The 2020-21 NBA season concluded Sunday with the Lakers securing the 17th championship in franchise history. The Bubble the NBA put into place in Florida was a smashing success with zero positive COVID-19 tests over three months and now the league will create a plan for the 2021 season, which could begin in January or February of next year and run through the summer.
Before the Lakers and Heat even wrapped up their series, oddsmakers at DraftKings Sportsbook released NBA Futures lines for the 2021 championship. These early odds don’t account for the NBA Draft results (Nov. 18) and the wave of player movement we’ll assuredly see during a shortened free agency period this winter. The league hopes to open free agency on or around Dec. 1.
The league and NBA Players Association will have to agree on next season’s salary cap in November and rewrite player options, team options, and partial guarantees in each contract to reflect those changes. The NBA would then announce the official start date for next season, which the league plans to release 8 weeks prior to the start date. The season schedule will likely be condensed and adjusted to reduce travel.
Odds will shift following key transactions, injuries, and personnel moves, so check back for updates closer to the season.
Los Angeles Lakers (+350): Anthony Davis has declined his player option, but will presumably sign a long-term deal and pursue a second straight title with LeBron James. The pieces around those superstars are interchangeable and the Lakers are deserved favorites with those two All-NBA players expected to return.
Los Angeles Clippers (+400): Doc Rivers is out as head coach following the Clippers bizarre collapse this postseason. Tyronn Lue takes over and will look to get the most out of what could be the best defensive team in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are under contract for another season and the Clippers will have to decide on re-signing Marcus Morris Sr.
Milwaukee Bucks (+500): After dominating in each of the past two regular seasons, the Bucks exited the playoffs with a whimper. This is the final year of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s contract and the front office has promised to build better around him, which could mean trading key pieces since most of Milwaukee’s rotation is under contract.
Golden State Warriors (+600): Steph Curry and Klay Thompson will both be healthy to start the season and the Warriors are sitting on the No. 2 overall pick, which they could turn into game-changing center James Wiseman, or trade for a proven player. The Warriors also have a $17.2M trade exception.
Brooklyn Nets (+900): There are plenty of unknowns for the Nets with Steve Nash debuting as coach, Kevin Durant coming back from the most debilitating of basketball injuries, and Kyrie Irving already throwing his teammates under the bus, yet this is clearly one of the most talented teams on paper and Brooklyn may even make a play for Bradley Beal or another elite scorer this offseason.
Miami Heat (+900): The reigning ECF champions could gain some salary cap flexibility by letting aging PG Goran Dragic ($17M cap hit) walk in free agency. Kelly Olynyk is likely to take his $12M player option, but Pat Riley might think ahead to the 2021 offseason, when Giannis potentially becomes a free agent and Miami becomes his top suitor.
Boston Celtics (+1200): The Celtics are going to be a threat for years to come with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown still ascending towards their potential. Kemba Walker appears to be slowing down with knee troubles, though, and Danny Ainge would have a tough time moving Walker or Gordon Hayward, who can accept a $31.95M player option.
Toronto Raptors (+1600): The Raptors can free up around $22M in cap space by letting 35-year-old Marc Gasol walk in free agency. Toronto has plenty of depth up front and could potentially use that money to pursue an elite wing player.
Denver Nuggets (+2000): Jamal Murray is 23, Nikola Jokic is 25, and Michael Porter Jr. is 22. The Nuggets have earned invaluable postseason experience the past two years and are a dark horse candidate to navigate the WCF next season. They can get Paul Millsap and his $30M contract off the books this offseason.
Dallas Mavericks (+2200): If General Managers around the league were drafting a team today from the entire pool of NBA players, Luka Doncic would likely go first or second. The Mavericks just need the right pieces around Doncic and a healthy Kristaps Porzingis to become a contender.
Houston Rockets (+2200): With a new coach and new GM, can the Rockets get the most out of their ball-dominant guards? The franchise could grab a couple of big men off the scrap heap to at least give their new skipper the opportunity to match up against more sizable opponents.
Philadelphia 76ers (+3000): Doc Rivers jumps from an underachieving Clippers team with leadership issues to an even more dysfunctional franchise with two stars that don’t seem to fit together. Perhaps the Sixers will deal Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid and rebuild the roster around one of those talented bigs.