Tom Gable, Director of Race & Sports at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, provides our readers with insider tips and strategies for making the most of their sports betting ventures. This week, Tom is focusing on the upcoming season of the NBA after a very short off-season.
The NBA’s 2020-2021 season gets underway on December 22 after a truncated preseason and a very short off-season for some teams due to the season finishing up in the bubble in the early fall. In this column, we are going to take a bird’s eye view at each division and some players to watch this season (along with some betting markets that you can look to make some money on). Let’s start with the Western Conference.
Pacific Division: Home of the reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, who are no surprise, the favorite to win the division (currently at odds of -125, meaning you would risk $125 to win $100). However, even after the Lakers locked in Anthony Davis with a huge contract, the team looks different than it did just a few short months ago and don’t be surprised to see the team sitting a lot of players, including Lebron James, for a number of games to make sure they are well-rested for the playoff grind. James and Davis are currently +800 and +900 to win the MVP award (third and fourth shortest odds on the board), but I wouldn’t waste my money on James as he probably won’t play in enough games to sway voters and will be looking to be more of a facilitator than a scorer on the offensive end this year. If you are so inclined to fade the Lakers, the LA Clippers are +120 to win the division and the Golden State Warriors are +1800. The Warriors were predicted to make a run at the Lakers and Clippers this year in the division with Steph Curry returning from injury but Klay Thompson unfortunately went down with another injury that will keep him out all season, for the second year in a row. Curry is currently sitting at +1100 to win MVP. The Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard is currently +2200 to win MVP, but due to Leonard’s history of sitting out a number of games to rest throughout the season, I wouldn’t look to back him with money as he probably won’t play in enough games to be in serious contention for the award.
Southwest Division: The Dallas Mavericks are the current favorites to win the division at -185. They are led by the current betting favorite to win the MVP award, Luka Doncic (+400) and are heavy favorites to win the division. Luka has a nice supporting cast around him including Kristaps Porzingis, a good defender and someone who can stretch the floor on the offensive end. The Mavs also picked up Josh Richardson from the Sixers in a trade who on paper, should be able to complement Porzingis and Doncic nicely. If you want to look at a team that may possibly contend for a playoff spot and could potentially give the Mavs some problems, I would recommend the New Orleans Pelicans, with Zion Williamson returning for his second season and 100% healthy.
Northwest Division: This should be a very interesting division to watch with two of the top teams in the Western Conference battling it out: the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz. The Nuggets are the favorite to win the division coming into the season at -125 while the Jazz are at +225. Both teams have the capability to play with anyone in the conference and it should be a fun race throughout the season. The Jazz are seeing some respected money come in on them for the NBA Championship due to a nice price available in that market.
Now let’s move to the Eastern Conference. As of this writing, the balance of power in the East is certainly up in the air as the Houston Rockets’ James Harden, one of the best players in the league (and currently at +1600 to win the MVP) has demanded a trade from the Rockets and a number of Eastern Conference contenders are rumored to be possible landing spots for him. Harden moving to a team in the Eastern Conference will certainly affect division and conference odds for any team he ends up on.
Southeast Division: The reigning Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat are the current favorites to win their division at -300 odds. The Heat have a tremendous line-up led by Jimmy Butler (+2200 to win MVP) and Bam Adebayo and one of the best coaches in the NBA in Erik Spoelstra (currently +1400 to win Coach of the Year). The only team that may be able to challenge the Heat are a young Atlanta Hawks team, led by one of the most dynamic scorers in the NBA, Trae Young. The Hawks are currently +500 to win the Southeast Division and Young is currently +8000 to win MVP. Young may be worth a small money wager due to the favorable price you can get on him.
Central Division: Not much to say here other than 2 words: Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks are huge favorites to repeat as the division winner at -2500. No other team in the Central Division should give them any sort of trouble and the focus of the Bucks will be on the playoffs and a better showing than they were able to muster in the bubble this summer where they looked like a completely different team than the dominant force they were prior to the league shut down in March due to COVID. The Bucks are led by another perennial MVP favorite: Giannis Antetokounmpo (+500). All eyes will be on how the Bucks handle Giannis this season and if they can sign him to a new contract.
Atlantic Division: Probably the most competitive division in the NBA with 4 teams having a solid shot at winning the division title. The current favorite, the Brooklyn Nets (+150), will have the media spotlight on them all season as they enter play with 2 of the best players in the league: Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, a new head coach: Steve Nash (+900 to win Coach of the Year) but also two of the most mercurial superstars in the league: Durant and Irving. How they gel not only with each other, but also their teammates remains to be seen. The Nets will be challenged by the Boston Celtics (+260), a somewhat new look Philadelphia 76ers squad (+350) and the always tough Toronto Raptors (+400). Any of the 4 teams are certainly capable of winning the division, but probably the Raptors would need the most to go right, in order to win. The Sixers hope that they have finally found the right supporting cast around Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and with new head coach Doc Rivers, expectations are pretty high once again for the team to go far in the playoffs. If they don’t, expect this to be the last season of Embiid and Simmons playing together, as it is very likely the team will move on from one of them to try and find the right puzzle pieces.
You can make all of your NBA future bets on division winners, conference winners, the overall NBA champion, MVP winner, Coach of the Year, 6th Man of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and many more at Borgata’s Race and Sportsbook, BetMGM Sportsbook and Bar or online at Borgatasports.com.