While the start of the NFL season is currently the dominant story in the sports world, we’re also inching closer to the return of the NBA with the opening tip just over six weeks away.
The Association is preparing to embark on one of its most wide-open seasons in recent memory, with the Golden State Warriors aiming to reinvent themselves and the proliferation of new dynamic duos across the league. It all adds up to a high level of anticipation for the season, and with the accessibility of sports betting at an all-time high, there’s another bit of spice added to the mix.
With that in mind, we thought we would take some time to look at some bets to win the NBA title that could deliver some value in the upcoming season. With the Warriors looming over the landscape the past few years, some of the fun of wagering on the league champion was lost. This season, it’s back in a big way.
There are still a handful of strong favorites (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, and Houston Rockets), but none of those teams come off as a lock. If you have a big bankroll or simply want to take your best shot at a winner regardless of payout, that group gives you an attractive pool to choose from.
But if you’re looking to snag a bigger payout with less of an investment or want the added bonus of identifying a darkhorse months in advance, there are some intriguing options in the next tier of contenders. Considering the risk and uncertainty you’re assuming by placing a bet that won’t close for months, it’s nice to have at least +1000 odds backing you up.
So, with all that in mind, here are four teams that can provide value when wagering on next season’s NBA champion.
Utah Jazz (+1300)
Utah claimed the five seed in the West a season ago, falling to the Rockets four games to one in the opening round of the playoffs. Anchored by rising star Donovan Mitchell and defensive stalwart Rudy Gobert, the Jazz quietly had one of the best offseasons in the league.
While the league was understandably focused on the movements of players like Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Paul George, and Jimmy Butler, among others, Utah worked heavily in the next tier of player movement.
They added star point guard Mike Conley from the Grizzlies, arguably one of the most underrated players in the league. The veteran floor general averaged a career-high 21.1 points last season to go with 6.4 assists.
The Jazz followed that move by acquiring another veteran coming off a career year when they nabbed former Pacers forward Bojan Bogdanovic. He averaged 18 points and 4.1 rebounds while shooting 42.5 percent from beyond the arc. While the additions of Conley and Bogdanovic may lack the flash of some of the other transactions across the league, they are among the savviest of the summer.
Utah rounded things out with the additions of Ed Davis, Jeff Green, and Emmanuel Mudiay. The Jazz added veteran leadership to go with their young stars, possess a potent backcourt, and sport a defense anchored by the Defensive Player of the Year in Gobert. They’ve positioned themselves to be a factor in the West and will be a team no opponent looks forward to facing.
Denver Nuggets (+2300)
The Nuggets established themselves in the West hierarchy last season, claiming the two seed before coming up on the short end of an epic series with the Portland Trail Blazers in the conference semifinals.
Do-it-all big man Nikola Jokic established himself as one of the best players in the league, averaging 20.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 7.8 assists and finishing fourth in MVP voting.photo via rappler.com
Jokic paired with Jamal Murray to give the Nuggets a formidable inside-outside combo. The success of the season earned Murray a five-year, $170 million contract extension, setting the tone for an offseason in which Denver elected to focus on what they already had rather than what they didn’t.
There was speculation that Denver would move on from Paul Millsap, but the Nuggets ultimately elected to bring him back. In doing so, they retained a quintessential “glue guy,” a player that plays his role, provides leadership and is key on the defensive end.
Denver did do a bit of adding, acquiring Jerami Grant from the Thunder. Grant is coming off a career-high in scoring with 13.2 points per game while shooting 39.2 percent from three. He gives the Nuggets an upgrade on the wings.
The Nuggets epitomized the “improving on the margins” strategy this summer, and for a team that had already claimed the second spot in the conference, that should be enough to keep them in contention.
Portland Trail Blazers (+3500)
Here we start to get into some long shots to take home the title, but it’s also where we start to get some great value. These are the same Blazers that were the three seed in last year’s Western Conference playoffs, and the ones that took down the aforementioned Nuggets in the conference semifinals before running out of steam against the Warriors.
It all starts with the electric backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, who each averaged over 20 points per game last season. Despite not getting involved in the big-name sweepstakes over the summer, Portland had a whirlwind offseason. But Lillard and McCollum remain the catalysts, and that’s a great jumping-off point.
Speaking of a whirlwind offseason, let’s start with the departures. Portland lost Enes Kanter, Al-Farouq Aminu, Seth Curry, Jake Layman, Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard, and Moe Harkless, all of whom were contributors to some degree a season ago. That’s a lot of subtractions.
So, how did the Blazers replenish? They added a pair of intriguing frontcourt players in veteran Pau Gasol and Hassan Whiteside. They added Kent Bazemore, getting some versatility on the wing, and re-signed Rodney Hood and added a veteran forward in Anthony Tolliver. Portland also added Nassir Little, who was once considered a lottery talent, in the draft at pick 25.
The roster turnover is cause for concern, but if the new pieces can click the Blazers could make noise with Lillard and McCollum leading the push.
Indiana Pacers (+5000)
The 2018-19 Pacers were one of the surprises of the season before Victor Oladipo went down with an injury as they were hanging with the big dogs in the Eastern Conference. They responded valiantly to the injury, remaining in the hunt for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Ultimately, they slipped to the fifth spot before losing to the Celtics in the first round.
Like the Blazers, the Pacers experienced a lot of roster turnover. We mentioned Bogdanovic’s departure to Utah, while Thaddeus Young is off to the Bulls, Tyreke Evans was banished from the league, and Darren Collison abruptly retired. That group contains three of the team’s top six scorers from a season ago.
However, the Pacers navigated things well. They started by shocking the league when they came out of nowhere to acquire Malcolm Brogdon from the Bucks. The former Rookie of the Year has improved in each of his three seasons in the league and shot 42.6 percent from three last year. He will help replace some of the lost scoring as well as serving to keep the offense flowing while Indiana awaits the return of Oladipo.Indiana hopes Malcolm Brogdon will help keep it among the top teams in the East. (TroyTaormina/USA Today Sports)
The Pacers also brought in T.J. Warren from the Suns, who had injury concerns but has also put up decent numbers and can help offensively as well.
Other additions include Jeremy Lamb and T.J. McConnell, who should help bolster the second unit.
As far as Oladipo is concerned, all indications are that his rehab is going well. Still, it could be until January when he makes a return to the court, and perhaps even longer until he returns to form. It also will take some time for things to click with all the roster changes, but Indiana has the makings of a team that could put it together at the right time. The other contenders in the East have their share of questions (loss of Brogdon for the Bucks, offensive fit in Philly, Kemba Walker in, Kyrie Irving and Al Horford out in Boston, no KD in Brooklyn), and it’s not inconceivable for the Pacers to hang with the pack and make a late run. If they do, there’s decent money to be made.
Josh Naso aka The Silver Fox has a love for all things sports that borders on disorder. Here, he aims to share his thoughts on and passion for those sports with you.