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Early NBA futures worth trying to beat the no-agent market

The NBA season is over. It’s time for the draft, summer league, free agency, and August laziness before heading to training camp a few months later. The next NBA title won’t be determined for at least a calendar year…

… But the markets at Caesars Sportsbook are open!

So if you want to try and beat the market before free agents and the usual off-season craziness kicks in, here are two early bets to win the 2023 NBA Championship.

Kawhi Leonard from
Kawhi Leonard of the Clippers hits the basket in June 2021.
NBAE via Getty Images

Los Angeles Clippers +850

Here’s what the Clippers offer:

  • Kawhi Leonard after a full season to recover, with a multi-year max contract with no intention of moving
  • Paul George after a season in which he only played 31 games
  • Tyrone Liu, considered by many to be a top-five or higher coach in the NBA.
  • An extensive roster with Reggie Jackson, Norman Powell, Robert Covington, Terrence Mann (who stepped up last season) and role players like Ivica Zubak, Nicholas Batum, Isaiah Hartenstein, Marcus Morris and Luke Kennard.
  • Switchable protection with size, athleticism and additional protectors.
  • Shooting
  • Star players know how to hit hard

Ultimately, this is the best value on the board.

Doubts will be about Leonard and George’s injuries, and rightfully so. Leonard underwent surgery to repair a partial ACL tear last July. However, throughout the season, there was talk that Leonard could return this season. His decision not to do so was likely due to the team’s playing position, at least to some extent.


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Leonard will have 15 months off and you can be sure the Clippers will get over his injury. George, on the other hand, suffered a horrific injury and returned towards the end of the season. There is no real reason to think that George will miss more time.

Here are a couple of key questions: Will the Clippers be below +850 next April? More likely. Will they live to win the title with Kawhi Leonard and a better team than a year ago when they were set for a good match against a fully healthy Suns? More likely.

Clippers look good at +850.

Philadelphia 76ers 16/1

I know, I know, I know. Look, I was strongly in favor of betting against the Sixers Joel Embiid based on his track record. I was ready to bet on the Heat against the 66ers even before Embiid’s injury. But in the end, let’s look at their playoff performance:

They beat the Raptors in six games with an impressive finishing game after nearly falling. In truth, they were firmly in control of this streak for the first three games, a bit sloppy, and bounced back.

Joel Embiid
Joel Embiid
Getty Images

They lost to the Heat in six matches, but Embiid played with fairly obvious limitations in both face/eye and hand. Embiid always has problems with injuries – it’s on record. Every opponent has problems with injuries.

Here’s my strongest argument for the Sixers: a full season with Daryl Morey.

Mori joined the team in November 2020. He dealt with a strange, aborted 2020–21 season and then spent the following season dealing with the situation with Ben Simmons. In the meantime, he built a team that almost made Embiid the MVP and finished with a tied second seed, all without Simmons, until the James Harden trade.

Maury is connected to Harden. This is his boyfriend. Maury also has a summer to really reconfigure the team the way he wants. He doesn’t have to manage the Simmons situation. It will focus on reconfiguring shooters and ball handlers around Embiid, improving depth.

Tyrese Maxi made a real breakthrough last season and his numbers are only getting better. They have the trading assets of viable rotation players like Tobias Harris, Danny Green and Matisse Tibull, as well as a late post-draft pick after the Nets decided to defer their trading assets until next year’s draft.

I’m betting that the Sixers team that enters next season will look better and have lower odds than the team that left so resignedly. You can’t buy cheap teams that finished the year great.

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