When was the last time we entered a season with so many teams in the mix for winning the NBA title?
Following a wild first week of free agency capped off with the Los Angeles Clippers' stunning acquisitions of both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the updated odds to win the 2020 NBA title have been released.
With their newly-minted dynamic wing duo, the Clippers are now favoured to win it all at 3-1 followed by the Milwaukee Bucks (9-2), Los Angeles Lakers (5-1) and Philadelphia 76ers (8-1).
2019-20 NBA Championship updated- Jeff Sherman (@golfodds) July 6, 2019
GS, Hou 12/1
Den, Uta 14/1
Bkn, Ind, Mia 40/1
Dal, SAS 50/1
Tor, Sac 80/1
OKC, Orl 100/1
NO, NYK, Atl, Chi 200/1
Det, Min, Mem, Phx 300/1
Cha, Wsh, Cle 1000/1
While most of the chatter will likely be about who should ultimately be considered the leader of the pack, scanning down the list reveals a deep drop of contenders that when compared to year's past, leads one to believe that the 2019-20 season is the most wide open we've seen in years.
On the surface, it's a popular sentiment and one that's likely to be a much-discussed theme in the coming months as anticipation builds for the first season in a long time with no clear-cut favourite.
When digging into the details, it's a sentiment far more than merely sports radio talk scuttlebutt and one that's backed up by the archived bookkeepers.
Using Sports Odds History as our trusty guide back to the 2005-06 season and taking the final preseason odds offered, here are some key insights into what the most updated odds mean in terms of setting the table for next season.
Anybody can win it all
OK, so maybe not anybody.
But there are eight teams - Clippers, Bucks, Lakers, 76ers, Rockets, Warriors, Nuggets and Jazz - that are all at better than 15-1 to win the title. Each of those teams has better odds right now than the Toronto Raptors did entering last season when they were +1,850 to win the whole thing.
MORE: Six things we learned from Free Agency
That Raptors number of course had some complicating factors, the most notable of which was that nobody really knew what to expect from Kawhi Leonard coming off a season in which he played just nine games. That number couldn't have foreseen the trade for Marc Gasol nor could it know that Pascal Siakam was on the cusp of blossoming into a borderline All-Star.
If anything, that Raptors team is a reminder that things change over the course of a long 82-game grind and that it's impossible to predict every significant development. But you have to be good enough for those incremental developments to truly matter and that Raptors team was well positioned to take full advantage of potentially unforeseen changes.
If the Raptors could do it, why not the Nuggets? Or the Jazz? Or any of those other six teams? Or maybe even one further down the list that's one big move away from stepping into contender status.
MORE: Realistic expectations for Toronto's title defense
Let's bring it back to one number in particular: 15-1.
Entering last season, just three teams - Warriors, Celtics and Rockets - had preseason odds better than 15-1.
The same goes for 2017-18 (Warriors, Cavaliers, Celtics) and 2016-17 (Warriors, Cavaliers, Spurs).
Over the last 15 years there have only been three other instances in which that many teams had that bright of an outlook in the preseason.
In the two most recent cases, there was still an odds on favourite considered by most to be a bigger threat than this next Clippers team.
- 2013-14: The Miami Heat were two-time defending champions that entered 2-1 to win it, better preseason odds than either of their two previous title years
- 2008-09: The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers entered the season as heavy co-favourites at 3.5-1
I'm not sure anyone would point to those two seasons as ones defined by parity.
To truly find the last year that looked to be as wide open, you have to go back to the 2007-08 season when nine teams entered the season at 12-1 with two more at 15-1. Even after trading for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to add to Paul Pierce, the Boston Three Party still entered at 10-1 odds which was tied with the Rockets and Bulls and trailed the Spurs (4.5-1), Mavericks (4.5-1), Suns (5-1) and Cavaliers (6-1).
That Celtics team won the title over the Lakers who traded for Pau Gasol midway through the season after entering the year with 30-1 odds to win it all which ranked 16th in the league.
All of this to say... it's not often there's a year that's as wide open as the one we're about to embark on.
Just how promising are the Jazz and Nuggets?
In any normal offseason, the Utah Jazz would be the biggest story.
This wasn't any normal offseason.
Between the Clippers adding Leonard and George, the Lakers adding Anthony Davis and the Nets adding Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, there's no shortage of action involving major market teams.
And yet the Jazz adding Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic to a core of Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles feels significant as the team with the league's best defence took major steps towards shoring up their weaknesses on offence without sacrificing on the other end.
As for the Denver Nuggets, they've mostly stayed the course and will rely on the continued progress of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. Outside of those two, there's enough in the cupboard for Denver to become major players as a "one move away" team that could potentially be in the mix for a third star.
MORE: Thunder exploring potential Russell Westbrook trade
They enter at 14-1, tied for the seventh-best odds. Typically, teams in that 7-8 range are nowhere near the calibre of either of these outfits.
According to Sports Odds History, teams with the seventh or eighth-best odds going by the final futures released during the preseason averaged out to just over 40-1. Teams that far down the pecking order simply aren't considered title contenders in the way that both of these teams currently are by the bookmakers.
How often do favourites win it all?
Kawhi and the Clippers are favoured and if history is any indication, it means they can start selling NBA Finals merchandise right now.
In each of the last 11 years, the team that had the best preseason odds ended up reaching the NBA Finals.
The last time that didn't happen?
That aforementioned 2007-08 season which as previously stated is the last time the league has been this up for grabs.
Much can and likely will change over the next four months. Just because the Clippers are sitting in pole position in July doesn't necessarily mean they will in October and beyond.
If there's anything to be gleaned from the events of the past week, it's this:
Buckle up. Next season is going to be one wild ride.
The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the NBA or its clubs.