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Nets Closing on Lakers in Updated 2021 NBA Championship Odds – Is Now the Time to Bet Brooklyn?

Sam Cox

by Sam Cox in NBA Basketball

Updated Feb 26, 2021 · 6:40 AM PST

James Harden Kyrie high five
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 21: Brooklyn Nets Guard James Harden (13) and Guard Kyrie Irving (11) give high fives in the final minute of a NBA game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Clippers on February 21, 2021 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA. The game was played without fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)
  • Amid a poor run for the Lakers, the Nets are closing the gap in NBA Championship odds
  • Even without Kevin Durant, Brooklyn is accumulating wins
  • Is this the time to bet the Nets for the title? See updated Championship odds below

The Los Angeles Lakers have lost five of their last six. The Brooklyn Nets, their nearest NBA Championship odds rivals, continue to pick up wins even with Kevin Durant sitting out.

The result is a meeting of their title odds. Los Angeles’ status as heavy favorites is no longer. Their price has lengthened, and the Nets’ odds to win it all continue to shorten as James Harden and Kyrie Irving lead their team to victories even without Durant.

Are these losses cause for serious Lakers concern? Could the Nets become title favorites before Anthony Davis returns? Here’s a look at which team provides the best value right now.

2021 NBA Championship Odds

Team Odds
Los Angeles Lakers +280
Brooklyn Nets +300
Los Angeles Clippers +550
Milwaukee Bucks +700
Utah Jazz +850

Odds taken on Feb 26 from FanDuel

Notable Absentees

There’s no downplaying how bad the Lakers’ recent record is. These losses can all be qualified by the injury absence of Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder being ruled out through health and safety protocols. Losing key players is a fact of the NBA, though, and the Lakers still have LeBron James, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year in Montrezl Harrell and Kyle Kuzma.

There were warning signs even with Davis and Schroder. Lottery teams took the Lakers to overtime. Being without their second and third-best players this season obviously weakens them, but it’s fair to wonder if it is a sufficient excuse for so many losses. The Nets, meanwhile, are winning games without Durant. Other contenders have had to play a week or two without key men.

This Lakers slump has unearthed the same problems as last season. The half court offense has little to no creation beyond LeBron. Take out Schroder’s playmaking and Davis’ interior scoring, and the Lakers look one-dimensional in half court sets. They are 20th in half court efficiency this season.

While the focus is on Davis, the return of Schroder is vital for this team, too. Lineups featuring LeBron and Schroder are outscoring opponents by almost 11 points per 100 possessions. Putting a natural secondary ball handler next to James frees the half court offense up significantly.

Uncertainty Over Davis

What the Lakers have shown over the last few games could just be a poor run. They still have comfortably the best defense in the NBA. Shooting under 30% from three (as they are in February) is not a trend which will continue long-term.

Projecting towards the playoffs, however, also requires an assumption that this team is healthy, and that’s no guarantee with Davis at the moment.

Davis is expected to miss four weeks in total with this Achilles issue. He had already missed five games before this absence. Betting the Lakers to win the title is also betting on Davis’ health. LeBron and Davis lineups are outscoring opponents by around 14 points per 100 possessions, which will encourage bettors to back the reigning champions, but how confident can anyone be in Davis’ availability?

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Of course, a similar case can be made for Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving. Betting futures becomes an impossible challenge when injury speculation is thrown into the conversation, but it would be foolish to ignore this factor. It’s clear the Lakers need Davis at 100% come the postseason.

Nets Are Rolling

It’s eight wins in a row for the Brooklyn Nets. Durant has played in just one of those games.

This wasn’t a case of beating up bad teams either. A brutal west-coast road trip including the Warriors, Kings, Suns, Lakers and Clippers resulted in five wins. Comfortable home wins over Sacramento and Orlando followed. Brooklyn has an 11-3 record against teams over .500, which is the best in the NBA, and even their defense has begun to improve.

They are 21st in defensive rating in February, and 11th over their last eight games.

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James Harden is shooting over 43% from three this month, scoring 25 per game and leading the league in assists. What’s perhaps scariest, however, is the production outside of the star men. The Nets are second in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage in February, and they scored 129 against the Magic on Thursday with Irving and Harden combining for only 47.

Bruce Brown has become an integral player, finishing at the rim and defending multiple positions. Joe Harris leads the league in three-point percentage, and the bench is becoming more effective. Landry Shamet, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Tyler Johnson are above 40% from three this month.

Questions about the defense remain. Guarding Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis or Giannis Antetokounmpo in a playoff series will be a difficult task. Of teams with a positive net rating in February, Brooklyn has the worst defensive rating.

Brooklyn Proving Themselves

Steve Nash is well aware that this is an offense-first roster. The Nets have played harder on that end of late, though, and they will become a better defensive team when Durant returns. This winning run has proved how potent the offense is, and even without Durant, they are a truly scary opponent.

The Nets don’t face another inner-circle title contender until they matchup with the Jazz on March 24th. With how they have played recently, and the Lakers struggling, they may well be title favorites by that point.

There’s still reason to be skeptical of Brooklyn defensively. The Lakers suddenly look fallible too, however.

Brooklyn is marginally the better bet of the two right now, though a lot will change between now and the playoffs with stars going in and out of the line-up and potential roster tweaks.

The Nets have been seriously impressive while missing their best player, and their odds will likely only shorten over the next few weeks.

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