The 2021 MLS Cup is preparing to begin and there are set to be 14 teams competing for the honor of being crowned champions at the end of a long season. But who is likely to be involved in the running for the title? Let's take a look at the betting picks.
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Who Is Favored to Win The NBA Championship
Who Is Going To Win The NBA Finals
By Liam Davis
Golden State Warriors (-110)
No surprises here.
While it's always a risk rolling with a newly formed superteam, the Golden State Warriors are different. Yes, there will be growing pains, but not to the extent that there were with the 2010-11 Miami Heat or 2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers.
All the main pieces on this team just fit. Kevin Durant is essentially replacing Harrison Barnes, and that's terrifying for the rest of the NBA. He will need more shots than Barnes, which can be problematic alongside Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. At the same time, though, the Warriors bade farewell to plenty of shot attempts by losing Barnes and Andrew Bogut, both of whom now play for the Dallas Mavericks. Those two combined for roughly 13.6 field-goal attempts per game, so the Warriors, in essence, only have 5.6 more to go before they open up Durant's average of 19.2 per contest from last season.
No, this isn't an exact science. There will be nights—many nights—when Durant must take far fewer shots than he's used to, or when he won't be able to play on the ball as much. And that's okay. He, like every other member of the Warriors' Core Four, is built to play off the ball and score on catch-and-fire opportunities.
So while Golden State will labor through a certain learning curve, it won't be steep. This team is primed to contend for a championship and has earned its top-dog status.
Cleveland Cavaliers (+275)
The reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers are at a disadvantage this year, because they have to deal with the super-scary Golden State Warriors. But so does everyone else.
What separates the Cavaliers is LeBron James, and what he means for the Eastern Conference arms race. Any team that employs him is automatically in the NBA Finals. It's been that way for six years, and it's not about to change now.
There is no one in the East who is on Cleveland's level. The Boston Celtics (+1800), Toronto Raptors (+3300) and Atlanta Hawks (+7500) are all intriguing forces, but they're not true threats until they prove otherwise.
It's the Cavaliers, and then it's everyone else in the Eastern Conference. That bodes well for their title chances by default.
San Antonio Spurs (+1200)
No Tim Duncan? No problem.
The cruel reality of time is officially settling in for the San Antonio Spurs. They lost one of the best players ever in Duncan, an exit that would cripple many teams. But not them.
The Spurs have been preparing for this moment over the last few years. They remain overwhelmingly deep even without Duncan on the roster. Gasol is the closest thing to an adequate replacement that's out there right now—especially on offense.
Meanwhile, LaMarcus Aldridge is still in the prime of his career, Kawhi Leonard is an MVP candidate, and the Spurs have the depth on the both sides of the ball to once again rank inside the top seven in both points scored and points allowed per 100 possessions. That's a big deal. They even have two up-and-coming talents in Kyle Anderson and Jonathon Simmons who will help them bridge the gap between the last era and the next one without missing a beat.
None of which is to say the Spurs are the threat they were last season. But they're right there, and it's once more impossible to name three teams that are better positioned to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy than them.
Boston Celtics (+1800)
Most would-be contenders in the Eastern Conference are one LeBron James injury away from being relevant in the championship discussion. The Boston Celtics are different, for the most part.
Although they aren't on the Cleveland Cavaliers' level, they play a balanced style fit to rival both Cleveland and the Golden State Warriors on any given night. They are fast and efficient on offense, with one of the stingiest defenses in the league.
Consider that only two teams last season ranked in the top 10 of offensive efficiency, defensive efficiency and pace, according to Basketball-Reference: Boston and Golden State. And now the Celtics have added Al Horford to most of last season's core.
As far as championship dark horses go, the Celtics are your best bet.
Los Angeles Clippers (+2000)
So long as the Los Angeles Clippers' Big Three of Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul is intact, this team belongs here.
Of course, their championship hopes come down to more than just their Big Three. That trio must remain healthy, for starters, which has proven to be a problem in recent years, and the Clippers need consistent production out of their bench to contend with the likes of the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs.
If they get the performance from their second-stringers that they did last year, they're once again headed toward 55-win territory. If they get more, well, that's when you should take them as seriously as Golden State or San Antonio.
Eastern Conference Champion: Cleveland Cavaliers
Western Conference Champion: Golden State Warriors
NBA Champion: Golden State Warriors
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