in 2022, it will be because Luka Doncic somehow took another step forward.
For someone who has averaged 28.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 8.7 assists over the past two seasons (and has career playoff averages of 33.5 points, 9.5 assists and 8.8 rebounds), it might be hard to imagine what that step looks like.
It could be more consistent defense. More efficiency from three (where Doncic is at 33.1 percent for his career) wouldn’t hurt either. The biggest improvement might just come in the form of a philosophical shift.
In an interview with 105.3 The Fan, new coach Jason Kidd was asked if Doncic might play a bit more like he does with Slovenia’s national team (h/t Fansided):
“Effectively, I feel each. Whenever you take a look at the fashion, the Dallas Mavs have set information offensively with Luka, however when you find yourself watching him play for his nation, he’s off the ball. You may see that the belief is extraordinarily excessive along with his teammates. You may see that his teammates are taking part in at a really excessive degree for him. So, they do transfer. He’s shifting with out the ball, however he’s capturing the ball at a really excessive clip. He is taking part in a excessive clip. I feel his teammates are taking part in off him with that, which is thrilling to see.”
Doncic doesn’t have to completely abandon the style that has made him so wildly productive, but if he played a little less like James Harden and a little more like Stephen Curry, his teammates might be a bit more engaged throughout games and individual possessions.
If that happens and things break right in the playoffs, the Mavericks could threaten a Finals berth.
Championship Odds: +3000
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Most of the core that went to the 2020 Finals with the Miami Heat remains intact.
Jimmy Butler is a year older and headed into his age-32 season, but 21.5 points, 7.1 assists and a league-leading 2.1 steals in 2020-21 suggest he has a little more time with “greatest participant on a contender” level status.
Bam Adebayo and Duncan Robinson, meanwhile, should be in or on the verge of their primes. The former has Defensive Player of the Year upside on one end and might trail only Nikola Jokic among passing 5s. The latter is off to a historically great start as a floor spacer. Robinson is a career 42.3 percent three-point shooter, and no one has hit near as many threes as his 530 through his first 160 games.
Tyler Herro is back, too, and after a stagnant sophomore campaign he looks ready to take a leap in 2021-22. The sample size is obviously too small for sweeping takeaways, but Herro is Miami’s leading scorer this preseason.
The most obvious difference between the 2020 team and this one, of course, is the addition of Kyle Lowry.
His 2.3 box plus/minus over the past three seasons is significantly better than Goran Dragic’s below-average minus-1.3 over the same span. He has loads of postseason experience, including a championship run in 2019, and he’s used to playing with ball-dominant wings like Butler and Herro.
Adding his experience to Butler’s intensity and the development of the younger contributors makes Miami a real threat to get back to the league’s final series.
Championship Odds: +2500
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The absence of Jamal Murray obviously limits the Denver Nuggets’ upside.
He and MVP Nikola Jokic have an almost unparalleled chemistry on offense. They seem to have an almost preternatural feel for where the other will be or what he’ll do in pick-and-rolls and other sets, and plenty of success has come as a result of that connection.
Over the past three seasons, Denver is plus-7.5 points per 100 possessions with Murray and Jokic on the floor and plus-1.8 when Jokic plays without the starting guard.
Since Murray is recovering from a torn ACL suffered late in the previous campaign, there’s a chance he misses most or all of 2021-22. If the Nuggets are going to contend for a title, Michael Porter Jr. almost has to play like a superstar.
Career numbers of 22.0 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.1 threes per 75 possessions with a 43.9 three-point percentage suggest that’s possible, but it may take time.
“He got here again prepared,” Jokic recently told the media of Porter, per Denver Stiffs’ Ryan Blackburn. “So, we are going to see when now we have a detailed recreation, how are we going to do it? We do not know but.”
As that partnership develops, role players like Aaron Gordon, Will Barton and Monte Morris will have to be solid if Denver is going to push toward contention this season.
Championship Odds: +2500
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Your guess might be as good as any when it comes to Ben Simmons’ prospects with the Philadelphia 76ers this season. After committing to a holdout contingent on being traded earlier this offseason, Simmons suddenly showed up in Philly earlier this week.
“Sixers had been unaware Simmons was flying into Philadelphia at this time,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Monday. “The group was in fixed contact with agent Wealthy Paul, however Simmons merely confirmed up at area to take his Covid take a look at previous to Sixers-Nets tip—and that is when staff officers knew he was on the town.”
It remains to be seen what this development means for Simmons’ trade value or his status within Sixers lineups, but the fact that he’s there means the situation has changed dramatically in recent days.
If, somehow, all the bridges burned can be repaired, Philadelphia is absolutely a title contender. Despite his highly publicized aversion to jump shots, Simmons’ perimeter defense and playmaking raise the 76ers ceiling.
Believing they can contend without him isn’t out of bounds, though. Over the past three seasons, Philadelphia’s net rating only drops 1.5 points (from 8.9 to 7.4) when Embiid plays without Simmons.
Surrounding the MVP candidate with four shooters, including Tobias Harris, Seth Curry, Danny Green and Shake Milton would put defenses in quite a quandary. They could either stay home on the perimeter and watch Embiid slowly bury them from the post and the free-throw line, or they could double the big man and get rained on from outside.
Championship Odds: +2000
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Of all the odds listed so far, this one might be the most surprising.
During the two seasons since Kawhi Leonard and Paul George joined the Los Angeles Clippers, the team is a whopping plus-15.2 points per 100 possessions when both are on the floor. They’re a still strong plus-9.1 when Leonard plays without George, but the number plummets all the way to plus-2.6 when PG is in without Kawhi.
That number isn’t terrible, but it also doesn’t scream title contender. Plenty of those minutes may have come against reserves, too. In 2021-22, the non-Kawhi lineups have to take on everyone, stars and all.
Like Murray, Kawhi figures to miss much of this season while recovering from a torn ACL. The difference between the situations is that no Clippers look poised for a superstar turn like MPJ.
Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris, Serge Ibaka and Nicolas Batum are all solid role players, but no one on the roster is going to sniff Kawhi-level play anytime soon.
If the Clippers are going to legitimately contend for a championship, George might have to be even better than he was in 2018-19, when he finished third in MVP voting.
Championship Odds: +1600
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Phoenix Suns fans are understandably sensitive about people calling out their team’s fortuitous path to the NBA Finals, but it’s tough to ignore that injuries prevented them from facing Anthony Davis (for much of the series), Jamal Murray and Kawhi Leonard in successive rounds.
Their rise to contender status was brewing even before Chris Paul showed up, though. And the multiyear trajectories of Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges suggest the Suns might be even better this season.
In 2019-20, Phoenix was plus-7.6 points per 100 possessions when Booker and Ayton played with Ricky Rubio. Last season, it was, well, plus-7.6 when those two played with CP3.
The legendary point guard certainly solidified the top of the Suns’ roster, but development from the young stars and other pieces of the core deserves plenty of credit too. As Paul ages, almost everyone else should continue to get better.
Championship Odds: +1500
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Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press
After finishing the regular season with the league’s best record, the Utah Jazz authored an epic flameout against a Kawhi-less Clippers squad in the second round of the playoffs.
The series was tied 2-2 prior to the first game Leonard missed with what we later learned was a torn ACL, and the Jazz dropped two straight to end their campaign (including one in Utah).
Fans could point to their own injuries. Mike Conley was out and Donovan Mitchell was nursing a bad ankle, but it’s hard to describe that result as anything but a choke from the West’s top seed.
The failure led to a shakeup of the front office and most of the bench (after Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson), but the core remains intact.
The starting lineup will almost certainly still feature Conley, Mitchell, Royce O’Neale, Bojan Bogdanovic and Rudy Gobert. The bench will be led by the aforementioned Ingles and Clarkson.
And with that top seven supported by new additions like Rudy Gay and Eric Paschall, Utah should win plenty of regular-season games again.
After this long, though (Mitchell and Gobert have been together for four seasons), success for this team is measured in playoff wins.
Championship Odds: +1400
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Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press
With Klay Thompson’s timeline still something of a mystery and Draymond Green and Stephen Curry aging into their 30s, these odds feel a little Clipper-ish. A nod to Curry’s greatness is a little easier to understand than one to PG, though.
Last season, the Golden State Warriors were toeing the line between “win now” and “develop younger gamers and newcomers,” and it just didn’t work. But when Curry was just allowed to cook, Golden State was still dominant.
The Warriors were plus-13.2 points per 100 possessions when Curry played without Kelly Oubre Jr, who’s now a Hornet. They were plus-15.6 when he played without Oubre and James Wiseman. And in that second situation, Curry averaged an outrageous 38.8 points, 6.9 threes and 5.5 assists per 75 possessions, with a 69.2 true shooting percentage.
If Golden State commits to the “let Curry do every part” model a little earlier this season, it might avoid the play-in nightmare it faced in 2020-21.
Continued development for Wiseman and Jordan Poole should help on that front, too.
The latter figures to have plenty of opportunities as Thompson recovers, and the preseason suggests he’s ready. Through three preseason games, he’s averaging a team-high 25.0 points and shooting 43.8 percent from three.
Championship Odds: +1200
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In most seasons, the defending champion returning pretty much everyone, including a two-time MVP who just capped off an all-time great playoff run, would make it the favorite to win the title. The fact that the Milwaukee Bucks are third is a testament to the amount of talent currently in the league.
Those who think the champs should be favorites have a strong argument, though. Giannis Antetokounmpo is just 26 years old, and he now has the confidence boost that often comes from winning a title.
His supporting cast is packed with two-way threats, including Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez. And the fifth starter who missed last year’s postseason, Donte DiVincenzo, should be back.
Whether the Nets, Lakers, Warriors or anyone else is at full strength throughout the postseason, the Bucks should be seen as a legitimate threat to repeat as champions.
Championship Odds: +650
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Over 60 percent of the total minutes played by the 2019-20 Lakers were logged by players who are now gone. LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Talen Horton-Tucker, Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo are the only players from that title-winning team who are on this season’s roster (and Howard and Rondo played elsewhere last season).
Time is obviously responsible for much of that roster turnover, but a five-team trade that landed Russell Westbrook in Los Angeles had a lot to do with it, too. The amount of cap space used by LeBron, AD and Russ forced the Lakers to fill out a supporting cast with minimum salaries and cap exceptions.
Most of the players signed to those deals were in their 30s, giving L.A. the oldest roster in the league.
Do LeBron and Russ, 36 and 32, respectively, have enough left in the tank to carry such a roster to a title? Is Anthony Davis durable enough? How many members of the supporting cast can survive an 82-game gauntlet, let alone provide championship-level contributions?
On talent alone, it’s not hard to see why the Lakers have these odds, but all the question marks would make betting them plenty stressful.
Championship Odds: +400
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On Tuesday, Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks announced that the team would not allow Kyrie Irving to practice or play until he can be a full-time participant—a situation forced upon Irving by local restrictions and his decision not to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
If Irving relents, restrictions are eventually eased or the team trades its star guard, the analysis here would certainly change. But even if we assume Irving remains on the roster and doesn’t play a single game in 2021-22, it’s not all that difficult to talk yourself into the Nets winning the championship.
Kevin Durant is entering this campaign as the consensus best player in the league. Most major publications around the internet (including Bleacher Report) have listed him as the No. 1 player this preseason. His co-star, James Harden, should almost certainly be considered top 5-10.
Last season, Harden averaged 10.9 assists after his trade to Brooklyn, and no one is really all that close to his 9.4 regular-season box plus/minus over the past five years. For context’s sake, Basketball Reference describes anything over 8.0 as MVP level, and anything over 10.0 as an all-time season.
Harden and Durant may be past their primes, but they’re still dominating. If they’re healthy come playoff time, Brooklyn is going to be a nightmare.
With those two and a strong supporting cast that includes Joe Harris, Blake Griffin, Patty Mills and Bruce Brown, the Nets are understandably the favorite.
If Irving is able to return to the lineup, they might be an overwhelming one.
Championship Odds: +250