Led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat to capture their 17th NBA Championship, tied for the most along with the Boston Celtics. James is signed through 2022, and it’s expected that Davis will ink a long-term deal within the next few weeks, but next year’s supporting cast remains very much up in the air.
Never the less, the best sports handicappers have the Lakers as early +400 favorites to repeat as NBA champions in 2021. Should they accomplish this, they would become the 14th team in NBA history to win back-to-back titles; with the latest being the Golden State Warriors. It would also mark the second time James won back-to-back, having achieved that with the Miami Heat.
Who will stand in their way? Who else might challenge?
Los Angeles Clippers
After a disastrous playoff collapse to the Denver Nuggets, the Los Angeles Clippers fired long-time head coach Doc Rivers, and are rumored to be targeting Tyronn Lue as a replacement. For the Clippers, it’s their second blown 3-1 game lead in the playoffs in the last six seasons. This one had to sting a bit more, given the high expectations that ownership had for the team this year.
With Paul George expected to resign, and Kawhi Leonard inked long term, no matter who general manager Michael Winger settles on to coach, the Clippers will return a roster that is as good as any in the league. Depth was their trademark in 2020 and it will be no different in the upcoming season. Expect Montrezl Harrell and Landry Shamet to move into the starting lineup, and Lou Williams, Ivica Zubac, JaMychal Green to anchor a solid second unit.
Given all that, bookmakers have the Clippers just behind the Lakers at +450.
Giannis Anteokounmpo is the reigning back-to-back NBA MVP and with free agency on the horizon, it’s expected that the Milwaukee Bucks will go all-in this off-season to get over the top in the Eastern Conference. The NBA draft is set for November 18, and free agency likely to follow shortly after. It’s expected that the Bucks will look to improve their frontcourt.
With little cap space, the Bucks will need to get creative if they’re looking to land Paul Millsap or Serge Ibaka. Both are likely looking for big long term contracts and there will be no shortage of suitors. Given that, the odds are that Milwaukee ends up targeting someone like the 25-year-old Spaniard, Juan Hernangómez, or one of the two Clippers versatile two-way players; free-agent forwards JaMychal Green or Patrick Patterson.
Oddsmakers have the Bucks as the favorites in the East and at +600 to win the NBA title.
The Boston Celtics have reached the Eastern Conference Finals in three of the last four seasons, but have failed to advance each time. Boston heads into the offseason with some interesting cards to play. They will likely return 11-14 players from last season, but where it gets interesting is at the NBA Draft. The Celtics have four draft picks, including three in the first round, giving them a lot of flexibility.
Boston could trade up in the draft, trade for future picks, trade for a position player, or simply draft as scheduled. Though it’s likely we see some type of combination play from general manager Danny Ainge, don’t rule out a big move. Ainge is not afraid to trade anyone, and there are rumors floating around that Marcus Smart could be packaged with picks to bring in an elite player.
The Celtics have not made an NBA Finals since the 2009-10 season. They’re +1200 heading into 2021.