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The NBA consistently delivers compelling action on and off the court. That’s not a nod to the seemingly unending soap operas and colorful storylines the league produces. It does, however, include a variety of wagering options, ranging from 2022-23 NBA Finals futures odds to player props.
August is a time of optimism and best-case scenarios. It’s when Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Ben Simmons are locked in for the Brooklyn Nets, and LeBron James, Anthony Davis (if healthy), and Russell Westbrook are primed to lead the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s also when sleepers and dark horses introduce themselves as championship contenders.
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Here are NBA Finals odds from a variety of top sportsbooks, as of August 24, one day after news broke that Durant is content to stay in Brooklyn.
The Lakers are priced closer to the middle of the pack, with NBA Finals odds ranging from 16-to-1 to 24-to-1 (FanDuel).
James still moves the needle, and he’s committed to the Lakers through 2025 (player option) — his age-39 season. Production isn’t the question, as James still averaged 30.3 points per contest this past season. It’s the number of contests he plays that determines whether the Lakers make a deep postseason run in the spring. Considering James’ and Davis’ lack of durability — not to mention Westbrook’s inefficiency — it’s difficult to be bullish on their 2023 outlook.
The Nets offer a better title case in theory. Durant and Irving form one of the game’s best scoring duos. And if Simmons returns to form, he serves as a two-way, pass-first ball-handler to facilitate the offense. Remember, this is the team’s “best-case scenario” season.
The Nets’ talent warrants their favorable NBA title odds, but bettors should consider more than raw talent in this spot.
The Boston Celtics lost the 2022 NBA Finals but are the favorite to finish the job this season. Their 5-to-1 odds to win an NBA championship at several sportsbooks — including BetMGM and Caesars — reflect the talent and depth on the roster.
Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, and Jaylen Brown — a central figure in Durant trade rumors throughout the summer — form the core of the Celtics. Their roster features size, depth, defense, three-point shooting, and Finals experience. The C’s check all the boxes of a team to back for a championship run.
Oddsmakers primarily favor Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and the reigning champion Golden State Warriors — who are 6-to-1 at several prominent shops — as the leading contender out of the Western Conference.
The Splash Bros. plus Draymond Green know all about deep postseason runs, but there’s “fresh” talent on the roster as well. Jordan Poole emerged as one of last season’s breakout players while Andrew Wiggins showed up big in the Finals, and there are more players waiting for their opportunity. Chief among them is 7-footer James Wiseman, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Wiseman averaged 11.5 points in 21.4 minutes his rookie season before sitting out 2020-21 with a knee injury. The Warriors don’t need a big year from him, but he adds an element of size and athleticism that was absent in 2022.
The Los Angeles Clippers are priced alongside the Dubs on NBA Finals’ odds tables. This may come as a surprise considering their mediocre performance last season. They received zero games from Kawhi Leonard (who was recovering from a torn ACL) and only 31 from co-star Paul George. They’re surrounded by a quality mix of young and veteran talent, and pundits expect them to push the Warriors.
There are a number of title contenders who feel as if they’re deserving of the league’s bullseye. The Milwaukee Bucks (13-to-2), Phoenix Suns (9-to-1), Philadelphia 76ers (14-to-1), and Miami Heat (15-to-1) justifiably fancy themselves championship caliber.
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It’s fun to focus on the favorites, but three dark horses — if we can call them that — catch our eye. And each resides in the West.
The Denver Nuggets (18-to-1), Dallas Mavericks (20-to-1), and Memphis Grizzlies (20-to-1) are on the doorstep of the Western Conference’s elite.
The Grizzlies, led by point guard Ja Morant, finished with the game’s second-best regular season record before losing in six games to the Warriors in the Western Conference Semifinals. Meanwhile, the Mavericks and Nuggets revolve around guard Luka Doncic and center Nikola Jokic, respectively.
Dallas added forward Christian Wood via trade, who relieves Doncic of some pressure. Denver welcomes back guard Jamal Murray to form a nice 1-2 punch with two-time MVP Jokic.
We’re still months away from discussing these three teams as serious threats to the Warriors’ reign, but the margins may be slimmer than preseason odds suggest.
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