The NBA hasn't had a normal 82-game regular season that runs from October until mid-April since the 2018-19 campaign due to COVID, but the league expects to be back to usual for the 2021-22 season. On Tuesday night, the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the NBA Finals for the Bucks' first title in 50 years. Giannis Antetokounmpo & Co. are not favored at William Hill Sportsbook to repeat, however, as they are +900 third-favorites behind the Brooklyn Nets (+225) and Los Angeles Lakers (+400).
Giannis was absolutely extraordinary Tuesday with 50 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks in the 105-98 victory, the first player with 50-10-5 in a playoff game since blocks were first tracked in 1973-74. The Greek Freak was an easy call to be named NBA Finals MVP and became the only player in NBA history with five All-Star selections, five All-NBA selections, multiple regular-season MVPs, one Finals MVP and one Defensive Player of the Year Award before his 27th birthday.
At the start of the playoffs, Giannis was a +850 fourth-favorite to win Finals MVP at William Hill and at the start of the Finals he was a +375 third-favorite.
Milwaukee opened the season at +500 to win the NBA title but was up to +1300 at the start of the playoffs. The longest odds facing the Bucks all season were +1600 when they were down 2-0 in the Eastern Conference semifinals to Brooklyn. At the start of the NBA Finals, Milwaukee was +175 to win (+500 to win in six), which rose to +380 when down 2-0. One William Hill bettor put down $100,000 on the Bucks at +250 to win the series after losing Game 1 in Phoenix and that returned $350,000.
It will be a very quick offseason around the NBA with the Finals ending about a month later than usual – the draft is next Thursday and free agency opens Aug. 2.
No big surprise the Nets are favored to win it all next summer with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving all back. They were favored entering these playoffs and probably would have beaten the Bucks if not for injuries to Irving and Harden. Remember, if Durant's foot is about two inches back in Game 7 and was a three-pointer instead of two-pointer at the end of regulation, the Nets win that game instead of losing 115-111 in overtime.
Brooklyn doesn't have much cap room for next season, but guys who are chasing rings are going to sign with the team for pennies on the dollar like Blake Griffin did this year. He's a free agent.
Any team with LeBron James always opens among the title favorites, but that +400 number seems awfully optimistic with how old L.A. looked in its first-round loss to Phoenix. Dennis Schroder is the Lakers' biggest free agent, and they are also tight up against the cap – but, like the Nets, ring-chasers are going to sign there on the cheap.
Milwaukee's PJ Tucker is a free agent and Bobby Portis probably will be as he has a player option, but the Bucks will be just fine with their Big 3 of Giannis, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. It will be interesting to see if ring-chasers sign there because free agents aren't usually clamoring to go to Milwaukee.
Very curious that the Golden State Warriors (+1000) have a shorter 2022 title price than the Suns. The Dubs will get back All-Star guard Klay Thompson from injury, but as good as Klay was, he hasn't played in two seasons. Golden State also has been heavily rumored to add another star via trade – maybe Damian Lillard.
Early in the Finals, it was assumed that Phoenix's Chris Paul would decline his 2021-22 player option worth around $44 million to become a free agent and re-sign a longer deal with the Suns. However, Paul may rethink that the way he finished the Finals – looking every bit his 36 years of age. Cameron Payne is the Suns' biggest free agent otherwise. Dario Saric probably misses the season after tearing his ACL in Game 1 of the Finals.
The 2021-22 season is scheduled to start Oct. 19, and it's usually a doubleheader that Tuesday night. It's a guarantee the Bucks will host the first game as defending champions – my guess is against Brooklyn. Expect the Lakers to host the nightcap, perhaps against Phoenix.
William Hill Sportsbook 2021-22 NBA title favorites
- Nets +225
- Lakers +400
- Bucks +900
- Warriors +1000
- Suns +1500
- Jazz +1500
- 76ers +1800
- Clippers +2000
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