2021 NBA Championship Odds & Predictions

NBA Championship Predictions

  • The NBA is coming back this holiday season, kicking off on December 22nd, 2020!
  • After winning the 2020 NBA Championship, the Lakers are the favourites to repeat as title winners.
  • This 2020-2021 season will be shortened to 72-games.

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After a large hiatus from basketball in the middle of last season, it is almost as if we’re getting an early Christmas present when the NBA returns for its 75th season on December 22nd. As the league and its teams look to return to some level of normalcy, we take a look at who is the favorite to win this year’s NBA Championship.

Almost two months ago the Los Angeles Lakers took home the franchise’s 17th NBA Championship after defeating the Miami Heat 4-2 in the NBA Finals. LeBron James won his fourth NBA Finals MVP award, to go along with four NBA titles to his name.

After an eventful offseason full of moves, trades, and changes, this NBA season looks to be one of the most exciting yet. With the 2021 campaign shortened to 72-games, this season looks to be one of the league’s most competitive yet!

Who is the Favourite to Win the 2021 NBA Championship?

Odds taken from DraftKings Sportsbook, updated on April 12, 2021.

Brooklyn Nets+220
Los Angeles Lakers+350
Los Angeles Clippers+600
Milwaukee Bucks+750
Utah Jazz+800
Philadelphia 76ers+1100
Denver Nuggets+1600
Phoenix Suns+2800
Miami Heat+2800
Boston Celtics+4400
Dallas Mavericks+4400
Portland Trail Blazers+4500
Toronto Raptors+10000
Indiana Pacers+10000
Golden State Warriors+15000
San Antonio Spurs+15000
Atlanta Hawks+15000
New Orleans Pelicans+15000
Chicago Bulls+15000
Memphis Grizzlies+15000
New York Knicks+20000
Washington Wizards+25000
Charlotte Hornets+25000
Sacramento Kings+50000
Houston Rockets+150000
Orlando Magic+150000
Cleveland Cavaliers+150000
Oklahoma City Thunder+90000
Detroit Pistons+90000
Minnesota Timberwolves+90000

Odds from DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or check out more offers and promo codes for the best online sportsbooks.

Naturally, the top team in the running for the 2021 NBA Championship is the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers. Not just sitting on their hands through this shortened offseason, the Lakers seemed to grow even stronger with the addition of some key pieces from last year’s rivals.

The LA Clippers are the only other team that sportsbooks see as a threat to the Lakers’ reign in the Western Conference. While the Clippers disappointed in the 2020 NBA Playoffs, their star pair of George and Leonard is difficult to deny.

The Eastern Conference owns three of the sportsbooks’ top five competitors for the NBA title. The Milwaukee Bucks and reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo are tied for second-best odds with the Clippers. Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets surprise with the fourth-best odds, owing to their own star power in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Curiously, the Boston Celtics crack the top five, but not last year’s runners-up the Miami Heat.

True Contenders

We are looking at these three teams as the absolute favorites to bring home the NBA Championship. While there are many that are likely to challenge them, key changes or improvements to their team, along with sustained success, make them the clear choices to at least make the Conference Finals.

Los Angeles Lakers (+350)

Key Players: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Dennis Schroder

Notable Losses: Danny Green, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo

Notable Additions: Dennis Schroder, Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell

The Los Angeles Lakers accomplished their goal last season by bringing the Larry O’Brien Trophy to the city of Los Angeles for the 17th time in their franchises history. After dominating the regular season (52-19) and winning the Western Conference, it took them no more than six games to eliminate any team standing in their way during the 2020 NBA Playoffs.

The Lakers look even stronger this season. After losing valuable but aging veterans Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley, and Rajon Rondo, the Lakers were able to add reigning Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell, former Defensive Player of the Year and 2019 NBA Champion Marc Gasol, as well as three-point sniper Wes Matthews.

With a shortened season and an even shorter offseason, don’t expect the Lakers to honestly give it their all during the regular season. LeBron James is dominant, but aging, knowing full well how much effort he can put in over the course of the regular season schedule. The Lakers are the favourites to take home the title, but don’t let a subpar regular season performance indicate much about their title chances.

Milwaukee Bucks (+750)

Key Players: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday

Notable Losses: Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, Wes Matthews

Notable Additions: Jrue Holiday, Torrey Craig, Bobby Portis

The Milwaukee Bucks are not in the mood to mess around this season. With Giannis Antetokounmpo’s contract expiring upon the end of the campaign, the Bucks have one last chance to convince him to spend his long-term future in Wisconsin. After floundering out of the 2020 NBA Playoffs in the second round, the Bucks have overhauled their roster to better support The Greek Freak.

Gone is serial playoff disappointment Eric Bledsoe and in comes Jrue Holiday, one of the league’s most underrated and steady point guards. General Manager Jon Horst has also surrounded Antetokounmpo with two-way players in Torrey Craig, Bryn Forbes, and Bobby Portis.

The issue for Milwaukee will be seeing if they can mesh as a team through this shortened offseason. Bledsoe and Hill were mainstays during the Bucks’ best playoff runs, so relying on new guards Holiday and Augustin will be an effort in faith.

LA Clippers (+600)

Key Players: Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Serge Ibaka

Notable Losses: Montrezl Harrell, JaMychal Green, Doc Rivers

Notable Additions: Serge Ibaka, Luke Kennard, Nicolas Batum

All things considered, the LA Clippers failed last season. After what was meant to be the season that launches the Clippers franchise in basketball relevance, the team squandered their opportunity and bowed out in the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

General Manager Michael Winger and Owner Steve Ballmer saw that a change was needed and released long-time head coach Doc Rivers, in favour of assistant Tyronn Lue. Despite losing reigning Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell, the Clippers acquired two-way force and 2019 NBA Champion Serge Ibaka.

The Clippers haven’t overhauled their roster, likely giving recognition to the fact that they merely failed to perform in last year’s playoffs – rather than thinking they don’t have enough to succeed. A shortened season could benefit a team like the Clippers, who thrive on “load management”. One thing is certain, at the top of their game the Clippers are among the best in the NBA.

Worthy Underdogs

Do not sleep on these teams. They’ve got all the quality to be NBA Champions but merely hit some bumps in the road along the way. At the top of their game, they can certainly challenge for the title.

Miami Heat (+2800)

Key Players: Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic

Notable Losses: Jae Crowder, Derrick Jones Jr.

Notable Additions: Avery Bradley, Maurice Harkless

The Miami Heat shocked the world last season as their grit and toughness led them to the NBA Finals for the first time in their franchise history since 2014. Considered a team of role players and outcasts, head coach Erik Spoelstra deserves credit for creating a title-worthy team.

For Pat Riley and the Heat this season, the offseason was about retaining the assets that helped their success. Rather than making any significant changes. The Heat were able to sign Bam Adebayo to an extension, while also finding an agreeable contract with veteran Goran Dragic.

This year will be about the Heat proving that last season was no fluke. Their grind-it-out style may not resonate with many fans, but its productivity, especially in the playoffs, makes them a threat to any opponent. Should Jimmy Butler maintain his All-Star worthy play, it could be another long season for the Heat.

Boston Celtics (+4400)

Key Players: Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart

Notable Losses: Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, Brad Wanamaker

Notable Additions: Tristan Thompson, Jeff Teague

The Boston Celtics’ young core impressed in last year’s NBA Playoffs, knocking out the then reigning champion Toronto Raptors in seven games. They, unfortunately, fell short in the Eastern Conference Finals, being outplayed by eventual NBA Finalists the Miami Heat.

There is a lot to be excited about in Boston and it revolves around the exponential growth of forwarding Jayson Tatum. Tatum showed his impressive form last season and he looks to be on the trajectory toward NBA stardom. In losing Gordon Hayward, the Celtics have opened up even greater responsibility for Tatum, who will be looked toward to lead the Celtics to a championship.

The Celtics merely retooled this offseason, rather than making any big moves. They added veteran experience in the backcourt with Jeff Teague and more depth to their already crowded frontcourt with Tristan Thompson. Despite the Celtics’ sustained success over the years, they’ve never been able to get over the final hurdle.

Toronto Raptors (+8000)

Key Players: Pascal Siakam, Fred Vanvleet, Kyle Lowry

Notable Losses: Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Notable Additions: Aron Baynes, Alex Len, Malachi Flynn

The 2019 NBA Champions will be remembered for bowing out of the second round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs, but that shouldn’t discount how impressive their title-defending campaign was. The Raptors pushed the Celtics to seven games, despite playing some of their worst basketball of the season. They enter this year with huge losses, but an even greater opportunity for their young stars.

Pascal Siakam and Fred Vanvleet are in the long-term plans of the Raptors after the latter signed an extension this offseason. While Lowry’s contract expires at the end of the year, it is clear that GM Bobby Webster and President Masai Ujiri are aiming to put on an excellent display this season in hopes of luring a certain Greek NBA superstar North of the border.

Toronto has proven that their team-first approach can win an NBA title and even rank them among the best in the league through the regular season. After losing both centers to the Los Angeles franchises, they’ll look to bruising internationals Aron Baynes and Alex Len to fill the void. Still a young team, the Raptors’ combination of experience and growth could sneak up on many this year.

Could Go Either Way

Brooklyn Nets (+220)

Key Players: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie

Notable Losses: Garrett Temple, Dzanan Musa

Notable Additions: Landry Shamet, Jeff Green, Bruce Brown

If you saw a team headlined by Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, you’d have to automatically put them in the running for the NBA Championship, right? The issue with the Nets is that they are a wholly unknown quantity, as their two star players barely appeared for the team last season.

Durant will be returning after an entire season off while Irving missed all but 20 games during the 2019-2020 campaign. Questions are abound as to whether injury-prone pair can lead a franchise so quickly after their recovery. While the squad made the playoffs last year through the efforts of Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert, they were quickly swept by the Toronto Raptors.

If all things fall into place, the Nets have a balanced squad of players that could challenge even the best in the NBA. While they are lacking in on-court experience as a unit, their star power alone is enough to push them into title contention.

Denver Nuggets (+1600)

Key Players: Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic, Michael Porter

Notable Losses: Jerami Grant, Torrey Craig, Noah Vonleh

Notable Additions: JaMychal Green, Facundo Campazzo, Bol Bol

The Denver Nuggets were absolutely brilliant in their 2019-2020 NBA Playoff run. They could easily be considered the most entertaining team of last year’s playoffs, despite falling short of their ultimate goal in the end.

The growth of Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic into two of the league’s best players at their position is what draws eyes to the Nuggets as contenders. After eliminating the Clippers in seven games, the Nuggets announced their arrival amongst the best in the league.

After losing Jerami Grant, head coach Michael Malone will be looking to his young stars to emerge as leaders for what is still a rather young roster. Without the commercial star power of some teams, the Nuggets’ internal development will be crucial to their success.

Philadelphia 76ers (+1100)

Key Players: Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris

Notable Losses: Al Horford, Josh Richardson, Zhaire Smith

Notable Additions: Danny Green, Seth Curry, Dwight Howard

If you had to name the most disappointing team of the 2019-2020 NBA season, the Philadelphia 76ers would likely be at the top of the list. If you had to name the most exciting looking team of the 2020-2021 season, it would likely be the Philadelphia 76ers.

The raw talent of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons is felt every time they step on the court, but the experiment of surrounding them with other top-level players didn’t pan out. Enter former Rockets Executive Daryl Morey and Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, and you have a team that has sneakily retooled into the face of a championship contender.

We don’t know how it is going to pan out for the Sixers, but all the right pieces seem to be in place. Should Doc Rivers be able to optimize the talent he has on the court, the Sixers could emerge as one of the East’s best once again.

Who Were the 2020 NBA Champions?

The 2019-2020 NBA Champions were the Los Angeles Lakers. After dominating the regular season, the Lakers were able to spend no more than six games with any opponent en route to their 17th NBA title.

LeBron James won his fourth NBA Championship and fourth NBA Finals MVP Award with the Lakers.

Their route to the Championship was no easy task:

OpponentConferenceSeed (Record)Series RecordTeam PPGOpp PPGLAL PPG LeaderLAL REB LeaderLAL AST Leader
Portland Trail BlazersWest#8 (35-39)4-1117.2106.6Anthony Davis (29.8)LeBron James (10.2)LeBron James (10.2)
Houston RocketsWest#4 (44-28)4-1111.0103.8LeBron James (25.8)Anthony Davis (12.4)LeBron James (7.4)
Denver NuggetsWest#3 (46-27)4-1113.6109.2Anthony Davis (31.2)LeBron James (10.4)LeBron James (9.0)
Miami HeatEast#5 (44-29)4-2110.0104.5LeBron James (29.8)LeBron James (11.8)LeBron James (8.5)

NBA Champions by Year

YearWestern Conference ChampionSeries ResultEastern Conference Champion
2020Los Angeles Lakers4-2Miami Heat
2019Golden State Warriors2-4Toronto Raptors
2018Golden State Warriors4-0Cleveland Cavaliers
2017Golden State Warriors4-1Cleveland Cavaliers
2016Golden State Warriors3-4Cleveland Cavaliers
2015Golden State Warriors4-2Cleveland Cavaliers
2014San Antonio Spurs4-1Miami Heat
2013San Antonio Spurs3-4Miami Heat
2012Oklahoma City Thunder1-4Miami Heat
2011Dallas Mavericks4-2Miami Heat
2010Los Angeles Lakers4-3Boston Celtics
2009Los Angeles Lakers4-1Orlando Magic
2008Los Angeles Lakers2-4Boston Celtics
2007San Antonio Spurs4-0Cleveland Cavaliers
2006Dallas Mavericks2-4Miami Heat
2005San Antonio Spurs4-3Detroit Pistons
2004Los Angeles Lakers1-4Detroit Pistons
2003San Antonio Spurs4-2New Jersey Nets
2002Los Angeles Lakers4-0New Jersey Nets
2001Los Angeles Lakers4-1Philadelphia 76ers
2000Los Angeles Lakers4-2Indiana Pacers
1999San Antonio Spurs4-1New York Knicks
1998Utah Jazz2-4Chicago Bulls
1997Utah Jazz2-4Chicago Bulls
1996Seattle SuperSonics2-4Chicago Bulls
1995Houston Rockets4-0Orlando Magic
1994Houston Rockets4-3New York Knicks
1993Phoenix Suns2-4Chicago Bulls
1992Portland Trail Blazers2-4Chicago Bulls
1991Los Angeles Lakers1-4Chicago Bulls
1990Portland Trail Blazers1-4Detroit Pistons
1989Los Angeles Lakers0-4Detroit Pistons
1988Los Angeles Lakers4-3Detroit Pistons
1987Los Angeles Lakers4-2Boston Celtics
1986Houston Rockets2-4Boston Celtics
1985Los Angeles Lakers4-2Boston Celtics
1984Los Angeles Lakers3-4Boston Celtics
1983Los Angeles Lakers0-4Philadelphia 76ers
1982Los Angeles Lakers4-2Philadelphia 76ers
1981Houston Rockets0-4Boston Celtics
1980Los Angeles Lakers4-2Philadelphia 76ers
1979Seattle Supersonics4-1Washington Bullets
1978Seattle Supersonics3-4Washington Bullets
1977Portland Trail Blazers4-2Philadelphia 76ers
1976Phoenix Suns2-4Boston Celtics
1975Golden State Warriors4-0Washington Bullets
1974Milwaukee Bucks3-4Boston Celtics
1973Los Angeles Lakers1-4New York Knicks
1972Los Angeles Lakers4-1New York Knicks
1971Milwaukee Bucks4-0Baltimore Bullets
1970Los Angeles Lakers3-4New York Knicks
1969Los Angeles Lakers3-4Boston Celtics
1968Los Angeles Lakers2-4Boston Celtics
1967San Francisco Warriors2-4Philadelphia 76ers
1966Los Angeles Lakers3-4Boston Celtics
1965Los Angeles Lakers1-4Boston Celtics
1964San Francisco Warriors1-4Boston Celtics
1963Los Angeles Lakers2-4Boston Celtics
1962Los Angeles Lakers3-4Boston Celtics
1961St. Louis Hawks3-4Boston Celtics
1960St. Louis Hawks3-4Boston Celtics
1959Minneapolis Lakers0-4Boston Celtics
1958St. Louis Hawks4-2Boston Celtics
1957St. Louis Hawks3-4Boston Celtics
1956Fort Wayne Pistons1-4Philadelphia 76ers
1955Fort Wayne Pistons3-4Syracuse Nationals
1954Minneapolis Lakers4-3Syracuse Nationals
1953Minneapolis Lakers4-1New York Knicks
1952Minneapolis Lakers4-3New York Knicks
1951Rochester Royals4-3New York Knicks
1950Minneapolis Lakers4-2Syracuse Nationals
1949Minneapolis Lakers4-2Washington Capitols
1948Baltimore Bullets4-2Philadelphia 76ers
1947Chicago Stags1-4Philadelphia Warriors

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Do the NBA Champions Receive a Prize?

The NBA Champions receive the Larry O’Brien Trophy upon closing out their opponents in the NBA Finals. The Larry O’Brien Trophy was only awarded beginning in 1984. Before that, teams received the Walter A. Brown Trophy. The Walter A. Brown Trophy now resides in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

In terms of prize money, the NBA Champions don’t receive anything of the sort. Due to the fact that teams participating in the NBA Playoffs are entitled to additional television revenues, players receive a bonus for each game they participate in. In 2018, the amount was reported to be in the realm of $20 million. The winner of the prize pool had approximately $3 million to split between their players.

Exposure is also a huge reward for the NBA Champions during their following season. Massive amounts of signage, imagery, and player likeness from the championship side are used for the subsequent season. Champions can also expect an increase in nationally televised games. For example, the 2019 Champion Toronto Raptors received 11 nationally broadcasted games in 2019-2020, compared to an average of just three per season in their previous ten seasons.

What Is the Larry O’Brien Trophy?

The Larry O’Brien Trophy is the ultimate reward for the year’s NBA Championship team. Introduced in 1984, the Larry O’Brien Trophy replaced the more cup-like Walter A. Brown Trophy. Unlike the Walter A. Brown Trophy, each team gets to keep one version of the Larry O’Brien Trophy for themselves.

The Larry O’Brien Trophy is made of seven kilograms of sterling silver and vermeil, with a 24 karat gold overlay as defined by Tiffany & Co. The design imitates a basketball entering the net. The team name and year of their victory is engraved on the base of the trophy, usually displayed prominently in the team’s home arena.

Players, coaches, and staff are usually able to organize times during the offseason in which they can acquire the Larry O’Brien Trophy for temporary, personal use.

What Are NBA Championship Rings?

Due to the fact that NBA players on the championship side don’t get to keep a version of the Larry O’Brien Trophy for themselves, Championship Rings have been common for teams to commission for its players.

Modest during the outset of the NBA, Championship rings have grown more beautiful and lavish as the years have gone on.

Baron Championship Rings crafted the 2019 NBA Champion Toronto Raptors’ ring. It has 640 diamonds, the most diamond total carat weight, and the largest single diamond of all championship rings in major sports.

Who Were the First NBA Champions?

The inaugural winners of the NBA Championship were the 1946-1947 Philadelphia Warriors. Technically speaking, at the time of their victory the league was known as the BAA or the Basketball Association of America. If you consider 1948 as the true debut season of the NBA, the eventual NBA Champions were still the Philadelphia Warriors.

Which Franchise Has the Most NBA Championships?

NBA ChampionshipsTeamYear(s) Won
17Boston Celtics1957, 1959, 1960, 1961,

1962, 1963, 1964, 1965,

1966, 1968, 1969, 1974,

1976, 1981, 1984, 1986,


16Los Angeles Lakers

(Also as Minneapolis Lakers)

1949, 1950, 1952, 1953,

1954, 1972, 1980, 1982,

1985, 1987, 1988, 2000,

2001, 2002, 2009, 2010

6Golden State Warriors

(Also as Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors)

1947, 1956, 1975, 2015,

2017, 2018

Chicago Bulls1991, 1992, 1993, 1996,

1997, 1998

5San Antonio Spurs1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2014
3Philadelphia 76ers

(Also as Syracuse Nationals)

1955, 1967, 1983
Detroit Pistons

(Also as Fort Wayne Pistons)

1989, 1990, 2004
Miami Heat2006, 2012, 2013
2New York Knicks1970, 1973
Houston Rockets1994, 1995
1Cleveland Cavaliers2016
Atlanta Hawks

(As St. Louis Hawks)

Washington Wizards

(As Washington Bullets)

Oklahoma City Thunder

(As Seattle SuperSonics)

Portland Trail Blazers1977
Milwaukee Bucks1971
Dallas Mavericks2011
Baltimore Bullets1948
Sacramento Kings1951
Toronto Raptors2019

Which Franchise Hasn’t Won an NBA Championship?

There are a number of NBA franchises that are yet to win a title. Whether they’ve been terribly close or never within striking distance, these teams are still looking to add the Larry O’Brien trophy to their cabinet.

  1. Indiana Pacers (est. 1976)
  2. Charlotte Hornets (est. 1988 as Hornets, 2004 as Bobcats, 2014 as Hornets)
  3. Oklahoma City Thunder (est. 2008)
  4. Brooklyn Nets (est. 2012)
  5. Memphis Grizzlies (est. 2001)
  6. Utah Jazz (est. 1979)
  7. Phoenix Suns (est. 1968)
  8. New Orleans Pelicans (est. 2002 as NO Hornets, 2013 as Pelicans)
  9. LA Clippers (est. 1984)
  10. Denver Nuggets (est. 1976)
  11. Orlando Magic (est. 1989)
  12. Minnesota Timberwolves (est. 1989)

Which NBA Franchise Was Quickest to an NBA Championship?

Founded in 1968-1969, the Milwaukee Bucks won their first NBA Championship during the 1970-1971 NBA season. Outside of the Philadelphia Warriors, who won the inaugural BAA Finals, the Milwaukee Bucks were the fastest expansion team to the title. But how did they do it?

After the drafting of Lew Alcindor, later known as NBA Legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in 1969 and acquiring Oscar Robertson in a trade, the Milwaukee Bucks found their way to an NBA Championship by sweeping the Baltimore Bullets in the 1971 NBA Finals.

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Christian Jope

Expert on NBA

Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.

Email: [email protected]