Safe to say we will not be watching enormous crowds in Jurassic Park(s) around Canada when we tune into the NBA Finals next June. With the Toronto Raptors now having lost Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Clippers, Masai Ujiri’s team now goes into rebuild mode … which makes the Milwaukee Bucks even bigger favorites to win the East.
The Bucks’ title odds now stand at +600 at both DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook, and the Raptors — reeling from the losses of Leonard and Danny Green, have fallen all the way to +2200 at DraftKings and +3200 at FanDuel.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said the Raptors were offered both Russell Westbrook and Paul George in the hours leading up to Leonard’s decision, but that Ujiri did not want to part with Most Improved Player Award winner Pascal Siakam.
Yes, it has been a crazy week in the NBA.
Ujiri now has another hole to fill at shooting guard after Green signed with the Lakers, although moving Fred Van Vleet into a starting role alongside Kyle Lowry has to be considered as an option. Among the best remaining backcourt players on the open market are Kelly Oubre of the Phoenix Suns (restricted)and Jamal Crawford (unrestricted). Ujiri filled three holes by signing Nets free agent Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Pelicans free agent Stanley Johnson and Ole Miss guard Terence Davis, who got a two-year deal.
“You don’t want to go from a team that just won a championship to a team that can barely make the playoffs the next season,” former Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said on NBA-TV, suggesting that Ontario native Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves might be the best fit to replace Leonard on the roster.
As for what is on the roster already, Lowry ($33.3 million), Marc Gasol ($25.6 million), Serge Ibaka ($23.2 million) and Van Vleet ($8.6 million) are entering the final seasons of their contracts, and Toronto is committed to just $14 million in salary for the 2020-21 season. So a full rebuild is still a year away, but what Ujuri can find on the trade market (or buried treasure in the Las Vegas Summer League) remains to be seen.
Who will contend in the East?
Milwaukee is the favorite (+600 at both books) and Philadelphia (+900 at both books) is the second choice, with a big payout dropoff to the next tier — Brooklyn and Boston.
One team that bears watching now that we know that Russell Westbrook is on the market is the Miami Heat, who have been insignificant for too long. Team president Pat Riley went hard after Jimmy Butler when the Sixers were moving him at the start of free agency less than a week ago, and when players the caliber of Westbrook become available, he will get creative.
The Heat have already traded away their unprotected 2021 first-round pick (it went to the Thunder as part of the Paul George deal), and the player Oklahoma City would want most — center Bam Adebayo — is pretty much untouchable now that Miami has rid itself of Hassan Whiteside.
Westbrook makes $38 million, and since both the Thunder and Heat are tax teams, the salaries in any deal would have to match … which means Riley would probably have to put Goran Dragic ($19 million), and Justice Winslow or Dion Waiters (both making $13 million) into a deal … along with at least one future first-round pick (the 2023 pick is the next first round pick that Riley is eligible to trade).
The trade of George means a full-out rebuild for the Thunder, and we now get to see what a Russell Westbrook Sweepstakes looks like.
Yes, the NBA is sometimes more interesting in July than it is in any month when actual basketball games are being played. Oh, and the Heat are +10000 to win the championship at FanDuel and +8500 at DraftKings.
MVP odds posted
What is interesting to look at in the gambling futures market, especially as it relates to the Eastern Conference, is the MVP odds. Giannis Antetokounmpo is naturally the favorite, and one must imagine that the superstar pairings in Los Angeles (LeBron and Anthony Davis with the Lakers; Leonard and George with the Clippers) will hurt their MVP chances. Superstar pairings usually do that.
At DraftKings, Blake Griffin of the Pistons and Kemba Walker of the Celtics are both 100-1, Jimmy Butler is 200-1 and Bradley Beal — who the Wizards have to consider trading in order to speed up their rebuild is a sneaky pick at 250-1. FanDuel does not list anyone higher than 100-1.
As for Westbrook, who could end up in the East, his MVP odds are 18-1 at DraftKings and 23-1 at FanDuel.