For the first time in half a century, the Milwaukee Bucks are NBA champions as Giannis Antetokounmpo put on a show for the ages on Tuesday night, dropping a fitting 50 points in the Bucks’ 105-98 win over the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the 2021 NBA Finals.
But as the 2020-21 season is now in the books, oddsmakers are already looking ahead to the 2021-22 campaign, and the Bucks, who will have all their big pieces back, are not favored to repeat as NBA champions. In fact, Giannis & Co. aren’t even favored to win the Eastern Conference.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Milwaukee Bucks to their first NBA title since 1971 with a 50-point performance against the Suns
Antetokounmpo had already played phenomenal basketball through the first five games of the NBA Finals against the Suns, but what he did on Tuesday night in Game 6 was truly something special. The two-time NBA MVP hit 16 of 25 shots from the floor and an incredible 17 of 19 shots from the foul line for an even 50 points, also adding 14 rebounds and five blocks in the Bucks’ 105-98 victory, securing Milwaukee’s first title since 1971. It was just the seventh 50-point game in NBA Finals history.
Khris Middleton added 17 points, five rebounds, and five assists, while Jrue Holiday chipped in with 12 points and a game-high 11 assists, also adding four steals. Bobby Portis scored 16 crucial points off the bench for Milwaukee, and Brook Lopez also added 10 points and eight rebounds.
Antetokounmpo, Middleton, Holiday, Lopez, and Portis are all under contract with the Bucks next year, but Milwaukee still isn’t the favorite in the East. And we’re guessing you know who is.
The Brooklyn Nets are the favorites over the Bucks in the East and the overall favorite to win the 2022 NBA Finals
One of the hardest things to do in sports is to repeat as champions, and the oddsmakers at BetMGM currently don’t believe Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks can pull it off as they’ve given the new champs just the third-best odds to win the 2022 NBA Finals at 8-1 (+800).
Leading the way are the Brooklyn Nets, who’ve been given the best odds to win next year’s Finals at 9-4 (+225), which obviously means they’re favored over the Bucks to win the Eastern Conference as well. Oddsmakers are obviously confident that Brooklyn’s trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden will all be at full strength when the 2021-22 campaign begins, which they certainly weren’t when the Nets lost to Milwaukee in seven games in this year’s Eastern Conference semis.
The next-best odds in the East belong to the Philadelphia 76ers, who are currently going off at 16-1 (+1600), while the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat are listed at 35-1 (+3500).
The Lakers are the favorites to win the West
Also listed ahead of the Bucks are the Los Angeles Lakers, who are currently listed at 9-2 (+450) and are obviously the favorites to win the Western Conference. Just as oddsmakers are banking on the Nets to be healthy, they’re also counting on LeBron James and Anthony Davis to be at full strength in 2021-22. And they’re likely also counting on the Lakers adding at least one more big piece during the offseason.
The Golden State Warriors, who are expecting Klay Thompson to rejoin Stephen Curry and Draymond Green next season, and Utah Jazz are next in line in the West at 12-1 (+1200), while the Suns are just behind at 14-1 (+1400).
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference