The 2020-2021 NBA regular season began last year on 22 December. A normal 82-game schedule was reduced to a 72-game schedule.
As the regular season winds down this weekend, the NBA Playoffs will officially begin on 22 May. This will happen after eight teams square off in what's called the "Play-In Tournament," which determines the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds in both the Eastern and Western Conferences. So, 20 teams are still eligible to win the NBA title this season.
This year's unusual playoff format has shaped the futures odds on each team to win the championship. Oddly enough, the Brooklyn Nets (47-24) are now the prohibitive favourite to win it all, which would be a first in their franchise's history. "Oddly enough," means – it seems strange the Nets would be favoured.
Why is this odd?
Well, for one thing, the Nets don't even have the best record in the Eastern Conference. That distinction belongs to the Philadelphia 76ers. Second, three other teams have better W-L records (Utah and Phoenix in the Western Conference). Two other teams have identical 47-24 records to Brooklyn – the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets. So, bettors must be looking at something else when they like the Nets.
What many bettors see is a team with star-power combined with a much clearer path to the NBA finals for Brooklyn. While the Western Conference powerhouses will likely beat each other up (which collectively is a much more talented group of teams)....meanwhile, in the Eastern Conference, other than Philadelphia (and Brooklyn), there's lots of mediocrity. Sorry Milwaukee, you're a team that always chokes come playoff time.
Hence, if Brooklyn can run a gauntlet that includes a team with a losing record in the first round (perhaps Charlotte, Washington, or Indiana), then faces New York, Atlanta, or Milwaukee, they'd then likely be in the conference finals versus the 76ers, and likely as the favourite in that series. That's not a scary lineup of foes. Fact is, Brooklyn is favoured for a reason.
Meanwhile, the Western Conference is stacked with great and good teams. Each of the top four are bona fide championship contenders (Utah, Phoenix, Denver, and LA Clippers). The next tier includes dangerous teams that could get hot and pull some upsets (Dallas, Portland, and Golden State). Oh, and let's don't count out the LA Lakers who might get healthy fast and as a low-seed return to their previous glory.
Here's the futures odds to win the NBA championship heading into the "Play-In" format. Obviously, things can and will change in the next few days and week ahead: