NBA Divisional Futures – Betting on 2020-21 NBA Division Title Winners

nba-image-1

The 2020-21 NBA season may be getting underway a couple of months later than usual, but basketball fans and bettors should be happy that we’re getting a season at all. The NBA managed to finish the stalled 2019-20 campaign after a four-month hiatus earlier this fall, which means some teams will have only had a couple of months off between seasons. Others, however, haven’t hit the hardwood since March.

The league is planning for the upcoming season to take place in local markets, albeit without fans in attendance early on. The schedule has been shortened from 82 games to 72 during the regular season so that the NBA can have its docket wrapped up by the time next summer’s Olympics get underway.

With the draft and the vast majority of free agency already over with, teams are scheduled to begin training camps this week. Preseason action starts less than two weeks from now, with regular-season games tipping off shortly before Christmas. This will likey be another wildly unpredictable year in the Association for a variety of reasons.

BetOnline is offering a number of ways to bet on the NBA before the new season gets going. The site’s oddsmakers have handicapped the field in each of the league’s six divisions. Winning a division title in the NBA is almost meaningless, but there is typically solid betting value to be found in the odds.

Which teams look like solid value bets?

Lakers Narrow Favorites in Pacific

  • Los Angeles Lakers (+100)
  • Los Angeles Clippers (+175)
  • Golden State Warriors (+750)
  • Phoenix Suns (+850)
  • Sacramento Kings (+6600)

The Pacific Division is quickly becoming one of the deepest in basketball. The reigning champion Lakers are primed to begin their quest for back-to-back titles. LA has reloaded this offseason with additions like Marc Gasol, Dennis Schroder, and Montrezl Harrell. Assuming LeBron James doesn’t suffer any sort of age-related decline and Anthony Davis stays healthy and plays like the defensive player of the year, you can pretty easily argue that the Lakers are better than they were last year. That’s obviously a scary thought for the rest of the league looking to knock LA off its perch.

The Clippers were a trendy pick to win it all last season before suffering a second-round flameout against the Nuggets in the playoffs. Doc Rivers was promptly fired for his efforts and replaced on the bench by Ty Lue.

So far this winter, the Clips haven’t really done much to keep pace with their intracity rivals. LAC acquired a playmaking guard in Luke Kennard, while Serge Ibaka came over from Toronto. Ibaka will be an upgrade over Harrell, but LAC’s ultimate fate hinges on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George carrying them during the postseason.

BetOnline has the Clippers at over/under 46.5 wins, with the Lakers at 47.5.

The Warriors and Suns will try to keep pace. Golden State will get Steph Curry back, but the brutal Klay Thompson Achilles injury will likely prevent the Dubs from making another run at the title this season. The Warriors will undoubtedly improve upon last year’s misery simply by virtue of having Curry back healthy, but the additions of Kelly Oubre and rookie James Wiseman should help.

Phoenix, who went a perfect 8-0 during the seeding games in the bubble, made one of the splashiest moves of the offseason by plucking Chris Paul out of Oklahoma City. CP3 showed last season that he still has plenty left in the tank, and his leadership should help the Suns end their long playoff drought. This is a team that hasn’t made a postseason appearance since 2010. That streak will come to an end this year.

The Pacific will come down to the LA teams, however. Phoenix and Golden State are excellent bets to make the playoffs, but neither carries much value in terms of winning the division. Getting the Lakers at even-money is solid value considering this may well be the best team in the entire league. The Clippers at +175 make for a viable upside option, especially if the Lakers decide to take their foot off the gas during the latter stages of the regular season.

If you’re looking for a safe bet, take the Lakers. If you’re looking for a little more profit potential, roll the dice on the Clips. Golden State and Phoenix aren’t legitimate sleepers, unfortunately.

Pacific Safe Bet –Lakers (+100)

Pacific Value Bet –Clippers (+175)

Denver Leads Hotly-Contested Northwest

  • Denver Nuggets (+150)
  • Utah Jazz (+210)
  • Portland Trail Blazers (+250)
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (+1800)
  • Minnesota Timberwolves (+2200)

Denver made the Western Conference Finals last season, which was a massive step for a franchise that has been looking to climb the staircase for quite a while now. The Nuggets made it as far as they did thanks to a godlike performance out of Jamal Murray during their playoff run. Can Murray replicate that success next season? Or was that a flash in the pan?

Denver was dealt a blow when Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee both left for Detroit. The team can try to plug those frontcourt gaps with an aging Paul Millsap and JaMychal Green, but Denver’s depth is questionable at this point. Can Michael Porter Jr. take the next step? Can Will Barton stay healthy? What is Gary Harris at this point? Those gray areas plus the aforementioned Murray question marks will make the Nuggets an interesting team to watch.

The Jazz are a team that hasn’t done anything this offseason. The return of Bojan Bogdanovic, who missed the restart with an injury, will help round out Utah’s offense. The Jazz also got a late-season boost from Mike Conley, who looked lost for the first chunk of the campaign. Can Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell continue to coexist? The Jazz look like a solid regular-season team, but they haven’t yet looked like a team capable of making a deep playoff run.

The most intriguing team, by far, is the Blazers. Portland snuck into the playoffs thanks to some bubble heroics from Damian Lillard along with the return of Jusuf Nurkic. The Blazers shrewdly added a solid two-way wing in Robert Covington this offseason while bringing Carmelo Anthony, Rodney Hood, and Enes Kanter back.

Portland is going to struggle defensively given their personnel, but it would be a surprise if this team had to fight for a playoff spot again. Assuming they can stay healthy, the Blazers look like an outstanding value option at NBA betting sites to win the Northwest at +250.

Oklahoma City is pulling the plug, while Minnesota’s rebuild continues. The Timberwolves have a solid core featuring plenty of young talent, but they don’t look ready to make a leap in the West just yet.

In the end, I think this division comes down to Denver or Portland. Given the way the odds shake out, I would rather take a stab at the Blazers’ +250 odds.

Northwest Safe Bet –Nuggets (+150)

Northwest Value Bet –Trail Blazers (+250)

Will Dallas Overtake Houston in the Southwest?

  • Dallas Mavericks (-175)
  • Houston Rockets (+325)
  • New Orleans Pelicans (+700)
  • Memphis Grizzlies (+1400)
  • San Antonio Spurs (+2200)

The Rockets have had a rough offseason with the losses of Mike D’Antoni and Daryl Morey. Russell Westbrook and James Harden also both reportedly asked for trades, but it doesn’t appear as though the Rockets are ready to give up just yet. At this point, it’s incredibly unlikely that either former MVP gets moved before next season gets underway.

Houston also lost Robert Covington, but the team made one of the most underrated moves of the offseason with the signing of Christian Wood. Wood gives the Rockets a much-needed big man capable of giving the team’s offense more variety than it had a season ago.

One would imagine both Harden and Westbrook will change their tunes if the Rockets are able to win games. This team has won the Southwest Division in each of the last three seasons. While a title has continued to elude Harden, this team still has one of the better rosters in the Western Conference. Former All-Star DeMarcus Cousins will try to revive his career in Houston, while there’s plenty of depth here at every position.

Dallas is the popular bet thanks to Luka Doncic. Doncic, who is also the odds-on favorite to win MVP, is arguably the most exciting young player in the entire league. The 21-year-old came close to averaging a triple-double last season while leading the Mavs to one of the most efficient offensive seasons in NBA history.

The Mavericks have tried to upgrade on the defensive end of the floor this offseason with the acquisitions of Josh Richardson, James Johnson, and Josh Green. Kristaps Porzingis’ durability is always a concern, but if healthy it’s easy to see why this team is so well-regarded.

The Spurs appear destined for a rebuild. The Pelicans have all of the young talent in the world, and it will be up to new head coach Stan Van Gundy to try and harness it. The Grizzlies were perhaps the biggest surprise in the league last season after making the playoffs, but Memphis is a team many have pegged for some regression. None of these teams is a particularly realistic threat to Dallas or Houston atop the Southwest.

I really love the value on the Rockets at +325 to win the division. There’s a lot of justifiable hype around the Mavs, but I still think Houston is the more complete team overall. I don’t see much reason to bet on the Mavericks, especially at the current -175 odds. Either wait for Dallas’ odds to drop, or take a stab at Houston as a value.

Southwest Value Bet –Rockets (+325)

Heat Heavy Favorites in Southeast

  • Miami Heat (-300)
  • Atlanta Hawks (+550)
  • Charlotte Hornets (+1200)
  • Orlando Magic (+1400)
  • Washington Wizards (+1600)

The Southeast Division looks like a terrible one. We have the Miami Heat listed as massive -300 favorites to win it following their unexpected run to the NBA Finals. The Atlanta Hawks, who have been one of the more active teams in the league this offseason, are now second-favorites at +550.

Miami has added a couple of solid role players in Moe Harkless and Avery Bradley, but this is otherwise the same team we saw a season ago. Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro look like two of the most promising young players in the league, while Jimmy Butler will continue in his quest for his first ring. It’s easy to see why the Heat are favored.

Atlanta is a wild card. Trae Young is phenomenal, but he’s still one of the worst defenders in the league. The team has a solid crop of young players in De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, and Kevin Huerter, but where will their minutes go? Those guys are at risk of being buried now that the Hawks have added Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo, and Kris Dunn to the mix this offseason.

The Hawks have plenty of talent, but they have the feel of a team that will take time to gel once the games start. Atlanta is among the offseason winners, but I’m not at all convinced that this team is ready to dethrone Miami.

The Magic look like the same team we saw last season, albeit without the injured Jonathan Isaac. Orlando has made the playoffs in back-to-back years, but I would be surprised if they made a third straight trip this season. Washington had one of the more underrated offenses in basketball last season, and John Wall is finally set to return. While I do think the Wizards are generally undervalued by oddsmakers, picking them to come out and win the division feels a little too optimistic.

Charlotte is a solid value to win the division at +1200. The surprising addition of Gordon Hayward gives this team some unexpected legitimacy. He’s a much-needed scoring option to a roster that already featured a solid collection of young talent between Devonte’ Graham, Miles Bridges, and PJ Washington.

The Heat are the obvious bet. If you’re willing to absorb some risk, I don’t mind a flier on the Hornets’ current +1200 odds. Charlotte is a team that could raise some eyebrows in 2021.

Southeast Safe Bet –Heat (-300)

Southeast Value Bet –Hornets (+1200)

No Drama in the Central

  • Milwaukee Bucks (-4000)
  • Indiana Pacers (+1000)
  • Chicago Bulls (+5000)
  • Detroit Pistons (+10000)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers (+50000)

The Bucks may have failed in their quest to lure Bogdan Bogdanovic to the Midwest, but that won’t impact their chances to win the Central Division. Milwaukee has been the NBA’s best team in back-to-back seasons. As long as Giannis Antetokounmpo is around, this team will stay near the top of the league.

The Bucks improved by adding Jrue Holiday via trade. Signing Bobby Portis, DJ Augustin, Bryn Forbes, and Torrey Craig won’t hurt their depth, either. Assuming Giannis stays healthy, it’s very difficult to imagine any team other than the Bucks winning this division.

The only team with a puncher’s chance is the Pacers, but I would have liked them much more if they had managed to pull off a trade for Gordon Hayward. Charlotte ultimately beat Indy to the punch, which leaves the Pacers looking no different than the team we saw last season. Improved injury luck will help, but they’re not finishing ahead of Milwaukee.

There is just no value at all in betting the Central Division.

The Only Bet –Bucks (-4000)

Top-Heavy Atlantic

  • Brooklyn Nets (+200)
  • Boston Celtics (+210)
  • Philadelphia 76ers (+350)
  • Toronto Raptors (+360)
  • New York Knicks (+15000)

Poor Knicks. Not only is this one of the most pathetic teams in basketball, but they will also be up against the most stacked division in the league. You can make a compelling argument that each of the other four teams in the Atlantic is a realistic championship contender. If you’re even considering betting on New York to win the division, I recommend lighting that money on fire instead.

The Raptors have lost Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol this offseason, but the team has done a solid job of replenishing its frontcourt with the additions of Aron Baynes and Alex Len. Fred VanVleet is back, as well. Given how proficient the Raps have been in terms of developing talent in recent years, you can never fully count them out. While they’re not the worst bet to win the division at +360, I’m a bit concerned about their chances of struggling defensively without Ibaka and Gasol.

The Nets are +200 favorites with Kevin Durant set to return from injury. Brooklyn has a deep roster around their two superstars, as well. Steve Nash obviously isn’t a proven coaching commodity, but talent tends to win out in this league. Assuming Durant hasn’t lost a step, the Nets are a compelling division favorite.

Boston may take a step back. The loss of Gordon Hayward leaves the Celtics extremely thin on the wings behind Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Tristan Thompson will help fortify the frontcourt, but overall depth is a serious concern. Thompson and Jeff Teague are the only proven commodities on the bench at this point. Aaron Nesmith can shoot, but we’ll see whether a rookie is capable of playing real minutes on a wannabe contender.

Philadelphia at +350 looks extremely appealing. Daryl Morey has rebuilt the roster around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. By adding legitimate shooters in Danny Green and Seth Curry, the Sixers finally appear to have a functioning roster. This team will always go as far as Simmons and Embiid can carry them, but the supporting cast on this team actually makes sense now.

The Sixers will surprise people this season. They’re far from a lock to win a stacked division, but the +350 odds on Philadelphia to do just that are extremely attackable. The 76ers are an excellent bet here, both in terms of safety and upside.

Top-Heavy Atlantic Bet –76ers (+350)

Taylor Smith

Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu …

View all posts by Taylor Smith