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Best of Dan Ippolito

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Top 10 teams to win the 2021 NBA Finals

19 October 2020

It is extremely early to do so, but that makes it a good time to have some bold predictions for the upcoming NBA season. After the Los Angeles Lakers won their 17th title in franchise history last week under the COVID-19-free “bubble,” tied for most all-time with the Boston Celtics, odds were posted at sportsbooks all over the world for the 2021 NBA season, which likely won’t begin until January. Before the NBA draft and free agency period starts, we take a look at our way-too-early-picks to prevail at next year’s Finals.

10. Brooklyn Nets at 9-to-1
This may come as a surprise to some people. The reason they are at on the list is the amount of question marks that I have when I look at this team.

For one thing, you are bringing in Steve Nash as a new coach who, yes he has an incredibly high basketball IQ, but is entering the NBA head coaching arena for the first time.

Kevin Durant is supposed to be back and ready to go for the Nets after missing an entire season due to an Achilles injury. Before his injury he was one of, if not the toughest, player to stop offensively. The big question around KD is if he can return to that level of play after suffering such a serious injury.

Where to begin with Kyrie Irving? He has also shown problems of being able to stay healthy on the court. Kyrie has fought injuries over the years and demonstrated that he can bring some problems to the locker room as he did in his short time in Boston. That may not be the case in Brooklyn, but it does have to be in a bettors mind that it could happen again.

Despite these potential issues for the Nets, their talent level is quite high with supporting players Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris and Caris Levert.

It will be interesting to see how this team progresses throughout the upcoming season, but if they mesh, look for them to make a deep run at 9-to-1 odds on bet365 Sportsbook & Racebook.

9. Milwaukee Bucks at 6-to-1
After an earlier than expected exit for the Bucks in the bubble, redemption must be on the mind of all the players on the roster, especially Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak was injured in the Eastern Conference semifinals with ankle problems forcing him to sit out toward the end of the series and the Miami Heat walked over the Bucks to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The two-time defending league MVP must feel like he wasn’t able to give his 100% and has that chip on his shoulder coming into the season. It is a contract season for him, so it could be his final season in Milwaukee, but for the sake of the 2021 season that shouldn’t be a worry.

The Bucks are returning all key players, besides three. Wesley Matthews has a player option this year but I would assume he will sign to make another run with this team. Pat Connaughton and Kyle Korver are free agents so the team could decide to make them an offer since neither of those players were making big money.

By bringing back all starters and the majority of the bench, the Bucks again are an immediate problem. However, when they get to the playoffs they seem to not be able to find a way to the NBA Finals. Yes, they have the toughest player in the league to stop but can they go all the way or will they fall short again?

The Bucks are 6-to-1 on bet365, but with some other teams in the Eastern Conference showing more promise each year, they are not my favorite to come out of the East.

8. Houston Rockets at 20-to-1
Live and die by the three-pointer has never fit a team more than the Houston Rockets. If you’ve watched the Rockets play in the last year you know what I am talking about. If you can’t make a three-pointer than you may not find yourself getting many minutes for the Rockets. The team decided to go to “small ball” and play without a true center for most of the season and use more of a five-out offense.

Returning the backcourt of James Harden and Russell Westbrook is always key, but also bringing back Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker and Robert Covington keeps the depth to the offense.

The team brought in Jeff Green during last season who played the “center” position often for the team. He is a free agent, but it would be a shock if the team let him walk after his performance this year.

The Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino lists the Rockets at 20-to-1 to win it all. As we saw in the series against the Lakers, when facing two seven-footers it is tough for the Rockets to stick to their small ball plan. Yes, the threes were falling for them but the Lakers continued to pound the ball inside which led them to a series win.

The team will also have a new GM and head coach in the upcoming season so will the small ball era continue or will the new staff like a more traditional play style.

7. Toronto Raptors at 18-to-1
The Toronto Raptors fought and clawed their way into a classic series with the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals with the Celtics taking the deciding Game 7.

Yes, they are in the top three in the Eastern Conference year in and year out, but there could be some new faces replacing old ones in Toronto this year.

Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet are all free agents and all played significant minutes for the team.

The Raptors, who won it all in 2019 with Kawhi Leonard leading the way, do have Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam under contract and they are the team’s most important players, but in order to bring another title to Canada, they need a supporting cast. Will the team push hard to bring back the players they have developed chemistry with already or look at the free agency market to shake things up?

At 18-to-1 on bet365, the Raptors have always had one of the tougher venues to play in with the crowd so if fans do start returning this season, that could be an advantage the team can utilize again.

6. Golden State Warriors at 7-to-1
From worst to first could be a reality. The Warriors, who won three championships between 2015 and 2018, finished in dead last in 2019 but not because of the skill and players. The injury bug made it nearly impossible for the Warriors to have a successful season, taking away Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. These three are by far the best three on the team and without them there were too many holes to fill from the younger more inexperienced players.

This season, the trio will be back in action but there is a twist. Since the team did so poorly last year, the Warriors will be adding the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft to the roster, barring a trade. You have the same question with these three as you do with Kevin Durant: Can they come back and play like they used to?

With the roster they have, my guess is they choose a big man in the draft to insert with Curry, Green and Thompson.

Unibet Sports & Racebook lists the Warriors at 7-to-1 currently to win the title and will look to reclaim their status as best team in the league.

5. Miami Heat at 10-to-1
What an incredible run from the Miami Heat we all saw in the bubble this year. The team made it to the Finals against the Lakers but after the team saw two key players go down with injuries in Game 1, it was tough for them to fight back.

Jimmy Butler, in his first year in Miami, was the leader and catalyst of the team with great support from rising stars Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro in the playoffs. Goran Dragic, a free agent this year, led the team in scoring in the playoffs so he must be at the top of the list to bring back this offseason.

Jae Crowder, another starter, is also a free agent and played a big role on both sides of the ball for the team. If the Heat can return most of their roster, they will be able to make another great push with the young talent such as sharpshooting Duncan Robinson.

At 10-to-1 on Unibet, Miami will definitely not be as much of a sleeper pick as they were last year.

4. Los Angeles Clippers at 9-to-2
The word that comes to mind when we look back on the Clippers season is disappointing. Up 3-1 on the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals and up over 15 points in the third quarter of Game 5, the series was all but over. Little did the Clippers know how hard the Nuggets would punch back and end up winning the series in dramatic fashion.

Playoff struggles continued for Paul George at times, but when you look at the roster, they should’ve made it deeper into the postseason. Leonard, the 2019 NBA Finals MVP, was the centerpiece of the team with George. Off the bench it had probably the two best bench scorers with Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, who both averaged over 18 points per game in the regular season.

Other role players such as Patrick Beverley, Marcus Morris and Ivica Zubac rounded out the core. Out of those players, Morris is the only one not under contract.

Ty Lue, who was on the coaching staff under recently fired Doc Rivers last season, takes over as head coach.

Yes, the team struggled during the playoffs in the bubble, but the amount of talent it has is too heavy to ever count them out. The Clippers have the second-best odds on bet365 at 9-to-2 odds.

3. Boston Celtics at 12-to-1
Gordon Hayward suffered another injury in the bubble, which forced him to miss a majority of the playoffs for the Celtics. The team fell short of an NBA finals appearance after falling to the Heat in six games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Jayson Tatum emerged as one of the better scorers in the league and Jaylen Brown continues to improve his game each year. Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart have both shown they can be the floor general for the team depending on the situation and matchup. That being said, there is one major problem the Celtics need to address and that is Hayward’s contract.

Hayward can take his player option this year, which is scheduled for just under $35 million and I don’t see why he wouldn’t do that. The Celtics need to try and get Hayward to reconstruct his contract because to be brutally honest, he is not worth that money anymore since his gruesome injury in his first game as a Celtic.

If they can get that sorted out, the Celtics could use some more money to after a more all-around big man to complete their starting five. That has been the missing piece in Boston for a few years.
The Westgate Sportsbook has Boston at 12-to-1 to take home their 18th title in its history and with the proper offseason moves that is a real possibility.

2. Los Angeles Lakers at 4.5-to-1
After capturing the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy, the Lakers are an easy to choice to have high on our list.

Any team with LeBron James is always in the conversation for an NBA title. Pair that with an all-star like Anthony Davis and you are an immediate threat even without the right role players. Davis announced he is opting out but plans to resign with the Lakers during the offseason to continue his run with LeBron.

One key loss the Lakers may be forced to deal with is Rajon Rondo. Rondo seems to want to test the waters in free agency and as many saw in the playoffs, when LeBron wasn’t on the floor, Rondo was the general on offense.

The Lakers also still have Kyle Kuzma, Avery Bradley and Danny Green under contract still who have all become “three and D” type players, maybe with the exception of Kuzma who has more of an offensive arsenal than Bradley and Green.

So far, they are the favorite to win it all next year but they aren’t at the top of my list. Unibet lists the reigning champs at 4.5-to-1 odds.

1. Denver Nuggets at 22-to-1
The Denver Nuggets were similar to the Miami Heat in that they exceeded expectations. The Nuggets fought their way to a Western Conference Finals appearance where they lost to the eventual champs.

One thing some people let slip their minds is that they did all of that without one of their starters, Will Barton.

This offseason will be crucial for the Nuggets as they will aim to bring back Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee who are both free agents. These two played key roles for the team and the Nuggets will also hope that Jerami Grant picks up his player option.

The core of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris are all still under contract with a potential fourth becoming a part of that core. Michael Porter Jr. really showed out in the playoffs when he was needed the most. He demonstrated his skillset that the team was hoping for when they draft him.

If they can bring back those last few pieces, the Nuggets are again a force to be reckoned with and my favorite pick for the value to win it all next season at 22-to-1 on bet365.
Top 10 teams to win the 2021 NBA Finals is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
Dan Ippolito

As Casino City's associate editor, Dan produces and edits all of our weekly newsletters, and writes about the gaming industry for our websites and the GPWA Times Magazine. Dan graduated from Marist College in 2017 with a degree in Communications and a concentration in Sports. Email him at daniel@casinocity.com, or follow him at @casinocity_dan on Twitter.
Dan Ippolito
As Casino City's associate editor, Dan produces and edits all of our weekly newsletters, and writes about the gaming industry for our websites and the GPWA Times Magazine. Dan graduated from Marist College in 2017 with a degree in Communications and a concentration in Sports. Email him at daniel@casinocity.com, or follow him at @casinocity_dan on Twitter.