Offseason Moves Create Value for Trail Blazers & Sixers in NBA Futures Markets
In this article, I am going to discuss an NBA team from each conference who can look back at their 2020 offseason and truly say they came out better on the other end. And when I say better, I mean specifically for this upcoming 2020-21 NBA season. Did their moves increase their odds to contend for a title? I could talk ad nauseam about salary cap sheets, future NBA draft picks, pick swaps, etc., and how teams are set up for many years down the line. But honestly, that isn’t really what this space is for.
Also Read: 2021 NBA Rookie of the Year Odds & Bets
We want to know what the on-court product is going to look like this year and how we might be able to leverage it for DFS and/or NBA betting purposes. So as I discuss each team, I will also recommend some potential NBA futures bets if you are looking for a long-term sweat as the season progresses.
Before I dive in, I want to briefly look at odds to win the 2021 NBA Finals and discuss the current betting favorites, the Los Angeles Lakers.
2021 NBA Finals Futures Odds
The 2021 NBA Finals odds referenced below are accurate as of Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, all courtesy of BetMGM.
- Los Angeles Lakers +300
- Milwaukee Bucks +550
- Brooklyn Nets +500
- Los Angeles Clippers +650
- Golden State Warriors +1000
- Boston Celtics +1400
- Miami Heat +1600
- Toronto Raptors +1800
- Denver Nuggets +1800
- Dallas Mavericks +2500
- Philadelphia 76ers +2500
- Houston Rockets +3500
- Portland Trail Blazers +4000
- Utah Jazz +4000
- Phoenix Suns +5000
- New Orleans Pelicans +6500
- Indiana Pacers +10000
- Atlanta Hawks +15000
- Memphis Grizzlies +15000
- Oklahoma City Tjunder +15000
- Chicago Bulls +20000
- Minnesota Timberwolves +20000
- Orlando Magic +20000
- Washington Wizards +20000
- Sacramento Kings +25000
- San Antonio Spurs +25000
- Charlotte Hornets +50000
- Cleveland Cavaliers +50000
- Detroit Pistons +50000
- New York Knicks +50000
Los Angeles Lakers
The general consensus is that the Lakers had the best offseason in the league, and I certainly don’t disagree with that. Even though they lost Rajon Rondo, Danny Green, Avery Bradley, Dwight Howard, and JaVale McGee, they were able to retain Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Markieff Morris while also adding Dennis Schroder, Wesley Matthews, Montrezl Harrell, and Marc Gasol. That is a net win in my book, and they also go in to the 2020-21 season as defending champs with the most stable situation amongst all of the “title favorites”.
What do I mean by that? Well, look no further than the next two “favorites” behind the Lakers, the Clippers and the Bucks. The way the season ended for the Clippers brought up a ton of question marks regarding the locker room, which may or may not have led to the head coaching change (Doc out, Lue in). As for the Bucks, they have a Giannis-sized elephant in the room regarding his looming super-max extension. Is he going to sign it before the season and stay in Milwaukee? Was it the Milwaukee front office that screwed up the premature Bogdan Bogdanovic sign-and-trade? If it was, does that negatively affect their chances of keeping Giannis? The LeBron-led Lakers just don’t have these kinds of questions heading into the season.
All of that to say that the Lakers are the title favorites as the 2020-21 season approaches and for good reason. And if you want to bet on them to win the title (I would not argue with that at all) and are looking for the best odds, I see them at +300 over on DraftKings and BetMGM.
But honestly, what fun is that!? I want to look for some teams/players that we can argue are still being slightly undervalued by the oddsmakers and could result in bigger paydays. So without further ado, let’s look at the offseason moves for a few teams and see what value we can find in the sports betting world.
Portland Trail Blazers
Key Offseason Additions: Robert Covington, Derrick Jones, Enes Kanter, Harry Giles
Key Offseason Losses: Trevor Ariza, Hassan Whiteside (still a free agent but highly unlikely he comes back with the additions of Kanter and Giles), Mario Hezonja
The additions for Portland may seem minor on the surface, but it is certainly an upgrade when you also factor in what is going out the door. Furthermore, the positions that they upgraded are what I am mainly focused on, mainly out there on the wing.
By the time the bubble games started, the Blazers just had a glaring hole on the wing. Ariza did not travel to Orlando for the bubble. Rodney Hood tore his Achilles around the start of December. So when the seeding games began, it was basically a mix of Carmelo Anthony (there is no way he can guard the three position at this point in his career), Gary Trent (more of a natural two), and Mario Hezonja (LOL). In my opinion, Covington and Jones are two pretty big upgrades there, and Hood is also expected to be ready for the start of training camp.
And Hood is the perfect segue to talk about something that won’t show up on any offseason transaction page: health. In addition to the Hood injury, Jusuf Nurkic missed the entire 2019-20 season with an injury of his own, save for the games that took place down in Orlando. Zach Collins played the first three games of last season before a shoulder injury cost him the remaining games before the bubble started. Collins then hurt his ankle down in the bubble, but reports are that he will be ready by the second or third week of January.
At no point in the 2019-20 season did you see anything close to the fully loaded Portland squad. And I bet you didn’t remember that they finished third in the Western Conference the year before, did you? And that they got all the way to the Western Conference Finals? So while the Western Conference may be tougher (from top to bottom, at least) than it was that season, I think this Portland team is better than they were that year too.
And when looking at the upper tier Western Conference teams, who can you definitively say got better this offseason other than the Lakers? Let’s take a look!
Western Conference Breakdown
Clippers – The Serge Ibaka signing was huge, but they also lost Montrezl Harrell and JaMychal Green. Besides, the rumors are swirling about whether these guys actually like playing with each other anyways. They pretty clearly are next in line behind the Lakers in the Western Conference, but they have still have a lot of proving to do on the court after they all but gave up in the playoffs against Denver (sadly, that may not be hyperbole).
Nuggets – Out the door are Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, and Torrey Craig. In comes JaMychal Green, and…and…? In a conference that sports LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George on the two most threatening teams, the Nuggets just lost their two main wing stoppers, Grant and Craig. They will still be good, but I can’t argue that they got better.
Houston Rockets – Who knows what this roster will look like by the time the season starts, but Covington, Jeff Green, and Austin Rivers are all gone, and their two superstars (Harden and Westbrook) apparently both want out. Oh, and Daryl Morey is now in Philadelphia and Mike D’Antoni didn’t return either (now an assistant coach in Brooklyn). The addition of Christian Wood certainly helps, but there is no way I can say that this situation is better than it was last year.
Those teams (including the Lakers) were the top four seeds in the Western Conference last year, so you probably see where I am going with this. Who’s to say Portland can’t finish in the top three of the Western Conference again this season like they did two years ago? And if you are good enough to finish at/near the top of the West, you are good enough to compete in every single series you come across in the playoffs.
Trail Blazers +5500 to Win 2021 NBA Finals
So is it insane to bet Trail Blazers to be the 2021 Finals Champion at +5500 over on FanDuel?
No, no it is not.
I’d much rather take their odds to win it all than just simply to win the Western Conference (which are roughly half of their title odds). You could obviously hedge if they make it to the Finals if you so choose, but getting through the West almost seems like the taller task anyways.
Lillard +3000 to Win NBA MVP
If taking Portland to win the title is a little too much of a longshot for your liking, might I interest you in some Damian Lillard MVP shares? Whether or not the seeding games in Orlando were a sign of things to come for this season remains to be seen, but the dude absolutely cranked it up a notch. In those eight seeding games, he averaged 37.6 points per game. I have to think that Dame and the Blazers know this might be as good of a chance as they will see to make a run at a title, and their window is only getting smaller. I’m not putting it past him to try to carry this team even more than he usually does, similar to what he did in the bubble. And on top of the case for Lillard, I can also make a case against plenty of the other candidates that have shorter odds than him.
Giannis has won two MVP awards in a row (while flaming out in the playoffs in both seasons), so I am guessing there is going to be some “voter fatigue” this season.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis got done with their 2019-2020 season on October 11th! There is already all sorts of chatter that they are going to be eased into the regular season. And remember, the MVP is a regular season award.
Stephen Curry makes a lot of sense as an MVP candidate in theory since Klay Thompson is out for the year again, but need I remind you how much he and the Warriors struggled in those first four games last season before Steph got hurt too? It wasn’t pretty…
James Harden and Kevin Durant are next on the list, but they could be playing with each other by the time the regular starts for all we know. I find it hard to believe that a Harden/Durant/Kyrie trio will result in one of those guys standing out far above the other two, let alone the entire league. And if Harden does stay in Houston, I can’t imagine things just automatically going back to the way they were. Remember, no Morey or D’Antoni anymore either. As for Durant, he is coming off of an Achilles tear; that is no small thing to overcome, even if you are one of the best players in the world.
Kawhi Leonard? Mr. Load Management himself? Nope, not for a regular season award.
The one guy I haven’t yet mentioned is Luka Doncic, and you can make the case that he has the clearest path to the MVP award this season. You can bet Luka +500 to win MVP at PointsBet, of course. But you go ahead and give me the longer odds on Dame there instead! (or both…both works too)
Key offseason additions: Daryl Morey, Doc Rivers, Danny Green, Seth Curry, Dwight Howard
Key offseason losses: Al Horford (resisting urge for an addition by subtraction joke), Josh Richardson, Alec Burks
I bet you didn’t open this article thinking a President of Basketball Operations (or a head coach, for that matter) would be listed as a key offseason addition, but that is how good Daryl Morey is at his job. While one could easily make the argument that Al Horford and Josh Richardson are “better NBA players” than Danny Green and Seth Curry, Green and Curry are better fits for the 76ers roster as it is currently assembled.
It is no secret that this team needs shooting to go along with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. If you rewind back a few seasons ago to 2017-18, when the Sixers finished with their best record (52-30) since ‘The Process’ began, there was all sorts of talk about how good their starting five was (Embiid, Simmons, Covington, Saric, Redick). In fact, amongst five-man lineups that played at least 300 minutes, it had the highest Net Rating (20.5) in the entire league that year. A huge reason why that lineup was so successful is due to the spacing that Redick (42% from deep in ’17-18), Saric (39.3%), and Covington (36.9%) provided, allowing Embiid and Simmons more room to operate. You know who doesn’t provide spacing? Al Horford and Josh Richardson.
So it should certainly be no surprise that Morey is working to recreate the kind of lineup that resulted in Embiid, Simmons, and the Sixers as a whole being at its most successful. In fact, Morey himself is already on record referencing that exact lineup from a few years ago. Seth Curry has shot a silly 45% from three the past two seasons. Danny Green spiked to 45.5% with the Raptors a few years ago, but he was somewhere around 36-38% in the other three seasons. Before he got to Philly, Tobias Harris was basically at 40+% from deep too. Give me the over 35.6% (his percentage as a member of the Sixers) on Harris this season with these other shooters around him now too.
It is pretty clear at this point (I hope!) why there is reason for optimism in Philly, so let’s do with the East what we did up above for the West and briefly talk about the other teams.
Eastern Conference Breakdown
Milwaukee – If they had gotten Bogdan Bogdanovic like originally planned, this might be an entirely different story. But since that fell through, their offseason isn’t ultimately as good as it could have been. I absolutely love the addition of Jrue Holiday. That is a no-brainer for me, as he is one of the best individual defenders in the league and can do some creating on his own if need be. That being said, the losses of Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, Wesley Matthews, Ersan Ilyasova, and Marvin Williams are significant in the aggregate. They were offset a little bit by the additions of DJ Augustin, Torrey Craig, Bobby Portis, and Bryn Forbes. The most common answer to the Milwaukee offseason is that they became a worse regular season team and a better playoff team. And based on their last two seasons, that is exactly what they need. But it is pretty clear at this point that whatever they are doing in the regular season has not translated to playoff success. Throw in the variable that things could get weird there very soon if Giannis doesn’t sign the super-max, and the fact that they are the favorites to get out of the East is far from a sure thing (and you aren’t getting favorable odds on it either).
Raptors – Yes, the Raptors signed their man Fred VanVleet to a long-term deal, but the team they run out this season is pretty clearly going to be worse than last season. Out are Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka; in is Aron Baynes. So a Gasol/Ibaka combination at center is now going to be Baynes/Boucher. More Boucher is going to be good for DFS purposes, but that is pretty clearly a net loss for the Raptors as a whole. Perhaps it can be negated by huge jumps this offseason by FVV, Siakam, and Anunoby, but that would be somewhat surprising.
Celtics – The Celtics lost Gordon Hayward to the Hornets, and their main additions this offseason were Tristan Thompson and Jeff Teague. I love the Thompson addition, as he will be a big upgrade in certain matchups that just overwhelmed Daniel Theis. But I can’t help but think this team is just a little worse than last year, even though Hayward wasn’t the same guy.
Pacers – They basically are returning the same roster but with a new head coach (Nate Bjorkgren). Plus, there is all sorts of Victor Oladipo drama now all of a sudden. If the roster stays the same when the season begins, it is likely to do what it always does. Compete for homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs based on a solid regular season while ultimately having very little shot to advance past a round or two.
Heat- It is hard to say anything negative about the Heat after they made it to the finals last season. I love Spo, Bam, Butler, Dragic, and plenty of their young pieces too. But they did lose Jae Crowder, which is rather meaningful considering how important he proved to be in the bubble. And to a lesser extent, the loss of Derrick Jones hurts a little too. Besides rookie Precious Achiuwa (who was a steal that late in the first round), the only additions they made were Avery Bradley and Maurice Harkless. What they did in the bubble was wildly impressive, but to expect that to just easily happen again would be a little silly. There is a reason that they weren’t favors in the East to make the finals before the bubble started, and there is a reason they are fourth in line (according to oddsmakers) heading into this season.
Nets – One of the reasons the Heat are fourth in line is because of this Nets team. Simply put, who the heck knows what is going to happen with this mix of guys. Not only do they have a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, but Steve Nash is now the head coach. If that isn’t enough, they are widely rumored to be in the mix for James Harden. While I am beyond excited to see how their season unfolds, I’m not quite to the point where I am taking them seriously as a title contender until I see what their on-court product looks like (specifically on the defensive end). And you certainly aren’t going to get any discounts on them to win the East with all of that star power on the roster (and on the coaching staff).
So circling all of this back to Philly, you can definitely make the case that they had the best offseason in the East, all things considered. And as much as I talked earlier about that lineup in the 2017-18 season, it is easy to forget that they were a few bounces on the rim away from being in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2018-19. My personal feeling is that, a month or two into this season, we are going to laugh at the fact we could get Philly at +1000 to win the East.
Joel Embiid +4000 to Win NBA MVP
And suppose the Sixers do make a big jump back up to prominence in the East this season. Isn’t it going to be on the back of Joel Embiid? And if it is, aren’t we then going to want some Embiid MVP shares over on BetMGM at +4000 odds?
When this guy is healthy and motivated, he is one of the most dominating forces in the game. And that is true on both ends of the court, which is something MVP voters obviously take stock in considering who won the award the past two seasons (Giannis). If there is ever a time for this guy to get in the best shape of his life, it is going to come at the start of this new regime change under two respected guys like Morey and Doc.
Sure, there is always a risk with him in the regular season that he might not play as many games as most of the other superstars. But if he comes into camp in elite shape, doesn’t that mitigate some of that risk? I’d like to think it does.
Regardless, I definitely see paths to both the Sixers and Embiid making a big jump this season. Is it a sure thing? Of course not. But you can’t tell me there isn’t value in where their odds currently sit right now.
Image Credit: Imagn