The Los Angeles Lakers are no longer the universal betting favorites to win the 2021 NBA Finals. Entering the second half of the season, the Brooklyn Nets are the biggest threat to the defending champs.
While some sportsbooks still give the Lakers the best odds to win this year’s title, others have put the Nets on par with LeBron James and Co.
Anthony Davis’ injury, coupled with the Nets’ roster additions, have made a significant impact on the title picture.
Since being traded to Brooklyn in January, James Harden has played as well as any NBA player. The Eastern Conference Player of the Month for February has led the Nets to 10 wins in their last 11 games. Kevin Durant has missed most of those games because of COVID-19 protocols and a hamstring strain.
Durant’s injury is not considered to be serious. Brooklyn is being cautious with its superstar as it looks to have a fully fit roster in the playoffs. Even with Durant missing nearly half the team’s games, the Nets are tied with the most wins in the East.
That means Durant could miss even more time after the All-Star break
— Stadium (@Stadium) March 4, 2021
The Nets on Monday signed veteran power forward Blake Griffin, who agreed to a buyout with the Detroit Pistons last week.
Los Angeles hasn’t performed nearly as well without one of its top players. A calf injury has kept Davis off the court for the better part of 10 games. The Lakers are 3-7 during that stretch, falling to the No. 3 seed in the West.
Point guard Dennis Schroder missed a handful of games during that time, as well. James sat for the first time this season in the Lakers’ final game before the All-Star break.
Much like Brooklyn’s approach with Durant, Los Angeles is being extra careful with Davis. The 27-year-old could potentially return as early as March 18, given the Lakers’ four-week timetable for Davis.
The Los Angeles Clippers’ are considered to be the top contender behind the Lakers and Nets.