Vegas oddsmakers see Nets as 2021 NBA title contenders

The Lakers won their record 17th championship to close out the longest, craziest campaign in NBA history Sunday night. And by Monday morning, eyes had already turned to waiting for — and betting on — next season.

Las Vegas has pegged the Lakers to repeat, almost universally seen as favorites, and the Nets suddenly thrust into the realm of legitimate contender. This is despite the injury history of Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and concerns that Lakers star Anthony Davis can opt out of his contract and refused to commit to staying in Los Angeles.

“I have no idea. I don’t know,” Davis said Sunday night. “I had a great time in LA this first year. This has been nothing but joy, nothing but amazement. Over the next couple of months, we’ll figure it out. I mean, I’m not 100 percent sure, but that’s why my agent is who he is and we’ll discuss it and figure it out.”

While the Lakers will look toward trying to retain Davis, the Nets will eagerly anticipate the return of Durant and Irving. Durant didn’t play for the Nets after a June 2019 Achilles rupture, and Irving had his debut campaign cut short by shoulder surgery after just 20 appearances.

Nets
Kyrie Irving and Kevin DurantAP

Their expected returns have the Nets — knocked out in the first round the past two seasons — projected to reach at least the Eastern Conference Finals, and to face the Lakers in the NBA Finals by some offshore bookmakers.

“I don’t think anybody’s in the business of playing small, right? We understand the talent we have, we understand the expectations, we understand the championship-type mentality,” Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie said on House of Highlights’ “Through the Wire” podcast.

“We also are realistic in the sense of, ‘Hey, everything’s a process, we don’t go out and make guarantees.’ But we want to put our best foot forward, and we believe in our talent and want to win. Obviously there’s no other reason to do this, to play this game, team up and all that stuff.”

The Nets’ plus-900 to win the title were the fifth-best odds according to BetMGM. That’s tied for second-best in the East, behind only the favored Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning MVP and defensive player of the year.

William Hill (plus-850), DraftKings (plus-900) and PointsBet (plus-1000) also had the Nets second in the East, while one offshore oddsmaker had them at 8-1 favorites to win the East. This despite Brooklyn having hired a rookie head coach in Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash.

“It’s a unique opportunity. It’s an incredible roster, it’s an incredible family here at the Nets. They’re obviously at an incredible point in the history of this organization, so the timing is fantastic, the opportunity is fantastic,” Nash upon being hired.

And in subsequent interviews, he confirmed he wasn’t shying away from this ready-made team’s title expectations.”

“Well, I think that’s where we should be looking. I think we have the talent, we have the culture. The organization has a foundation that can compete for everything,” Nash said on ESPN’s “The Jump.” “I’m not Babe Ruth pointing right now, but our expectations are high.”

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