NBA Championship Odds and Action Report

NBA championship odds aren't front and center for most of us, what with Super Bowl odds dominating the landscape. But the NBA trade deadline certainly did its best to steal headlines, thanks mostly to a couple of now-ex Brooklyn Nets.

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving had the Nets very much in the mix in odds to win the NBA Finals. Not anymore. And to channel The Beatles, Here Come the Suns.

BetMGM sports trader Halvor Egeland provides fresh insights on NBA Finals odds and action. Check back throughout the season for updates.

NBA Championship Odds

Land of the Rising Suns

With Kevin Durant heading to Phoenix, the Suns shot up the odds board. (Getty)

Just when it looked as if the Dallas Mavericks made the biggest trade-deadline acquisition, the Phoenix Suns pulled a hold-my-beer moment. Late on the evening of Feb. 8, news broke that the Suns reached a deal with the Nets to acquire superstar Kevin Durant.

Instantly, the Suns shot up the NBA championship odds board at BetMGM. Phoenix is now the second choice at +450, trailing only the Boston Celtics at +350.

"The Suns' odds have been pretty volatile over the last week. Their performance on court this season has been relatively disappointing up to this point," Egeland said. "Before the Kyrie trade request, they got up to +1800. Once it became apparent the Suns were a potential landing spot for Kyrie, we moved the Suns down to +1200. After the Irving trade to the Mavericks, the Suns made their way right back up to +1800, after a brief stop at +1600."

"Then, Kevin Durant happened. It was 1:30 a.m. [Thursday] here on the East Coast, so it was quite the shocking development to wake up to. Our overnight crew moved the Suns to +450, and we’ve held there."

That said, Egeland believes Phoenix just might move up one more spot in the NBA Finals odds market. Durant is currently out with a knee injury, with an expected return after the All-Star break.

"If the Suns work as well as I believe they will once Durant comes back, then there’s a pretty good chance they take over the Celtics for that top spot," Egeland said. "I was somewhat shocked by the trade, due to what the Nets accepted for Kyrie. Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith are both players that were considered to help maintain the Nets' competitiveness.

"Reports were that they turned down other deals with more draft capital. If they had intentions to shop Durant, then getting more draft picks makes more sense to me."

In the Durant deal, the Nets got several first- and second-round picks, plus Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson.

Updated on 04/13/2024
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Bailing on Brooklyn

Kyrie Irving was traded from the Nets to the Mavericks. (Getty)

Prior to Irving's trade request, the Nets trailed only the favored Boston Celtics and the No. 2 choice Milwaukee Bucks in BetMGM's NBA championship odds market. The Feb. 3 trade request, followed by the Feb. 5 deal shipping Irving to Dallas, shifted that landscape in a hurry.

"The first move was to bring the Lakers in and push the Nets out," Egeland said, noting Los Angeles was immediately identified as a potential landing spot. "The original move was Nets +700 to +900 and Lakers from +4000 to +3000. We actually had the Lakers at +5000 earlier in the [day] and moved them to +4000 just from daily checks on the rest of the market.

After keeping a close eye on the market and the Irving rumors, BetMGM made these notable adjustments:

  • Lakers from +3000 to +2000, then to +2500
  • Clippers from +1400 to +1200
  • Mavericks from +2500 to +2000
  • Suns from +1800 to +1300
  • Celtics from +400 to +350

Of that last move, Egeland said: "It's less potential competition in the East. Boston is not viewed as a potential trade destination."

And of those other teams' moves?

"The teams that we moved in – Lakers, Clippers, Mavericks and Suns – would be making this move to win this year. Each one of those teams could be one piece away from seriously contending for a championship," Egeland said.

As it turned out, the Mavericks made the move on Feb. 5. Dallas acquired Irving and sent Brooklyn Finney-Smith, Dinwiddie and future draft picks.

"I am slightly surprised the Mavericks were able to get the deal done for Kyrie," Egeland said. "I’m not surprised at all that they wanted to make the move, but I am surprised that the Nets took that offer so quickly."

As noted above, the Mavs moved from 25/1 to 20/1 at BetMGM after the Irving trade request. Dallas then went to 14/1 upon acquiring Irving. In the wake of the trade deadline, in no small part due to Phoenix acquiring Durant, the Mavs slipped back just a bit to +1600.

"The Mavericks would be a good result for us as of now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we start taking some action quickly if Luka and Kyrie gel together well," Egeland said. "The Mavs needed another playmaker alongside Luka, and they went out and got one of the best in the league. Let’s just hope the focus remains on the court."

Which is always a tricky part when it comes to Irving.

Ticket Takers and Money Makers

LeBron James' Lakers are sub-.500, yet continue to draw championship action. (Getty)

Unfortunately for BetMGM, an Irving relocation isn't ideal in its NBA Finals odds market.

"The Nets would be one of the better results for us among teams with a reasonable chance to win the title. In terms of our futures position, we’d be sad to see Kyrie leave Brooklyn," Egeland said, prior to the Durant trade, which further depleted the Nets. "The betting public has been lukewarm on the Nets so far this season. I think there are numerous reasons why. The fanbase isn’t as big as some of these other contenders, and [there's] the overall uncertainty that comes with Kyrie when he’s on your team.

"I don’t blame bettors for staying away from a team that is so unpredictable, even when they’re as talented as just about anyone."

Even when the Nets were third on the NBA championship odds board, they weren't getting much attention. Brooklyn was seventh in ticket count and money at BetMGM. That will now fall like a lead balloon. The Nets went from +700 to +1400 after Irving's trade request, then to +2200 when Irving was dealt. Brooklyn then plunged to 100/1 after the Durant deal.

Egeland said the Lakers, Celtics and the Golden State Warriors are 1-2-3 in tickets, while the Warriors lead in money, followed by Boston and Denver. LeBron James and Co. – who added D'Angelo Russell from Minnesota and shipped Russell Westbrook to Utah in a three-team deal – still have 10 teams ahead of them in odds to win the NBA Finals, but BetMGM remains wary. The Lakers opened +2200 and fell back as far as +5000 a couple of times before the trade-deadline surge.

"We just can’t slow down the Lakers action. We’re currently shorter than most of the market at +2800, and I anticipate that will be the story for the rest of the season," Egeland said. "They made some great moves, in my opinion. Russell Westbrook just never worked with the Lakers. They were able to part with Russ and his contract, alongside a protected first-round pick, and got back quite the haul.

"Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt fill some needs for the Lakers and should provide some immediate impact. D‘Angelo Russell isn’t as seamless of a fit, but he can definitely score and will have nights where he explodes. I don’t fully understand parting ways with Thomas Bryant and going out to get Mo Bamba, but there’s no doubt the Lakers improved at the deadline."

There are trouble spots for the book beyond the Lakers, as well.

"The Nuggets have been a fan favorite all year, and that hasn’t really slowed down. We have the Colorado customer base, of course, but the Nuggets do seem to be the popular pick for bettors this year," Egeland said. "We won’t like the Warriors, Kings or Nuggets taking home the trophy."

On the flip side, the Celtics, Suns and Bucks (+600) would be welcome champions for BetMGM.

"The Celtics may start to pick up some more interest now that we’re live in Massachusetts, but they’re currently a great result for us," Egeland said. "There was certainly an uptick in Suns action, but not enough to have a serious impact on our future liabilities. The Suns are a solid winner for us and should be great for our customers in Arizona. A Celtics-Suns championship [matchup] would be ideal among the realistic competitors." 

Warriors Worries?

Steph Curry is out with an injury, but the Warriors are still +1500 to win the title. (Getty)

Golden State star guard Stephen Curry also helped jumble the odds – thought not nearly as much – when he injured his left leg in a 119-113 home win over Dallas on Feb. 4. Curry will be out at least through the Feb. 17-19 All-Star Weekend and could be out into March.

BetMGM's odds team hasn't yet put too much weight on Curry's absence, even for a Golden State team that is hovering around .500. Oddsmakers still have plenty of faith in the defending NBA champion Warriors.

"We moved from +900 to +1000 initially, but have gone to +1500 now, with more reports on the severity of the injury," Egeland said. "If Steph comes back fully healthy, the Warriors are a good bet regardless of their seeding, in my opinion. Their starting five has the best offensive rating in the league. When the rotation shrinks in the playoffs, I believe the Warriors are just as much of a threat to win the title as they were last year.

"Having said that, the most recent report of four weeks out for Steph puts the Warriors in trouble of missing the playoffs altogether. That’s where the move from +1000 to +1500 came from. If you believe that the Warriors can keep it together while Steph is out, +1500 is a great bet."

Flying Under the Radar

Joel Embiid and the 76ers are 12/1 to win the NBA championship. (Getty)

There are only six teams with prices of +1200 or shorter in BetMGM's NBA championship odds market. Egeland classifies the last two of those teams as flying under the radar at the moment.

"The two teams that I think have realistic chances and have some value are the 76ers and the Clippers," he said, noting the Clippers are +1000 and the Sixers +1200. "The 76ers are right there at the top of the East, and Joel Embiid has been playing like he wants that MVP trophy. I think they still need to figure out how to manage late-game situations offensively, but they’re playing like one of the best teams in the league.

"The Clippers have disappointed time and time again, but there’s no denying how good they could be," Egeland said. "I’d hope Kawhi and George can stay healthy with all the load management."

Meanwhile, Brooklyn went from fully on the radar to flying under the radar to completely off the radar.

"I feel bad for anyone with a Nets future. They went from serious contender with two future Hall of Famers to an outsider without any standout stars," Egeland said. "If I’m being optimistic, Bridges, [Nic] Claxton and suddenly Cam Thomas have some star potential down the road. Dinwiddie and Finney-Smith are both quality players.

"They’ll be a competitive regular-season team and will probably be decently fun to watch. But I can’t remember a bigger drop in a future that didn’t involve any injuries."