NBA betting: Where is the early value in the futures for 2022-23?
With the 2021-22 NBA season now over, Chris Sheridan takes an early look at the futures for 2022-23.
Sunday would have been Game 7 of the NBA Finals if the series had gone the distance, which it didn’t, as Draymond Green reminded everyone via Twitter. Instead, it was Father’s Day for all the dads in the NBA and nail-biting day for all of the fathers whose sons are eligible for Thursday night’s draft.
Same thing for the executives who just watched the Golden State Warriors rekindle discussion of a dynasty after they took out the Boston Celtics in six games of what turned out to be not-the-most-exciting NBA Finals in the history of basketball.
One of the hard truths of life in the NBA is that there are 29 losers every year. Ever wonder why people in the NBA change jobs so often? There is your answer.
But the draft brings hope, and the July 1 start of free agency brings even more hope. Teams get to reconfigure their rosters and start anew, sort of. Some will overhaul, some will tinker, and at a certain point gamblers are going to say “I should have taken them when they had longer odds.”
That was the case with the Warriors, who were +1200 to win the title prior to the start of the 2021-22 season, back when a lot of folks thought the trio of LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis would lead the Los Angeles Lakers to the throne instead of the draft lottery. But hindsight is always 20-20, and what we all have learned is that things do not always work out as planned, especially when there are injuries like the ones Davis and James had to deal with last season.
The Lakers now have a new coach in Darvin Ham, but they will not have any draft picks unless they trade for one because they owe their first-round pick to the Pelicans from the Davis trade (they also gave New Orleans the right to swap first-round picks in 2023), and they will not have a second-round pick because that selection was included in the five-team deal that sent Westbrook from the Wizards to the Lakers. Unless they purchase a pick, the only rookies on the Lakers next season will be whoever is not taken among the 60 first- and second-round picks.
So, they will be older, and older is not necessarily better. But as we learned with the Warriors, experience counts for a lot.
James will be 37, Westbrook 33 and Davis 29 when next season begins, and what the rest of the Lakers’ roster looks like is a mystery. Will 38-year-old Carmelo Anthony return? Or 36-year-old Dwight Howard or 34-year-old Wayne Ellington or 34-year-old D.J. Augustin or 32-year-old Kent Bazemore? Impossible to say. Everyone on the team is a free agent this summer with the exceptions of James, Westbrook, Davis, Talen Horton-Tucker and Kendrick Nunn, and the first week of July will be crazy when it comes to NBA free agents reading and reacting as the market plays out. And there are already reports out there that Los Angeles is targeting Bradley Beal in free agency somehow.
But even without Beal, James will have had a very long offseason to recuperate, Westbrook hopefully has been working on his jump shot and Davis is Davis, the guy who holds the All-Star game record for points. Yes, he had a better game that Steph Curry’s 50 in 2022, scoring 52 in 2017.
“I think the style we are going to have, you know, all of those guys – not only just Russ, LeBron, AD – they’re going to be able to share the load,” Ham told reporters. “And one thing I mentioned to Russ is the way I’m built, the success I’ve seen – especially most recently in the nine years and the last four years being with Coach Bud in Milwaukee, also in Atlanta, but in Milwaukee – one thing we always preached and will continue to preach to be the foundation of our teams is a defensive mindset, being able to defend at a high level. And I challenged him and he accepted the challenge. That’s part of the word 'sacrifice' that we use.”
So, while it may popular to write the Lakers off because of what they did last year, let’s not forget that a lot of people wrote the Boston Celtics off when they were 19-21 on Jan. 8. And if you had them to win the East, you got paid.
But no, we are not advocating a Lakers to win the championship wager. Not at their current odds of +1600. Especially not when the Dallas Mavericks are priced just a bit shorter at +1500 and are all set to get Christian Wood from the Houston Rockets as part of a trade that cannot be announced until draft night. With the Mavs also reportedly eying Goran Dragic of Brooklyn in free agency in the event they lose Jalen Brunson, what we see there is a minor upgrade at point guard and a massive upgrade at center, the spot that hurt the Mavs the most when they lost to the Warriors in the Western Conference finals.
Who else do we like?
Well, the Warriors, Celtics, Nets and Clippers are all co-favorite at +600, with Milwaukee at +800 and Phoenix at +900 the only other single-digit odds teams. Longtime readers of this site know that your faithful correspondent has a soft spot for the Memphis Grizzlies, who were not experienced enough and did not have a healthy Ja Morant to their entire series when they went out in six games against the Warriors in the second round. Kyle Anderson and Tyus Jones are their main free agents, and they can retain both without going into the luxury tax. At +1500 the Grizzlies are wager-worthy (same as the Mavs, Sixers and Nuggets), as are the Heat at +1600 because of their winning culture and because of the fact that they came one bucket short of being the team that would have played Golden State in the finals.
If you want a team with even longer odds, it is tough to make a championship case for anyone aside from the New Orleans Pelicans, who will have Zion Williamson back after the rest of their team gave the Phoenix Suns fits in the first round. The key will be re-signing free agent Jonas Valanciunas, which they can do without going into the luxury tax. The Pelicans are +4000 at Betway.
Remember, these are championship odds we are talking about. It you want a flyer with very long odds, go ahead and take your chances on the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the East at +2800. They have more size and speed than any team in the East, and they were eviscerated by the injuries to Collin Sexton and Jarrett Allen that took them out of the picture midway through last season. They have three draft picks this Thursday night, and they can add a veteran player with the mid-level exception. They are sneaky good the same way Memphis was last season.