Updated NBA Futures: Nets and Lakers Continue To Top Markets

The race for the Larry O’Brien Trophy is underway, and the NBA futures markets are taking shape as the season reaches the first-month mark.


Going into the 2021-22 NBA season, the Brooklyn Nets were the prohibitive favorites across market operators to win the NBA finals. The Los Angeles Lakers were the second-best bet and the defending champions Milwaukee Bucks were the third-best bet overall.

After this top trio, the Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers and Atlanta Hawks all emerged, amongst several others, as legitimate contenders as per the oddsmakers and NBA basketball betting stats. However, they were a good distance off the Nets, Lakers and Bucks with odds that represented much lower probability of winning (less than 5%).

It’s early days yet. The NBA landscape is only just settling into place, and while a few preseason contenders are in the mix, there are a few surprise stories emerging already.

The Nets (10-4) are exactly where many predicted they’d be: at the top of the Atlantic Division and tied for second place with the Chicago Bulls at the top of the Eastern Conference. However, it’s not been smooth sailing for the Nets, who got off to a 2-3 start in their first five games that included an opening 127-104 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks and a 111-95 loss to the Charlotte Hornets.

Durant and company hit an early season-low with a 103-96 loss to the Miami Heat in their fifth game of the season, prompting some candid remarks from Brooklyn’s star about his teammate Kyrie Irving.

The slow start to the season wasn’t only down to Irving’s absence, although the brouhaha over the circumstances around it was a distraction in itself.

The Nets started the season without the seven-time All-Star due to his stance against Covid-19 vaccination and his absence was sorely felt. New York City’s vaccine mandate prevents players who aren’t vaccinated from playing.

Although Irving could have been a part-time participant (playing exclusively on the road where rules aren’t so stringent), the team decided that he would not play unless he could be a full-time player.

Whether Irving will play for the Nets at some point this season remains to be seen, but as Brooklyn starts to right the ship, it’s possible his value for the team will diminish over time. Durant continues to be his stellar self, underscoring his value as Brooklyn’s most influential player on the court.

The Los Angeles Lakers remain the second favorites across the board despite their early-season troubles, which included losing LeBron James to injury. Their worst-case scenario after limping to the finish line with a decimated starting line-up last season.

King James’ absence is a big blow to Los Angeles as they slip to a modest 8-7 start in the first month. Bookmakers are reluctant to hang too low a price on the Lakers right now because of their bounce-back ability upon LeBron James’ return.

As things currently stand, the Lakers are fourth overall in the Pacific Division, four games back of the surging Golden State Warriors who lead both the division and the Western Conference.

Trading for Russell Westbrook in the offseason was supposed to help the Lakers weather such storms, but it’s easy to understand why that hasn’t gone quite to plan. Westbrook has only just joined the team, and LeBron’s injury came way too early for the Lakers and Westbrook to adjust or assimilate cohesively enough so those big-name absences aren’t felt as much.

The good news for the Lakers, LeBron is expected to return soon. As early as this Friday against the Boston Celtics, according to the latest reports.

The Milwaukee Bucs are 6-8 on the season and struggling something huge. Considering they were the last team off the court this summer after winning the NBA title, their slow start isn’t surprising at all.

The Bucks have had the shortest offseason and a rash of injuries is catching up to them already. Nevertheless, odds makers are loathe to drop Milwaukee’s odds just yet too. It would be an overreaction to the first month sample, which could prove costly down the road. After all, as the team gets healthier, their potential to bounce back is high.

The Golden State Warriors (11-2) are off to a fabulous start, which isn’t surprising. Stephen Curry and the Warriors have championship pedigree, and they were amongst the contenders from the start.

The Phoenix Suns (10-3), who lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA finals, are off to a better start than most expected, but their odds have remained largely the same because the Western Conference is loaded in talent and that will make a repeat final appearance tougher.

The biggest movers and shakers on the odds board is Miami. The Heat appear to be tapping into their 2020 NBA finals form – they’re up to 9-5 on the season and fourth in the Eastern Conference standings.

Finally, the Chicago Bulls are the quintessential surprise package of the first month. Few saw the Bulls coming this season, but they’re up to second in the standings with a 10-4 record. Whether they can maintain this form remains to be seen though.

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