2018-19 season recap
Start your engines, the 2019-20 NBA season is upon us! Tremendous levels of enthusiasm and excitement are kicking in as teams already taking part in this year’s pre-season action are preparing for a season that is set for the ages.
Earlier this year we saw the Toronto Raptors crowned as Champions for the first time in their franchise history, after defeating defending champions Golden State Warriors in 6 games. This was mostly thanks to the historical on-court performances by Kawhi Leonard, who joins the elite company of LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in winning Finals MVP with more than one team (his first time was in 2014 with the San Antonio Spurs).
The Raptors had to overcome MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and his Milwaukee Bucks after trailing 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals, and the Philadelphia 76ers in 7 games, with Leonard making the series-winning shot in a truly iconic fashion.
Both the playoffs and regular season treated basketball fans across the globe to some real thrills over the course of the season, and with June's 2019 Draft and the subsequent off-season altering the landscape of the league yet again, we’re sure the 74th NBA season will certainly be one to remember.
Free agency and off-season
July’s off-season was also as exciting as the 2019 Season, as several All-Stars and faces of many franchises changed sides via trade or after trying Free Agency. Leonard made history again, as he became the first Finals MVP to win the award and then join a new team after signing with the Clippers, who also signed Paul George.
The most ground-breaking transaction in the East is undoubtedly Kevin Durant joining the Brooklyn Nets, despite a ruptured Achilles hampering his start to the season. Kyrie Irving left Boston to join forces with Durant, after just one season plagued by injuries and criticism with the Celtics.
They replaced him by signing Kemba Walker on a 4-year contract, but faced the departure of another key player, Al Horford, who joined the Philadelphia 76ers. Jimmy Butler also went southbound, securing his third move of the year as he joined the Miami Heat.
In the West, the Anthony Davis trade saga was finally put to an end: after 7 seasons in New Orleans, he joined the Los Angeles Lakers in return for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round draft picks. In fact, it seems the Pelicans have already found their new 2019-20 star after selecting Zion Williamson in this year’s Draft.
The Oklahoma City Thunder era is also over for Russell Westbrook, who teamed up with James Harden in Houston, leaving Oklahoma with Chris Paul and a couple of first round picks in return.
The Warriors now have D’Angelo Russell to join Stephen Curry in the backcourt, after losing Klay Thompson to a torn ACL for the most part of the 2020 season. And the Dallas Mavericks are looking ambitious again, after acquiring Kristaps Porzingis midseason. If the Latvian forward/center works well with Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic, the pair could become one of the league’s hugely formidable partnerships.
Favourites, underdogs and value bets
Both the Clippers and the Lakers look to have a head start in pre-season odds, and rightfully so after forming the league’s most talented duos possible in Leonard-George and James-Davis.
Whilst Golden State appear unlikely to make a 6th consecutive Finals appearance, and will need to fight for home-court advantage in a packed Western Conference, the Rockets (who should find little trouble in winning the Southwest Division) and the Denver Nuggets look roaring to go.
As do the Utah Jazz, who - in adding Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic to a roster already crowded with talent - could be this year’s dark-horses. The strength of their squad, as well as a tough-to-beat home court advantage, make Jazz a sneaky bet to keep your eyes on.
In the East things are looking less complicated, as the Bucks, 76ers, Celtics and reigning champions Raptors hold the upper hand compared to the competition. Toronto has to get accustomed to life without Leonard, and how quickly or smoothly this transition will occur remains to be seen.
Philadelphia went all-in during the summer and look more determined than ever to make it to their first Finals since 2001. On paper, Indiana and Brooklyn should also make it to postseason, but with their stars either rehabbing (Durant) or patiently transitioning again into action (Oladipo), it will be interesting to see if they can keep up with the pace of Milwaukee or Philadelphia in the Regular Season.
Our team value bets:
- Houston Rockets to win Southwest Division at 1.39*
- Milwaukee Bucks to win Central Division at 1.17*
- Philadelphia 76ers to win both Atlantic Division & Eastern Conference at 5.38*
- Utah Jazz to win the Championship at 19.6*
The ones to watch out for (and bet on)
Giannis Antetokounmpo is an early favourite to continue his MVP winning ways. Despite a disappointing World Cup campaign with the Greek National Team, the Greek Freak is only a reliable jumpshot away from perfecting his game. The Bucks have built their team around him, giving him the space he needs to dominate again.
James Harden, who won the 2018 MVP award, has been leading the NBA in points scored for two seasons in a row and looks to have no intentions of slowing down. The focal point of one of the most high-octane and productive offenses in the league, Harden has the green light to shoot whenever possible and is a must in betting for scoring champion.
LeBron James looks 100% refreshed and poised to go full-throttle as soon as the first whistle is blown, especially after he missed the Finals for the first time since 2010.
Ben Simmons as been a revelation to say the least. Although his all great all-around game is not supported by a 3-point shot, he’s been working all summer to make up for this and already hit his first 3-pointer as a Pro. If he continues to build on that, he should be a walking triple-double threat every night.
*Odds subject to change