2019-2020 NBA Finals Predictions: Can Anyone Beat These New-Look Los Angeles Teams?

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Jake Ernst
Sportswriter and Social Media Manager for The American Betting Experts - Covering a variety of sports including the NBA, MLB, NFL and NASCAR - Former New York Yankees Contributor for Sports Illustrated's "FanSided" site - Rowan University Journalism Class of 2018.

After experiencing what was a seismic shift in terms of an offseason, some teams will begin the season with totally revamped rosters, while some will run it back with seemingly identical squads. Which strategy will pay off? Jake Ernst provides his NBA Finals predictions for the 2019-2020 season.

Los Angeles Lakers +440

For the first time in NBA history, the Los Angeles basketball teams are number one and number two in terms of betting odds. Sounds kind of odd, right? You might remember a time (1999-2000) when the Los Angeles Lakers won the championship and the Los Angeles Clippers had one of the worst records of all-time (15-67) in that same season. Fast-forward 20 years from then and into the upcoming season; the Clippers have arguably the most talented roster the franchise has ever had. After adding two All-Stars in the form of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George this past summer, the Clippers completed one of the most successful off-seasons in NBA history and could be in line to secure their first-ever championship.

The Lakers will have to disagree however, as they too had an offseason to remember. Everyone knew it wasn’t a matter of if; but a matter of when, in regards to the Anthony Davis trade. Sure, the Lakers gave up a pretty penny for Davis, but they landed a top-five player nonetheless and while doing so, were able to hold on to one of their up-and-coming rising stars, Kyle Kuzma.

Complete details from the Anthony Davis trade.

Davis wasn’t the only Lakers’ addition though, as they signed versatile sharp shooters and defenders such as Danny Green and Avery Bradley, added veteran leadership in Dwight Howard and Jared Dudley and also retained players such as JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Oh and don’t forget, their roster also features one of the best basketball players of all-time, Lebron James.

It’s an entirely new-look roster for the Lakers and it could take a few months to manufacture some chemistry but one thing is for certain; the players (LeBron James especially) are well rested. After the team was essentially eliminated from a postseason birth in late March, the Lakers decided to shut their star player down for the season, marking just the first time in his 16-year career that he didn’t play in either April, May or June. After playing in eight-straight NBA Finals, rest has been a small concern for James throughout his career but it should not play a factor this upcoming season. In addition to extra rest, he seems to be extra motivated as well.

“I’m very motivated,” James told Lakers’ Senior Writer, Kevin Ding. “But I’m right now not in talking-about-it mode. I’ve been very quiet this summer for a reason. My mother always told me: ‘Don’t talk about it. Be about it.”

With the addition of Anthony Davis, LeBron will now have the opportunity to play with what is the best center he has ever had and that could spell trouble for the rest of the league. The Clippers will likely be their biggest competition this year, but where the Clippers lack, is where the Lakers should thrive. With Ivica Zubac slated to be the Clippers’ starting center and little help behind him on the depth chart, they could potentially be in a world of trouble when they match up against some of the league’s most dominant big-men like hmm… Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers?

Milwaukee Bucks +550

With virtually an identical roster as last year, Mike Budenholzer, the reigning NBA Coach of the Year, and the Milwaukee Bucks plan to run it back with the same team – but a different result. With his talent and skill level, it’s easy to forget that the Bucks’ star player and defending MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo is just 24-years-old, but that’s the reality.

In addition to being named the MVP in 2018-2019, Antetokounmpo was also named to the All NBA First Team, the NBA All-Defensive First Team and has been named to three consecutive All-Star games dating back to 2017. The seven-footer is one of the league’s most dominant players and has seen his points-per-game average improve in each of his six seasons in the NBA. It’s hard to imagine there’s room to build on his 27.7-point average from last season but it’s the Greek Freak we’re talking about and his work ethic is unrivaled.

“One of the things you always hear about Giannis, whenever you’re talking about him, is his work ethic,” Coach Budenholzer told Ben Steele of the Milwaukee Journal. “I would say it has met or exceeded all of my expectations. He wants to be great. He puts the time and effort in.”

After finishing the regular season with the best record in the NBA (60-22) and their best record since the 1980-1981 season, the Bucks went on to sweep the Detroit Pistons in the first round and take down the Boston Celtics in just five games in the conference semifinals. The Bucks season eventually came to an end in the sixth game of the Eastern Conference Finals (their first since 2001) when they ran into the eventual NBA champions, the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors proved to be the superior team last season but with the departure of Kawhi Leonard, their number one player and NBA Finals MVP, the Raptors have suddenly been removed from the conversation for the NBA Championship and Larry O’Brien trophy.

With the Raptors no longer being a considerable threat in the Eastern Conference, the Bucks may just have the easiest path to the NBA Finals in 2020. The West is absolutely stacked with talent including the Lakers, Clippers, Warriors, Rockets, Nuggets, Trailblazers and so on. In the East however, the only team I foresee even giving the Bucks a run for their money is the Philadelphia 76ers. I won’t be betting the 76ers this year but if you do decide to wager on the both of them, you can pretty much guarantee you will have at least one team in the NBA Finals, which would create a perfect hedge opportunity.

Denver Nuggets +1800 (Sleeper Pick)

Bare with me now, I know it’s a bit of a long shot but in my opinion, the Nuggets have the best value of any team for the 2020 NBA Finals. Denver finished last season (54-28), which was tied for their second-best record in franchise history (1987, 2008). In addition, that record ranked them second in the Western Conference and was the fourth-best record overall.

In the franchise’s 43 seasons in the NBA, the Nuggets only have six 50+ wins seasons but in recent years, the front office has seemed to finally put some of the pieces to the puzzle. Coach Mike Malone utilized every last bit of what was potentially the NBA’s deepest roster last season, with 10 players averaging seven-or-more points per game, it was a team effort on a nightly basis.

While you might think the Nuggets’ 54-win season will be tough to replicate, you might want to take a look at their (somehow) improved roster heading into the 2019-2020 season. How could the NBA’s deepest roster become even more potent, you ask?

If you don’t remember, with the 14th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Denver took a chance on a highly anticipated, but injured rookie named Michael Porter Jr. After playing it safe all of last season and allowing him to rest, the 21-year-old will be set to make his season debut and will certainly provide a talent boost to the team’s weakest position (small forward). In addition, the Nuggets used their 44th overall pick to snag Bol Bol, the 19-year-old center out of Oregon, who averaged 21 PPG, 9.6 RPG and 2.7 BPG. Lastly, after setting new career-highs in PPG (13.6) and RPG (5.2), Jerami Grant had the most successful season of his six-year career and it did not go unnoticed by the Nuggets’ front office. Denver traded their 2020 first-round pick to acquire the 25-year-old from the Thunder.

There’s no denying, the roster has been upgraded and the Nuggets should once again be a threat. You also might forget, this team was just one win away from competing against the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals last year but failed to capitalize on their home-court advantage Game 7. At +1800, you won’t find a better value bet for 2020.

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