The Toronto Raptors have just wrapped up celebrating their first-ever NBA title. But when the calendar turned July 1, the celebration has turned to a waiting game.
Kawhi Leonard, the 2019 NBA Finals MVP, is a free agent and could possibly head elsewhere. If he goes, Toronto loses its edge over the rest of the league. On the other hand, the Los Angeles Lakers boosted their line-up by adding superstar center Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans. Suddenly, the Lakers are the toast of the betting world. The Raptors are third, right next to #2 Milwaukee Bucks who had the best record in the league last season.
Here are the early Betting Odds To win the 2020 NBA title. Odds were taken from BetOnline.ag as of 7/5/19:
|Los Angeles Lakers||+175|
|Golden State Warriors||+1200|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+1600|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+3300|
|Portland Trail Blazers||+3300|
|New Orleans Pelicans||+6600|
|San Antonio Spurs||+6600|
The Los Angeles Lakers are the basketball betting favorites to win the 2020 NBA championship. The purple and gold acquired one of the biggest prizes in this year’s free agency market in Anthony Davis. With LeBron James and Davis leading their side, many believe the Lakers will go deep in the playoffs this year, maybe deep enough to win it all.
But to get Davis, the Lakers had to part a huge part of their young core. Los Angeles gave away Brandon, Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and the 4th pick of the 2019 NBA Draft in order to get AD. Los Angeles is expected to add one more superstar to their team after they freed up enough salary cap space for one more maximum salary. There are rumors that Kawhi Leonard will be that third superstar but so far, the Board Man hasn’t made his decision yet.
The Milwaukee Bucks were on the cusp of reaching the NBA Finals. Then they ran into the Board Man and his Toronto Raptors. Toronto wasn’t going to be denied from making history. Kawhi Leonard played a terrific series that overshadowed the gargantuan efforts of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who took the Bucks all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Antetokounmpo was named as the NBA’s 2019 MVP and given his potential, the Bucks are one of the teams to beat next season. Milwaukee had the best record in the league last season and with Giannis back, they should pick up where they left off. However, the Bucks will have to do it without Malcolm Brogdon who signed with the Pacers and Nikola Mirotic who left for Europe. Reportedly, George Hill will also be waived by the Pacers.
The Philadelphia 76ers are surprisingly high on this list. Maybe if they had their 2018-19 line-up, I would’ve agreed. But without Jimmy Butler’s clutch scoring and J.J. Redick’s outside shooting, I think the Sixers are just a pedestal team unless of course Ben Simmons grew a three-point shot over the summer. Philly kept Tobias Harris and added Al Horford. They also lost key bench player T.J. McConnell so I don’t know how this young, inexperienced and possibly overrated team will do.
The Toronto Raptors made history by becoming the first team based outside the United States to win the NBA title. Toronto swung a key preseason deal in 2018, acquiring Kawhi Leonard in exchange for DeMar DeRozan. Leonard blossomed as the Raptors main man and blended well with Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Most Improved Player winner Pascal Siakam. The Raptors also acquired Marc Gasol midway the season to bolster their lineup. With Leonard making one big play after another, the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors in six games to win the 2019 NBA title while Leonard won his second Finals MVP award. Don’t be surprised to see Toronto this low in the odds board. With Kawhi Leonard still undecided on his next move, the oddsmakers are keeping the champs low.
The Golden State Warriors stranglehold of the league ended last season and it ended in a way where there may be no run-back. The Warriors lost Kevin Durant to an Achilles injury in Game 5 of the Finals and then Klay Thompson to an ACL tear in the next game. How could the Dubs possibly defend the crown with two of their top three scorers down? Without KD and Klay, the Warriors looked predictable and with a shallow bench, they were not matched for the Raptors in the Finals. Durant left for Brooklyn at the start of free agency. Klay Thompson is out for a year. They did acquire D’Angelo Russell and may use him in a trade. But really, the rule is over and I don’t even think the Warriors will make the playoffs next season.
The Houston Rockets are also surprisingly high on the odds board. There is supposed to be a rift that exists between James Harden and Chris Paul but the Rockets haven’t done anything about it yet. P.J. Tucker said it’s normal for teammates to bicker like Kobe and Shaq did in L.A. But didn’t that duo eventually split? Unless Houston splits up these two big egos, they aren’t going to win the title. They couldn’t do it when they were in good terms. What more now?
We aren’t even 10 days into the 2019 NBA Free Agency yet and with a large number of free agents still unsigned as of July 5th, the NBA is still a wide-open race. Sure, the oddsmakers have put the Lakers on top because of LBJ and AD ( plus a possible third star ) but weren’t the Lakers ranked almost this high one preseason ago? Look where they finished the season at.
With the departure of Durant and the season-ending injury of Klay Thompson, I would say that the balance of power has titled to the East. The Bucks and Raptors had the best records in the league last season. If Toronto gets Kawhi back, then neither team has suffered significant losses. That said, they should be the top teams to beat next season, given their youth, talent, and form. But again, Toronto’s fate depends on what Kawhi decides on.
As for the Warriors and Rockets, I’m not sure if either or both teams make the playoffs. The Warriors won’t have two of their top three scorers next season. Andre Iguodala is also gone. I don’t think the Warriors will make the playoffs with D-Lo as Steph’s partner. The Rockets are supposedly bickering right now or at least James Harden and Chris Paul. That team isn’t going to win anyway. They couldn’t do it the past two seasons. What more next season?
Brooklyn is one of the early winners in Free Agency. But with Durant still out this year, Kyrie Irving won’t be able to lead them to the title. The Nuggets were fantastic last season but if they don’t upgrade, they will be left behind. The Celtics added Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter but neither are transcendental and would make Boston an Eastern Contender at best.
Barring any change of heart, I don’t see why Toronto can win it all again. The Bucks are going to be their toughest challenge in the East. Out West, LeBron’s path looks easier with the Warriors’ depletion and Houston’s internal problems. I say in a perfect world, the Lakers make the finals but I don’t think they have enough to beat the Raptors. Unless Kawhi goes there in the next couple of weeks. Early Prediction: Milwaukee Bucks of Toronto Raptors in the East. L.A. Lakers in the West.