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Best Bet for 2021 Western Conference Champion: Lakers, Mavericks, Rockets?

by November 4, 2020

This time last year, the NBA was already a full-month underway, and due to COVID-19, Adam Silver is looking to bring back the league around Christmas 2020. Wouldn’t that be a nice stocking-stuffer? Presents at 8 a.m. and basketball at noon? That would be the life.

Silver’s target is December 22, and if that does happen, you have less than 60 days to lock in your NBA futures bets. I’ve already recapped my favorite MVP bets and 2020-21 Champion favorites, including Luka Doncic, Kevin Durant, the Los Angeles Lakers, and more. In this article, we’ll examine my three favorite picks to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals this upcoming season.

You can see odds here at BettingPros odds consensus, and across most sportsbooks, the Los Angeles Lakers are the favorites to win the West after winning the NBA title in their second season with LeBron. Rightfully so, the Lakers take the top spot in my favorite bets to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.

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L.A. Lakers (+175)

The Lakers had the Western Conference’s best record (52-19) last season and were impressive from start to finish. They made history being the only team ever to go undefeated when leading entering the fourth quarter (57-0), and that’s something only championship-caliber teams can accomplish. Led by Finals MVP LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers are the Western Conference favorites and favorites to win the NBA Championship yet again.

Despite the Lakers primarily being a two-person show, they led the NBA in field-goal percentage (48%) and held their opponents to the fourth-fewest points per game (107.6). Overall, L.A. wasn’t the deepest or most talented team, but they rallied around LeBron and A.D. in the clutch. No one expected Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Alex Caruso to combine for 53 minutes a game in the Lakers’ 21 playoff games or that they’d abandon Javale McGee and Dwight Howard throughout the postseason to start A.D. at center.

Danny Green and Kyle Kuzma proved to be expandable after their postseason performances. How the Lakers will divvy up their money moving forward is a question mark, but they will have to continue paying A.D. the max. Davis has a real opportunity at being named MVP in 2021, as LeBron will undoubtedly trust in A.D. more after their championship.

I doubt LeBron wins MVP; if he did, he would become the oldest MVP of all-time (36-years-old), passing Karl Malone. LeBron hasn’t won since 2012-13 with the Miami Heat, and Davis isn’t a longshot by any means. With two MVP-caliber players on the roster, they’re an unattractive +175, but those odds won’t get much better for bettors unless there’s an injury.

The Lakers’ main competition will be the Clippers after losing Doc Rivers and the Warriors as they look to return to elite status after a year full of injuries. I’ll go over my sleeper picks for the West, but there’s no real indication that the Lakers aren’t the team to beat for the next few years in the conference and league.

Like Jimmy Butler said, “If you want to win an NBA title, you have to go through LeBron James.”

Houston Rockets (+1600)

Over the past six seasons, the Rockets have lost to the eventual Western Conference Champion in five of them. A ridiculous stat for a ridiculously designed team. Darryl Morey is out of the front office, and before he left, he pulled a hail mary to save his job implementing the small-ball no center lineup.

Well, it didn’t quite work out as planned, and the Rockets did, in fact, continue lighting it up from beyond the arc after the trade deadline, but they couldn’t rebound to save their lives. P.J. Tucker started at center with Robert Covington at power forward, and that resulted in Houston finishing the regular-season 28th out of 30 teams in rebounds per game (39.7).

That became the Rockets kryptonite as well as mismatch problems. There was no way they could stop Anthony Davis in the postseason, and matchups with Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, and Kristaps Porzingis are nearly impossible to guard for 48-minutes. Under new management and a new head coach, Houston could look totally different next season, again.

The addition of Russell Westbrook worked out well; he and James Harden meshed well and combined for 61.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, and 11.0 assists per game. Exactly what you would hope to get from the former Thunder now turned Rockets duo. Stephen Silas takes over the coaching duties, a former Mavericks assistant, giving the Rockets another offensive-minded coach.

The Rockets have made the Conference Semifinals in five-of-six seasons and the WCF once. If Silas can quickly build around Harden and Westbrook or bring in one more piece, a trip to the semifinals and beyond isn’t unlikely. With Harden and Westbrook, you’re always going to be competitive, but enough to overthrow LeBron and the Lakers? Obviously not.

Dallas Mavericks (+1400)

The Mavericks have one of the brightest futures with 21-year-old Luka Doncic and 25-year-old Kristaps Porzingis at the helm. What they do around the pair remains unseen, but this team took the Clippers to six games, and that was with a banged-up Doncic and an injured/suspended/fouled-out Porzingis for most of the series.

In season two, Dallas will continue to build around them, and as of now, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Seth Curry won’t be enough. The Mavericks’ leading role players last season were Maxi Kleber, Delon Wright, Justin Jackson, Dwight Powell, and Dorian Finney-Smith, in addition to Curry and Hardaway. You might look at that bunch and be unimpressed, but Dallas broke a franchise record with 117.0 points per game, good enough for third-best in the league.

Doncic is the main factor in their record scoring outburst, but he also averaged 9.4 rebounds (17th), 8.8 assists (3rd), and a 27.65 Player Efficiency Rating (3rd) on the season besides his 28.8 points per game (6th). He’s one of my picks for MVP heading into the 2020-21 season, and if he’s an MVP candidate, then his team has to exceed expectations, too, right?

While there’s a lot of growth left for this Dallas team, they’re being offered at the same odds as Denver (+1400). Both teams are tied-fourth in odds, and to me, that’s a valuable price for the Mavericks. Dallas is ahead of Houston (+1600) and Utah (+2000) while trailing the L.A. Lakers (+175), L.A. Clippers (+300), and Golden State (+500) in terms of odds to win the West.

They’re right in the middle of the pack, and if Doncic continues to improve, this team can be dangerous in a seven-game series against any team. It may not be this year for Dallas, but Doncic and Dallas will be in the NBA Finals within the next three years.

Best Bet for 2021 Eastern Conference Champion

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Vaughn Dalzell is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Vaughn, check out his archive or follow him @VaughnDalzell.