The past 24 hours have proven to be some of the most impactful to the NBA futures markets. Not only did the Nets upset the Bucks to cause an inflection point in that series, but injuries and other news have shifted the odds dramatically. What all happened and what does it mean for the NBA championship odds?
Nets again atop NBA Championship odds
The fortunes of the Brooklyn Nets have endured some wild swings. Ultimately, the net effect — pun intended — has been a return where sat most of the year: NBA championship favorites.
Things looked a bit grim following their two losses to the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum. Not necessarily because of the results, but the loss of Kyrie Irving to an ankle injury meant the team had only Kevin Durant left of its three superstars.
Well, the cavalry charged in with the return of James Harden. Harden gutted through 46 minutes on a bum hamstring as the Nets escaped with a 114-108 win.
What’s interesting is that the win has barely changed the futures market — at least for Brooklyn. The Nets’ long-term strength if they could get healthy meant the market still respected them enough to keep them as co-title favorites.
In an unusual circumstance, the team that cohabited the top of the board was their second-round opponent, the Bucks. Bettors had to be befuddled to see Milwaukee favored in the series but Brooklyn favored in the title chase. Jason Scott of BetMGM explained it to ESPN:
“The philosophy is if they can overcome the injuries in the short term against the Bucks, they will be well-placed long term to win the conference and championship.”
While Harden was able to unexpectedly go after being announced out initially, his output may have been cause for concern. He shot just 1-for-10 and scored five points. That could be a troubling sign going forward as Durant likely can’t produce 49-point efforts repeatedly.
Optimists about Harden’s chances to improve can grab the Nets . Milwaukee has crashed from co-favorite status to among the longshots at .
Kawhi Leonard out indefinitely
L.A. Clippers star Kawhi Leonard suffered the latest in a long string of injuries to big names this NBA season. He briefly collided with Joe Ingles of the Utah Jazz on what looked to be a relatively routine play late in the Clippers’ Game 4 win. Leonard grimaced and limped off after a postgame interview but said he’d be fine.
Recent reports paint a different picture. First, ESPN reported Leonard would likely miss Game 5 and was in doubt for the rest of the series. Then, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported the Clippers feared their star suffered an ACL injury. That would certainly end his season and likely keep him out most or all of the following season.
Leonard has been the driving force behind the Clippers’ success even with a solid roster and a fellow All-Star in Paul George around. Leonard notched a +12.8 NetRtg this season and the team went exactly neutral without him.
According to Cleaning The Glass, lineups that included George but not Leonard this year had a NetRtg of just +1.5. The two most-used lineups went -29.7 and -10, ranking among the team’s worst groups.
Coach Ty Lue has his work cut out for him and the market reflects plenty of skepticism. Despite still being tied 2-2 with the Jazz, the Clippers plummeted to in the wake of the Leonard news. That certainly looks warranted based on their seasonal splits.
As for the Jazz, what looked like a very tough road has gotten a whole lot smoother. Formerly around +500 to win the title, they’ve come way down to thanks to this and…
Chris Paul in COVID protocols
NBA fans woke up to some startling news on Wednesday morning as reports emerged that Chris Paul had entered the league’s COVID-19 protocols.
A later report from a local outlet confirmed Paul tested positive. Furthermore, they reported Paul received the Pfizer vaccine earlier this year, so the news must have come as a shock to everyone involved.
Long dogged by playoff failures, Paul fought through a shoulder injury to help bounce the Lakers. Then, he absolutely crushed the Nuggets in a dominating 4-0 sweep in which he tallied 41 assists and five turnovers.
Now, it’s unknown how long he’ll be missing. The COVID protocols sidelined De’Aaron Fox for his team’s final 13 games, stretching across more than two weeks. The NBA shortened the protocols for vaccinated players, but it’s still possible Paul won’t play another game this season.
Lineup data looks a bit…sunnier for Phoenix. Their top two lineups that include Devin Booker but not Paul went +15.8 and +6.7 according to Cleaning The Glass. Overall, the team went +6.5 with such lineups, comparable to their full season mark of +6.2.
Cameron Payne proved an able replacement against the Lakers. If he can replicate that, the Suns have a shot to stay afloat. They’ll be rooting hard for the Clippers to extend the series and give Paul the best chance to come back for the Western Conference Finals.
The market didn’t ding the Suns much in the wake of Paul’s positive test. After sitting around +400 to win the title a day ago, they can now be found as high as . It’s a good opportunity for Payne and Booker believers to pounce.