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NBA Daily: Unpredictability Wins, We Have No Frontrunners

The teams that we thought were going to dominate the postseason have struggled thus far, so there doesn’t really appear to be a favorite to win the NBA title, writes Matt John.

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When Golden State’s once-in-a-generation Death Lineup disbanded for good last year, the first word that came to everyone’s mind was parity. For the first time since 2015, it felt like the season would start without a foregone conclusion. Sure, there were going to be teams that were going to stand out above the rest, but if you were asked who would win it all, you probably had to take a second to think about it.

Then the season happened. Mostly. When the NBA pressed pause on Mar. 11, 2020, no team approached the level that Golden State occupied themselves in for the past three years, but there were three teams that had predictably stood out as the favorite – the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks.

When the season resumed, nothing changed. Though a few noteworthy dark horses were brought up, the most often predicted finals matchup was Milwaukee and whoever came out victorious between the expected battle of the LA rivals. We’re 10 games into the bubble and, truly, nothing appears to be a guarantee.

All three of them currently find themselves tied 1-1 in their series despite entering as the heavy favorites. The most obvious explanation for this would be the bubble’s environment is much different than what we’re used to – and it’s true. Still, that shouldn’t phase the top teams in the entire league like it has thus far, but it has. The mystery to all of this is how.

Since David Yapkowitz already tackled the Clippers and Lakers’ issues, we’ll start with the Bucks’ struggles.

There is no reason why Milwaukee should not be dominating this series against Orlando. The Magic may have their best player at their arsenal, but they are missing their most promising player – who could have been a foil against Giannis – as well as one of their best two or three guys. Even then, the disparity between these teams is unquestionable as a No. 1 seed should always have the upper hand against a No. 8. Yet, Orlando manhandled them in Game 1 and made things a little interesting there towards the end of Game 2.

The Law of Averages tell us that Milwaukee will probably finish them off over the next three games. The big caveat is that it shouldn’t be as difficult as it has been for the Bucks. One of the biggest issues has been covering Nikola Vucevic – the same Vucevic who got his butt kicked by Marc Gasol in last year’s playoff series against Toronto. And he’s having his way no matter who the Bucks throw at him. Still, Milwaukee has two frontcourt players – Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez – that are expected to make NBA All-Defense. That’s not a good look for the team that had the best defensive rating in the entire league.

And what has happened to Khris Middleton? This is the guy who Twitter endlessly fought over his current rank in the NBA current pantheon. He doesn’t have a rock-solid playoff rep and he isn’t doing a whole lot to validate his supporters – he’s even coming off a 2 point, 1-for-8 performance against the Magic. As Giannis’ sidekick, you can get away with that against a No. 8 seed. But you’re cooked if you believe that’ll fly against a second or third seed.

Again, there’s no reason to think we’ve got an upset on our hands here, but this series has been troubling for the boys who have told the league to Fear the Deer. Milwaukee will need these next few games to show that they still the best the Eastern Conference has to offer, because the other top four seeds in the East are not ones to be toyed with.

Speaking of teams that you shouldn’t take lightly, how about the Dallas Mavericks? Of all the teams in the playoffs, the Mavericks may have been the one without a single iota of pressure on them. They still manage to exceed expectations anyway, but as you probably know, this isn’t going to be about them – rather the opponent that they arguably should be leading two games to none on.

The Clippers’ struggles should fit under the On Paper, This Should Be Surprising – But Is It? because they have fewer flaws than the Lakers and Bucks. They even have a much more reputable second-in-command than Milwaukee does, and the talent disparity between their two best players and the rest of their roster is much shorter than the Lakers. These advantages haven’t served them well thus far.

Dallas has not only been able to take the hits that LA has thrown at them – but they also threw more than they’ve taken. The Mavericks’ advantage hasn’t been from necessarily getting better. It’s that they’ve stayed the same. What we’re seeing in this series is one team that has managed to keep its identity through the hiatus and the other that hasn’t consistently had one and is struggling to find one now. Having played no games leading up the playoffs, Montrezl Harell looks straight up lost. Patrick Beverley’s absence deprives them of a secondary playmaker to put next Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Detractors have been harder on Paul George than he deserves, but he was not good in Game 2.

There is time to remedy this, but the time they have has been greatly shortened. They have to figure this out fast because teams coached by Rick Carlisle do not rollover. We’ve seen teams boast of so much talent and yet they never quite put it together. The Clippers don’t have the same internal issues as those teams, but those rosters at least had time to gel. The Clippers do not and they’re facing a tough team. Beverley’s absence really comes into play when facing a smartly-coached squad filled with playmakers and shooters because that could definitely make this a seven-game series.

Then there are the Lakers. The Lakers were the one team that we anticipated would have their hands full with Portland. The Trail Blazers are playing their best basketball of the season at the best time – and when they are at their best, they’d make life hell for any opponent.

Game 1 gave the people what they wanted, but after the late-night thrashing the Lakeshow then handed the Trail Blazers, the Los Angeles looks like the one team among the three that should be fine because, as mind-blowing as this sounds, they looked like themselves.

But has Father Time finally caught up with the King? It may look like it so far, but LeBron James has proven this notion wrong so many times that it’s harder to believe that it’s happening than it is to believe that it’s not. His lackluster production is still a concern though. Maybe James is just conserving his energy for a better opponent and letting Davis dominate because he believes Anthony Davis and co. are enough to bring down Portland. If Game 2 is a sign of things to come, then he might just be right about that.

Because of what has transpired, we don’t really have a frontrunner right now for the title. Other teams have definitely stood out since the playoffs began – Houston, Miami, Boston – but those aren’t the teams we were expecting to stand out. It’s early as you all know, and the Lakers already look like they’re getting their groove back. There’s no reason not to think the Bucks and the Clippers won’t do the same.

The Warriors’ separation put the NBA title up for grabs this year and The Bubble has now leveled the playing field – but perhaps more than we could have ever imagined.

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2021 NBA Draft Top 3 Picks & Top 10 First-Round Selection Odds

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The 2021 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, July 29. The draft will begin at 8:00 p.m. (EST) on ESPN platforms at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, and it is the first time the draft is being televised on both ABC and ESPN. Free agency will also begin on Monday, Aug. 2 at 6:00 p.m. (EST). For NBA Draft betting, there are several available apps for placing bets, like from Bovada, MyBookie, Intertops, BetUS, BetOnline, BetNow, 5Dimes, and Sportsbetting.ag. DraftKings and FanDuel are other feasible options, in addition to the sites listed above.

Anyways, the Detroit Pistons have the first overall pick of the draft, followed by the Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic, etc. Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham is the projected first overall pick. Jalen Green, the six-foot-five NBA G League player who forwent college basketball and attended San Joaquin Memorial High School, is expected to get drafted by the Pistons. The Pac-12 Player of the Year (2021) and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year (2021) winner, Evan Mobley, is projected to get picked by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

However, teams have been negotiating trades with one another, leading up to next week’s draft. Per Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, the Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors are expressing interest in trading with the Cleveland Cavaliers in order to move up to the No. 3 spot of the draft. In the second round, the Milwaukee Bucks have the 31st pick of the draft. There is a chance that these are just meaningless internal discussions, existing only to explore the values of specific players and to keep other general managers on their heels.

No. 1 Pick Odds

While Cade Cunningham has the best odds (-8000) of being selected first overall, there are a few other aforementioned players here that are at the top of the list, too. Jalen Green has +1500 odds, Evan Mobley has +2200 odds, and Jalen Suggs possesses +2500 odds. Needless to say, however, Cunningham will be selected first before everyone else. Here’s why. According to 247Sports, the six-foot-eight Big 12 Player of the Year (2021) and Consensus first-team All-American (2021) ranked No. 1 in the final rankings class of 2020. Heading into college, the native Texan was already an established top-ranked, talented recruit.

Green and Mobley were also highly touted stars coming out of high school, but hands down, Cunningham has the best résumé for NBA scouts and general managers. In 27 games played for the Oklahoma State Cowboys’ 2020-21 season, Cunningham averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists, helping to lead his team to the Big 12 Tournament and NCAA Tournament. The Cowboys lost 91-81 against the No. 3 Texas Longhorns in the Big 12 Tournament, and then the team lost 80-70 versus the No. 12 Oregon State Beavers in the NCAA Tournament. The Detroit Pistons need all the help they can get.

  • All table odds were retrieved from Bovada 

No. 2 Pick Odds

Jalen Green has the favored odds (-200) of being selected second overall in the 2021 draft, followed by Evan Mobley (+170), Jalen Suggs (+650), and Jonathan Kuminga (+2200). Regarding Green’s G League performance, in 15 games started, he averaged 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. The 19-year-old also played for an average of 32 minutes per game. Despite oddsmakers projecting the highest possible odds for Cunningham’s No. 1 selection, the No. 2 pick is not as clear.

In 33 games played for the USC Trojans, Evan Mobley averaged 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game. Referencing the RSCI Top 100 rankings, the seven-foot tall forward/center was ranked third on the list. Below .500 NBA teams, such as the Magic and Raptors, could trade up to draft the big man. It all depends on the teams’ different needs and priorities.

 

No. 3 Pick Odds

Evan Mobley has the best odds (-200) of getting drafted third overall. In the 2020-21 USC Trojans’ season, they lost 72-70 in the Pac-12 Tournament against the No. 23 Colorado Buffaloes. Then, they proceeded to lose 85-66 in the NCAA tournament versus the No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs. Mobley had a team-high of 19 points and seven rebounds in that Elite Eight loss.

Though, if Jalen Green is still on the board at this point, it would not be out-of-the-blue if he was selected third ahead of Mobley, considering his odds are +150. For the other odds, Jalen Suggs is next (+250), followed by Jonathan Kuminga (+900), Scottie Barnes (+1200), Davion Mitchell (+6600), and Josh Giddey (+6600).

“To Be Drafted in the Top 10” Odds

With all eyes on the top three picks of the 2021 NBA Draft, there might be some folks speculating if players like Kai Jones and Josh Giddey have reasonable odds of at least making the top 10 in the draft. Jones’ odds are +275, whereas Giddey’s odds are +135. UConn shooting guard James Bouknight has -250 odds. Six-foot-nine, 19-year-old German basketball star Franz Wagner has -150 odds of being selected somewhere in the top 10 overall. Moreover, Jonathan Kuminga’s odds are -10000. The 18-year-old G League player is projected to land sixth in the draft.

Plus, according to several mock drafts, Davion Mitchell is expected to be picked by either the Golden States Warriors (seventh) or New Orleans Pelicans (tenth). His odds are -300. Keon Johnson is another one. Per NBA.com’s mock drafts, K. Johnson is projected to be taken No. 8 overall by the Orlando Magic, assuming this team does not pursue any potential trades to move up. Additionally, FSU’s Scottie Barnes has -10000 odds of getting selected in the top 10, and some mock draft beat writers also have Barnes going to the Magic.

 

 

Draft betting is much like player prop bets and NBA Finals betting. There are plenty of uncertainties and variables one must consider before placing bets, such as a specific team trading up or down during the night of the draft. Think about all the possible outcomes and scenarios before placing a bet, even if you choose to play it safe.

It is imperative for gamblers to search for any news articles or videos the same day of the draft, in order to keep up to date on important breaking news. Before placing bets on professional basketball, keep in mind that Bovada is the best betting site for NBA-related content and requested wagers.

 

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Raptors, Magic aim to obtain No. 3 pick from Cavaliers in 2021 NBA Draft

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The 2021 NBA Draft is the 75th edition of the draft, and it is scheduled to take place next Thursday, July 29. According to numerous 2021 NBA mock drafts, the Cleveland Cavaliers are projected to draft Evan Mobley, the seven-foot tall forward/center and Pac-12 Player of the Year (2021) for the USC Trojans, with the third overall pick. Referencing NBA.com’s consensus mock drafts, there were six top players who appeared in all twelve of the mocks they surveyed: Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs, Scottie Barnes, and Jonathan Kuminga. The Detroit Pistons are expected to take Cunningham with the first overall pick, followed by the Houston Rockets selecting Jalen Green with the second pick of the draft.

While the Toronto Raptors are currently set to pick fourth and the Orlando Magic are expected to pick fifth, per The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, both teams have made trade offers to the Cavs in order to move up to acquire the third spot. O’Connor stated, “League sources say the Cavaliers have received significant trade interest for this selection, and the Raptors and Magic Orlando—the next two teams up to pick—have made offers to move up. But Cleveland might just stay put.” Now, it is unknown what the Raptors and Magic are prepared to give up. Orlando has the advantage over Toronto, considering they also possess the No. 8 pick.

On Mar. 25, the Magic traded All-Star center Nikola Vucevic and forward Al-Farouq Aminu to the Chicago Bulls, in exchange for Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr., and two first-round picks. The two first-round picks were for 2021 and 2023, first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. This is why Orlando has extra leverage over Toronto. Some experts are speculating that Orlando will trade Mohamed Bamba, Gary Harris, and the fifth and eighth picks of the draft. To the fans, that right there sounds like a raw deal.

However, on the flip side, a team like the Raptors are in desperate need of a viable center. Last season, they finished 27-45 (.375), ranking 12th in the Eastern Conference. If not the Magic, the Raptors might be more than willing to give up the same, if not more. Toronto could trade Pascal Siakam and the No. 4 pick. In the previous offseason, a few of the notable departures for the Raptors were Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.

Both of these aforementioned players played important roles in helping the Raptors to win their first NBA championship in the 2018-19 season. Though, the Raptors would have to make it a top priority to re-sign Kyle Lowry as well. On Oct. 7, 2019, Lowry signed a one-year, $31 million contract with the organization.

Not to mention, the Magic already have Mohamed Bamba, Wendell Carter Jr., and Johnathan Isaac on their roster. Furthermore, after recovering from their injuries, Isaac and Markelle Fultz will be returning to the court this season. Maybe Magic general manager John Hammond is using a trial-and-error approach, hoping to keep the most talented, best center available on the roster. If one throws enough sludge at the wall, eventually something will stick.

Leading up to the draft, basketball enthusiasts can continue to speculate and ask questions, but none of these potential draft moves are carved in stone. The transactions will not occur until the night of the draft, so one person’s educated guess is as good as anyone’s right now. All too often, teams get fleeced every year during the draft because various coaches and general managers either underrate or overestimate a player’s value.

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Injury Update: Hawks’ Onyeka Okongwu out 6 months after shoulder surgery

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After Atlanta Hawks‘ Onyeka Okongwu underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder on Wednesday night, the 20-year-old center will take the next six months off. Okongwu is a 6’8″ two-time California Mr. Basketball (2018, 2019), selected sixth overall in the 2020 NBA Draft. After agreeing to a rookie contract, Atlanta signed him to their roster on November 24, 2020, and he made his NBA debut on January 15, 2021. The signed multi-year contract was worth a guaranteed $11.9 million over the course of two seasons.

According to a report first published by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Dr. Neal ElAttrache operated on Okongwu in Los Angeles, California, and he suffered this shoulder injury earlier in May. He will likely be eligible to play as early as late February 2022. While the typical recovery time for a torn labrum after surgery is between three to six months, labral tears can negatively impact athletes in a sport like basketball, if they are not careful. It will not recover by itself without the proper care.

Yesterday, the Hawks organization released a statement: “Onyeka Okongwu underwent surgery earlier tonight in Los Angeles to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Dr. Neal ElAtrrache of Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic performed the surgery. Okongwu will now enter a period of rest and rehabilitation and is expected to make a full recovery in approximately six months.”

In the 2020-21 NBA season, in 50 games played, he averaged 4.6 points and 3.3 rebounds. Over the course of the 2021 postseason, Okongwu played a total of 166 minutes, averaging 9.2 minutes played per game, in eighteen games for the Hawks. He scored five points in the first round series versus the New York Knicks, 19 points in the conference semifinals versus the Philadelphia 76ers, and 24 points in the Eastern Conference Finals series against the Milwaukee Bucks.

In his junior and senior seasons playing for the University of Southern California Trojans, he earned those aforementioned California Mr. Basketball awards. In 28 games played in college, he averaged 16.2 points, 8.6 total rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game. His average field goal shooting percentage in college was also 61.6 percent. He will be turning 21-years-old this December.

Referencing his current contract negotiations via Basketball-Reference, Okongwu earned $5.8 million in this past 2020-21 season. Furthermore, he will earn $6.1 million in the 2021-22 season, $6.3 million in the 2022-23 season, and $8.1 million in the 2023-24 season. The 2022-23 and 2023-24 add-ons are team options.

Moreover, the upcoming free agency will begin on Aug. 1, 2021 and the regular season is scheduled to start on Oct. 19, 2021. For betting purposes, the 2022 NBA Finals will air throughout June 2022. The NBA has transitioned its schedule back to normal format. The league office anticipates that future playoff series will no longer get pushed back to the months of June and July. Similar to everything else, however, this current schedule is subject to change due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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