The final NBA Conference Semi-Final Series gets started on Tuesday, June 6 as the Utah Jazz prepare to face the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference. While it was shocking to lose names like Damien Lillard, LeBron James, and Luka Doncic in the last round, the remaining teams are really who were expected to be here still, based simply on the standings. The top three seeds from both conferences remain, and the top four seeds have advanced in the Western Conference. The Atlanta Hawks are the lowest remaining seed, and still, they’re No.5 and had to beat the No.4 New York Knicks to advance. Seedings, however, don’t necessarily equate to championship odds.
Nets Odds Post-LeBron Are Looking Good
Since LeBron was eliminated at the end of last week in just six games, the 2021 NBA Championship odds finally feel secure in favor of the Brooklyn Nets, despite the Los Angeles Lakers entering as the seventh-seed. In fact, James’ absence has now set the ridiculous-on-paper Nets closer to negative action, increasing their odds to +170 with the DraftKings Sportsbook.
Entering the playoffs on May 21, the Nets were the favorites at +250, but through the last decade, it’s been hard to feel confident going against LeBron. Brooklyn took the place of odds-favorite in April after signing a newly-released LaMarcus Aldridge at the time. Though a health condition forced Aldridge into early retirement, the odds didn’t change back.
All Fun With the Suns
The departure of the Lakers has helped no team’s odds of winning the 2021 NBA Championship more than the Phoenix Suns. Responsible for knocking out the defending champions, the Suns’ rise in the playoffs now has them with the fourth-highest odds to win the whole thing. Just a month ago as the season was coming down the stretch, Phoenix jumped their chances to +1400 from +2000 on May 6. That, of course, was already a major leap after going from +6500 to +4250 in November with the addition of Chris Paul via trade.
With just two rounds left before the Finals, the second-seeded Suns are up to +600, thanks to Paul and the impact he’s had on Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. Sure, drawing LeBron in the first round wasn’t doing them a favor early on this postseason; James hadn’t been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs ever before in his 18-year NBA career. Up 1-0 early in the series against the No.3 Denver Nuggets, Phoenix looks to see their odds continue to heat up.
Clippers Are Fading Fast
Kawhi Leonard willed the Clippers back into their series against the Dallas Mavericks and had some strong performances to avoid another disappointing first-round exit. On the brink of elimination last week, the Clippers’ odds of delivering on their championship aspirations in 2021 had faded from +500 to start the postseason to +1100. While that number could be expected to rise in Sports Betting Dime’s next installment of the latest odds, it’s not likely to jump much. With a nagging injury history, Leonard is just an aggravation away from missing games, and the Clippers haven’t gotten enough from Paul George to believe he could make up for any potential Leonard absence.
Be it the Nets, Suns, Clippers, or any of the other strong rosters remaining, the odds are good for a number of star players who are looking to earn their first NBA title. Of the superstars left, only Leonard and the Nets’ Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have accomplished the feat before. Chris Paul, James Harden, Giannis Antentonkoumpo, Donovan Mitchell, and Joell Embiid make up a group of the league’s best that remain hopeful. Hawks point guard Trae Young, meanwhile, may go against the odds (+3300) and get his before his older colleagues. Without the Warriors or LeBron James, the NBA playoffs are a land of opportunity.