With the NBA set to return to action on July 30, it’s time for bettors to start sizing up potential NBA Finals matchups. It’s no secret that Milwaukee, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Los Angeles Clippers are the top three favorites to win this year’s NBA title, but how will it all play out?
It’s been 45 years since the Bucks have even made it to a final. They lost to Boston in the 1974 NBA Finals and haven’t been back since. With a healthy Giannis Antetokounmpo, it’s hard to fathom the Bucks not playing for the title after missing out last year.
With that said, here’s a look at three futures bets bets for this year’s NBA Finals matchups. Two are not that surprising, but the third just might be the best value wager of the bunch.
Futures Bets: Bucks vs. Lakers (+220)
They are the two best teams with arguably the best players – Antetokounmpo and James – in the game. Milwaukee (53-12) and the Lakers (49-14) each had the best record in their respective conference and, until someone says otherwise, they will remain the two best teams in the NBA.
The long layoff has given Antetokounmpo ample time to recover from the knee sprain that caused him to miss two games just before the league suspended the season on March 12. The Bucks star’s numbers are actually up from last year’s MVP season and Milwaukee leads the NBA in a number of statistical categories.
The Bucks are the league-leader in points per game (118.6), defensive rating (101.6), rebounds per game (51.7), and several more. To take down Milwaukee in the East will be difficult.
In the West, the Lakers have a 5.5-game lead over the second-place Clippers (44-20). Anthony Davis, the Lakers leading scorer, played the entire first half of the season with shoulder pain. The break should help. Remember, the Lakers had the best road record in the league (26-6), so playing in Orlando shouldn’t be a problem.
The Lakers rank in the top-five in offensive rating (112.6) defensive rating (105.5), total net rating (7.1), and plus-minus (7.4). With James and Davis leading the way, it would be surprising not to see the Lakers win the West.
Bucks-Lakers is the safe bet at +220.
Futures Bets: Bucks vs. Clippers (+300)
The only team in the West with a winning record against the Lakers this season just happens to be their city rival – the Clippers. Kawhi Leonard and company have beaten the Lakers in two of three games so far this season.
The problem the Clippers had during the season was health. Leonard and Paul George missed a combined 35 games and Patrick Beverley and Landry Shamet each missed at least 17 games. The break caused by the coronavirus was just what the Clippers needed.
L.A. is also a top-five team in offensive rating (112.9) and defensive rating (101.6). The only team better on defense in the West than the Clippers is the Lakers. It makes sense that it will be a Clippers-Lakers Western Conference final. The Clippers are the biggest threat to the Lakers championship hopes, which is why a Bucks-Clippers final priced at +300 makes sense.
Futures Bets: Raptors vs. Lakers (+2100)
Sure, fans would love a Celtic-Lakers final, which is given +1450 odds by the way, but some news out of Boston plays a big role in that decision. Boston star Jayson Tatum, who is averaging 23.6 points per game this season, was reportedly considering not playing the rest of the season.
Whether he does or not, the ongoing media coverage is going to play a role in how well Boston regroups and continues to play this season. For that reason, the better bet – and one with tons more value – is on Toronto to win the East and face the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
Yes, the Raptors are without Kawhi Leonard, but they may be even better than a year ago. Pascal Siakam (23.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.6 apg) has emerged into a true star. The backcourt of Kyle Lowry (19.7 ppg, 7.7 apg) and Fred VanVleet (17.6 ppg, 6.6 apg) is not only outstanding on the offensive end, but they are also two of the best on-ball defenders in the league.
Toronto has a full five players that average at least 16 points per game (Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka are the others). The bench is the best in basketball. The Raptors get over 40 points and 20 rebounds per game from their bench players.
As good as they are on offense, Toronto is the best in the NBA on defense. They give up the fewest points per game (106.5) which has led to the league’s second-highest point differential (+6.5). Toronto is also one of six teams in the NBA with 20 home wins and 20 road wins. That means the Raptors should not have trouble with playing the remainder of the season on Orlando.
It’s a bit of a longshot at +2100, but Toronto beat Milwaukee in the conference finals a year ago. The Raptors have the experience, the guard play, and the depth to get to the NBA Finals and face the Western Conference champ – L.A. Lakers.