The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets seem to be on a crash course to meet in the 2021 NBA Finals and for good reason. LeBron James leads his defending champion Lakers into battle each and every night, and whenever you have LeBron on your team, you almost have to be the favorite to win it all. That is just where the Lakers currently sit right now on DraftKings Sportsbook at +260 to repeat as champions of the NBA.
Meanwhile, in the Eastern Conference, the Nets have compiled themselves a “Big-3.” With the combination of superstars Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving, the Nets are poised to break through the weaker East and find themselves in the Finals with three of the greatest isolation players of all time. They can score at will on just about anyone, and their defense has been much better as of late. There’s a reason they are right behind the Lakers in title odds at +370. This is a very dangerous team that will face weaker competition to get to the top.
With all of that being said, are we destined for a Lakers – Nets NBA Finals in 2021? The odds say yes, but as we saw last year, you never really know what is going to happen. Nobody could have predicted the Miami Heat to make the NBA Finals, but there they were. There is always an underdog or two that will be looking to make a run. Let’s take a look at some of the teams that could make a run at these two favorites.
The Clippers sit at third right now behind the Lakers and Nets, and they do so even though they are extremely talented. “The Klaw,” Kawhi Leonard, is one of the best players in the entire league and has been for years now. Currently averaging 26 PPG, he is an excellent scorer from every part of the floor and plays some of the best defense in the NBA. Paul George also makes his home with the Clips. The former superstar may not be the primary guy like he used to be in Indiana with the Pacers, but he still puts up some great numbers every night and is a great Robin to Leonard’s Batman. These two are the foundation of the franchise, but they are surrounded by a fantastic supporting cast of veterans such as Serge Ibaka, Marcus Morris, Lou Williams, Nicholas Batum, and Patrick Beverley. This is a veteran team that is very talented and has been in big games before. Do not underestimate their value here at +520. Almost any other season, they would be favorites.
Philadelphia 76ers +1500
Here is the team that no-one really expected to be THIS good, and is capable of being the Miami Heat team from 2020. C Joel Embiid has simply been on another level this season. When you take a look at his stats, you will probably have to close your eyes for three seconds and look again. He is averaging an incredible 30 points and 11 rebounds per game, while also shooting lights out from the floor at 54%, 39% from the 3-pt line, and 85% from the charity stripe. The 76ers have the best record in the Eastern Conference right now, and they should remain there for the rest of the season. With a supporting cast that includes Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris, this is some exceptional value for a team that is currently leading their Conference and has one of the favorites for MVP at the heart of their team. At +1500, they are certainly worth a look.
Boston Celtics +2400
At +2400, this is where we get to the long-shot candidates to make a run. Coming into this year, expectations were high for a Celtics squad that had just lost to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals in the bubble last year. With stars like the up-and-coming Jayson Tatum, who many believe could be the next superstar in the league, Boston figured to be consistently around the top of the East. Fast forward to today, and you have a squad that is sitting with .500 record at 15-15, coming off an absolutely brutal loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, and hasn’t looked like a title contender this season. Let’s pause for a minute. While the team has been disappointing so far, this is still a team that is exceptionally talented. Jaylon Brown has taken his game to another level this season and is in the mix for NBA’s Most Improved Player. Kemba Walker has struggled mightily so far this season, but he has plenty of time to turn that around. He is one of the better point guards in the league, and I have confidence he will get better as the year goes on. Where the Celtics need to improve is in the middle. They simply cannot defend bigs, and they need a scorer under the basket. GM Danny Ainge has already come out and said his roster is not good enough to win a title. This makes me think he is going to do something big at the trade deadline to improve the team. If they add another piece and can figure this out, +2400 is a great value.
Denver Nuggets +2400
I am not just putting this in here because I have a future on the Nuggets, which I most certainly do. I’m including Denver because they are still winning games and haven’t even gotten the best out of Jamal Murray yet. Nikola Jokic has been a revelation for them this season, eviscerating his opposition and seemingly doing whatever he wants down low. The Joker has pretty much carried the team so far to where they are, which is a 16-13 record and still in contention for the West. If they can do that with one man dominating games, what could they accomplish with two? Murray was the star of the show last year for Denver, leading them to a massive upset series win over the Clippers in the bubble. They would lose to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, but they proved that they could hang with the big boys. Jokic is even better this year than he was last, and Murray hasn’t been on the level he played at during that run. However, he just had a pretty incredible 50-point game the other night, and it could be the spark that sets him off again. This is another value pick at +2400, so it’s worth a flyer on a team that is this good.