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NBA Finals Game 1: Phoenix Suns vs. Milwaukee Bucks Preview, Odds, & Prediction

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The Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks to go toe-to-toe; pump-to-pump in Game 1 of a potential seven-game NBA Finals series, beginning tonight at 9 pm EST.

Just two points separated these teams over two regular-season games, leaving us all perched for an incredible fortnight of closely contested NBA action – not to mention a tough time making the right calls at our favored NBA sportsbooks.

Read on, as we attempt to make sense of the latest odds and offer our hot tips for Game 1 of the NBA Finals: Bucks vs. Suns!

(Image courtesy of NBA)

Future Hall-of-Famer Chris Paul is set to make his first NBA Finals appearance for a Suns team that hasn’t come this far since the glory days of Charles Barkley and Steve Nash. Paul and co. will have the chance to bring the championship back to Phoenix for the very first time.

The Milwaukee Bucks have been threatening a Finals appearance for the last several years – Giannis Antetokounmpo has been incredible throughout Bucks’ modern charge but, despite his efforts, Milwaukee kept coming up short, so just to make it to the game’s showpiece event must be a relief for Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer.

Bucks fans will be hoping that “The Greek Freak” is at peak physical condition for this one – Giannis suffered a bad-looking hyperextension of the knee when he landed awkwardly in Game 4 vs. the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals. The 2x MVP is expected to feature in the series but the true extent of his injury is under wraps for now. He is 50/50 for Game 1 this evening.

In the meantime, it’s Jrue Holiday vs. Paul; the Bucks vs. the Suns – it’s the 2021 NBA Finals, and it’s LIVE tonight!

Get yourself a rootbeer and join us as we run a comb over all the vital betting stats.

Phoenix Suns vs. Milwaukee Bucks Preview

(Image courtesy of NBA)

Phoenix: The Suns returned to the kind of scoring form we saw from them during the regular season in Games 5 & 6 vs. the L.A. Clippers in the Western Conference Finals.

Monty Williams’ men averaged 123 points per game – much more like it. In fact, in Game 6, Phoenix shot field goals at 56.6% and 3-pointers at 54.8%, with Chris Paul (41 points) and Devin Booker (22 points) especially clinical as the Suns ran out 4-2 winners. Paul and Booker were helped in no short measure by an astonishing performance at the rim from Deandre Ayton who hauled in an impressive 17 rebounds!

During the regular season, the Suns squared off against the Bucks on two separate occasions, winning narrowly both times: 125-124 in Phoenix, and 127-128 in Milwaukee. So, these two teams could not be closer in terms of ability. But, entering the finals knowing that you’ve bested your opponents twice already this year must be a real confidence booster for a Suns team at full-strength.

With a W/L record of 33-11 at the Phoenix Suns Arena during the regular season, the home-court advantage for the first two games is also expected to put the Suns on the rise in the series.

(Image courtesy of NBA)

Milwaukee: As for the Bucks, the team persevered against a young and spunky Atlanta Hawks to clinch their finals appearance. But at what cost?

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s leg looked bent in all the wrong ways in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bucks held their own to banish the Hawks without their talisman. But no team wants to go into the finals missing its best player or having its best player severely incapacitated.

Fingers crossed – for the legitimacy of the series – that Giannis makes it and is able to perform as we know he can.

In Antetokounmpo’s absence, big performances came from Brook Lopez, who sunk 33 points in Game 5, and Khris Middleton, whose 23-point third-quarter haul finally put an end to a plucky Hawks team in Game 6.

In that most recent game, the Bucks upped their 3-point shooting percentage to 37.8% (17/45) but, compared to the Suns’ 54.8%, well, it’s unlikely they’ll want to get stuck in a long-distance shootout, let’s just put it like that. Bucks need to hit the paint and if Giannis can’t suit up, another big performance is going to be required from Lopez. But to cast further doubt, Jae Crowder’s D has been unreal throughout the playoffs and it could be a tough night for Holiday, Lopez, and co.

Add to that the fact that Milwaukee’s form away from the Fiserv Forum was hit or miss at 25-20 in the regular season and the playoffs, and it’s easy to see why the oddsmakers have the Suns coming to this one as betting favorites.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Phoenix Suns Betting Odds (Courtesy of Bovada)

With Giannis only at 50/50 for this opening tie of the NBA finals, it’s little surprise to see oddsmakers favoring the Suns, who also boast home-court advantage for the first two games of the series.

Game 1: Phoenix Suns vs. Milwaukee Bucks (Moneyline Odds)

Phoenix Suns: -250; Milwaukee Bucks: +205

Game 1: Phoenix Suns vs. Milwaukee Bucks (Points Spread)

Phoenix Suns: -6 (-114); Milwaukee Bucks: +6 (-108)

Game 1: Phoenix Suns vs. Milwaukee Bucks (Total Points)

Phoenix Suns: U219 (-109); Milwaukee Bucks: O219 (-112)

Prediction & Tips

If the Suns rock up and start shooting field goals and 3-pointers at 55%ish like they did vs. the Clippers in Game 6 last week, we don’t think the Bucks will be able to hang with them – especially not without Antetokounmpo (assuming he does in fact sit this one out).

Normally, we preach taking the underdog just to maximize the value on the odds, especially in a series as historically tight as the NBA Finals. But, the office is in agreement on this one: the Bucks don’t travel well and are missing their talisman. So, we expect a rough night.

As such, we’re vouching for Phoenix on the moneyline at -250, and the Bucks on the alternate spread at +4 (+125) to try and scrape some value from the bets.

Register an account with Bovada and bet on the 2021 NBA Finals with a $750 Free Bet.

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Grizzlies trade Jonas Valanciunas to Pelicans for Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams

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According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez, the New Orleans Pelicans are shipping guard Eric Bledsoe, center Steven Adams, the Nos. 10 and 40 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft, and two future first-round picks to the Memphis Grizzlies for center Jonas Valanciunas and the Nos. 17 and 51 picks of this week’s upcoming draft. So, the Pelicans are giving up the Lakers’ 2022 first-round pick. Valanciunas, the 29-year-old veteran center, averaged 17.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game in 62 games played throughout the 2020-21 season. He also shot 59 percent from the field. The seven-foot Lithuanian also ranks fourth overall in true shooting percentage (.616) among active players. On July 11, 2019, Valanciunas signed a three-year, $45 million contract with the Grizzlies. He is set to earn $4 million next season.

Additionally, in 71 games played last season, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. The six-foot-one guard also shot 42.1 percent from the field in the 2020-21 season. On November 23, 2020, as part of a four-team trade, Bledsoe and Adams were traded to the Pelicans from the Oklahoma City Thunder, along with two future first-round picks and the right to swap two additional first-round picks. Last season, in 71 games played, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. His field goal percentage was 42.1 percent as well. The 11-year veteran is set to earn $18,125,000 in the 2021-22 season. Before he was traded to New Orleans, on March 4, 2019, the guard signed a four-year, $70 million extension. He earned his first All-Defensive second-team selection in the 2019-20 season.

Moreover, in 58 games played last season, Adams averaged 7.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. The six-foot-eleven center ranks fifth among active players for effective field goal shooting percentage (.591). The eight-year veteran also ranks third in offensive rebounding percentage, with an active statistic of 14 percent. On November 23, 2020, the same day Adams was traded to the Pelicans, he signed a two-year, $35 million extension. For next season, he is projected to earn $17,073,171. To add to this trade news, the Grizzlies and Pelicans are swapping second-round picks in this year’s draft, too. Referencing NBA.com’s “Consensus Mock Draft” article, with the No. 10 pick of the draft, the Pelicans were originally expected to draft either Josh Giddey or Davion Mitchell at this number. However, plans have now changed.

From ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the trade will not be finalized until August 6th, and this is because of the annual salaries of these said players. Free agency will begin on August 2, 6:00 p.m. (EST). Furthermore, per Spotrac’s 2021-22 NBA salary cap table, next season’s luxury tax threshold is $136,606,000. The team’s current available luxury tax space is $22,555,195. The Pelicans and Grizzlies have a salary cap maximum of $112,414,000. Brandon Ingram, Bledsoe, and Adams had a combined cap percentage of 39.2 percent. Considering that Bledsoe and Adams are traded away, this will clear up $35,198,171 of dead cap space.

Yesterday, CBS Sports reported the news pertaining to Lonzo Ball’s desire to remain in New Orleans. With extra cap space, the team is expected to re-sign the 23-year-old guard. Likewise, for the Grizzlies, the teams has a luxury tax space of $37,019,952. Their current cap space is $8,321,229. As stated before, the transactions have not yet been finalized. The Grizzlies’ outgoing cap is now $14 million, but from the contracts of Adams and Bledsoe, they are bringing in $35,198,171.

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NBA Trade Rumors: Jazz considering trade offers for Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale, and No. 30 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft

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Per one interesting announcement from Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, the Utah Jazz are open to trading forward Bojan Bogdanovic, forward-guard Joe Ingles, small forward Royce O’Neale, and the No. 30 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft. Fischer stated, “The Utah Jazz are known to be one of the few teams actually searching to move playoff-tested talent. Retaining Mike Conley is an offseason priority, sources said, and the Jazz have held numerous discussions with teams around the league about offloading salary to create for Conley in free agency.” Point guard Mike Conley is set to become a free agent this offseason. Though, general manager Justin Zanik will aim to re-sign the 33-year-old guard in the coming weeks. Conley earned $34.5 million in the 2020-21 season.

“League personnel most often mention Joe Ingles as the Jazz wing to watch, and Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O’Neale are also considered available for trade as Utah narrows its focus towards building a contender around Donovan Mitchel. The Jazz are also open to discuss trading their No. 30 pick, sources said.” In the 2020-21 season, in 72 games played, Bogdanovic averaged 17 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. On May 1, 2021, in the team’s 106-102 victory over the Toronto Raptors, the six-foot-seven Croatian scored a season-high 34 points, shooting 12-for-22, and he finished his performance with four rebounds and four assists as well. On July 7, 2019, he signed a four-year, $73 million contract with the Jazz.

In 67 games played last season, Ingles averaged 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game. The six-foot-eight forward is set to earn $14 million in the 2021-22 season. Plus, among the mentioned players, Royce O’Neale has contributed the least. In 71 games played last season, he averaged seven points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. On January 19, 2020, the forward signed a four-year, $36 million extension with the team. He will earn $8.6 million next season. According to The Athletic, in the team’s seventh workout for draft prospects, they viewed Quentin Grimes, David Duke, Matt Mitchell, and a few other players. In the first round, if the team chooses not to draft any of the players they are holding workouts for, the organization will trade the No. 30 pick.

Just for a reminder, retrieved from Spotrac, the 2021-22 NBA luxury tax threshold is $136,606,000. Utah’s active roster cap is $133,284,695, the maximum cap is $112,414,000, and the current cap space is $72,990,215. Furthermore, center Rudy Gobert currently has the highest guaranteed contract on the team. On December 20, 2020, Gobert signed a five-year, $205 million extension with the organization. Gobert is set to earn $35.3 million in the coming season, whereas Donovan Mitchell will earn $28.1 million. Gobert and Mitchell combined consume 47.6 percent of the team’s salary cap. For the upcoming 2021-22 season, the Jazz have a guaranteed total of $129,719,453. Based on the team’s future outlook, the Jazz will have to make a trade or two in order to retain their star players. This should go without saying.

NBA Analysis Network reported a few days ago that a potential Jazz-Knicks trade target is Bojan Bogdanovic. Greg Patuto proposed the Knicks receiving Bogdanovic, while the Jazz would receive Kevin Knox II, and the Nos. 19 and No. 32 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft. Now, this could still happen at some point during this draft week, but then again, sports bettors and fans alike understand that these news reports could be just rumors. The most intelligent, unforthcoming general managers know not to leave bread crumb trails for the media, especially leading into the offseason. They will do everything necessary to protect their foolproof plans.

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Raptors, Pacers, Timberwolves, Kings, and Cavaliers among teams showing interest in Ben Simmons

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According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, five teams have shown interest in pursuing Ben Simmons from the Philadelphia 76ers. Fischer reported, “Cleveland, Indiana, Minnesota, Sacramento, and Toronto all showed interest in acquiring the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year.” Furthermore, the teams are wanting Simmons to change position from point guard to forward. “Multiple executives from those teams, when contacted by Bleacher Report, mentioned their excitement at incorporating Simmons as a play-making forward—not at the point guard position he’s played in Philadelphia.” The six-foot-eleven guard averaged 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.9 assists in the 2020-21 NBA season. This might sound fine for a young rookie, but as a five-year player, these aforementioned statistics were career lows.

However, the 25-year-old also earned his third NBA All-Star selection and second All-Defensive first-team selection last season. After a less than mediocre performance in his third postseason of his NBA career, the majority of 76ers’ fans would agree that it’s now time for Simmons to have a change in scenery. With a regular season record of 49-23 (.681), the No. 1 ranked 76ers in the Eastern Conference entered the conference semifinals as favorites over the Atlanta Hawks. Leading into this series, some NBA analysts were predicting Philadelphia to prevail four games to two. The 2016 first overall pick was expected to limit Trae Young in scoring and rally his team from point deficits, but none of this ever manifested.

Pertaining to postseason averages, Simmons had a playoff series-low of 9.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in the conference semifinals against the Hawks. This lackluster showing proved to be a more significant downfall for the superstar, considering Simmons had only five points, eight rebounds, and 13 assists in Game 7 versus the Hawks. In the 2019-20 season, he averaged 2.1 steals per game, leading all other players in the league. Moreover, Simmons currently ranks sixth in the NBA for active player triple-doubles (32). With a total of 32 career triple-doubles, he ranks 13th on the all-time list, tied with Clippers’ guard Rajon Rondo.

On July 16, 2019, Simmons signed a five-year, $169.65 million contract extension with the 76ers. He is set to earn $30.5 million in the 2021-22 season. Among these teams interested in Simmons, Cavs’ Kevin Love has the fourth largest contract guarantee of $91.4 million. Love is due to earn $31.3 million next season, and the 13-year veteran’s contract consumes 26 percent of the team’s salary cap. He could be traded this offseason. Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns has a contract guarantee of $130.8 million. The 25-year-old Wolves center will earn $31.6 million in the upcoming season.

Plus, Kings’ 2017 first-round pick De’Aaron Fox has a guaranteed contract of $171.1 million. Fox will earn $28.1 million next season. To add to that, Raptors’ Pascal Siakim has a contract guarantee of $131.4 million. Not to mention, reported by Yahoo Sports via trade rumors yesterday, the Golden State Warriors are a potential trade partner for Toronto. The Warriors could make a move on Siakim, clearing up space on the Raptors for Simmons. Per Spotrac, the 2021-22 season cap maximum is $112,414,000. In the coming weeks, one of these said five teams might make a substantial trade offer to the 76ers’ organization that they cannot refuse.

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