The sportsbooks in Las Vegas have posted their opening lines for the 2023-24 NBA champion now that the Denver Nuggets defeated the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals to claim the 2022-23 Larry O’Brien Trophy.
The Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t getting the respect that Wolves fans likely desire coming off a competitive first-round playoff exit at the hands of the eventual champion Nuggets. Despite missing two crucial contributors in Jaden McDaniels and Naz Reid, and co-stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert playing visibly below 100%, Minnesota arguably gave Denver more trouble than any other Western Conference team in the champs’ path.
Much of that has to do with Anthony Edwards’ two-way performance all series long; the 21-year-old superstar averaged 31.6 points on 48.2/34.9/84.6 shooting splits, 5.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists to 1.6 turnovers, 1.8 steals and 2.0 blocks across 39.8 minutes per game. Over the course of the five-game series, he posed an on-off net rating of +30.3 — the highest of any player in the playoffs, per Basketball Reference.
Not only do they have a legitimate MVP candidate in the making, but they also project to have three All-Star caliber players in Edwards, Towns and Gobert. The only other teams that can say that are the 2021 NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks (Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton), Philadelphia 76ers if James Harden returns (Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey), and the reigning Champion Nuggets (Nikola Jokić, Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon).
With all that in mind, the Timberwolves opening line of +6000 (60-to-1 odds) feels a tad bit long to me. Here’s a look at the rest of the NBA, according to our friends over at DraftKings Sportsbook:
Minnesota is +2800 to win the Western Conference, with the Nuggets again the favorites at +245.
Normally these lines tell us something — such as the Washington Wizards +25000 mark indicating the team will blow it up and tank instead of bring back Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma — but it’s hard to gauge how they’re feeling about a direction the Wolves will go in.
The Timberwolves finished 42-40 as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference; they share +6000 odds with the Atlanta Hawks, whose 41-41 mark landed them in seventh in the East.
The Pelicans finished ninth, but are +3500 despite recent reports from The Athletic’s Shams Charania that they are “seriously pursuing a top 2-3 pick in this month’s NBA Draft, with eyes on point guard Scoot Henderson.” Feels pretty short if they are going to seriously break up their core to go get a rookie point guard.
In another case of “which direction will they go,” we have the Los Angeles Clippers at +1700. They are going to need to make significant roster changes ahead of the second apron wreaking financial and team-building havoc on their aging core of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Norman Powell, Marcus Morris Sr. and Nicolas Batum, all of whom are over 30, ahead of the 2024-25 season. They also have a new arena opening in 2024-25; will Steve Ballmer be willing to put out a reloading group on that floor in its first year, or will he hope Leonard and George in their age-34 and age-35 seasons respectively can stay healthy?
We also have no idea what NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s suspension will be for Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant’s repeat offense brandishing a handgun, yet the Grizz are still +2200, the seventh-best odds in the West. Not to mention that Jaren Jackson Jr. has struggled to stay healthy in recent years. Memphis feels like a prime candidate to use some of its loaded asset chest and push some of their chips into the middle for a star, but will they actually do it if Morant misses half the season? There are several unknowns there.
Perhaps the craziest posting is the “Yes, we tanked with a clear chance for Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving to play postseason basketball” Dallas Mavericks at +1600, which may just be DraftKings protecting itself in case they go scorched earth and trade the last of their assets to acquire a third star after retaining Irving. This team was terrible even with Dončić and Irving after the trade deadline. They have the No. 10 pick in the NBA Draft, but considering how weak the prospect pool gets beyond the top four or five picks, how much value will that pick really have in trade talks?
I’d presume this is a “run it back” line for Minnesota, but given the Pelicans number, it’s impossible to know. Either way, for a team that has a potential MVP candidate in Ant (if the Timberwolves stay healthy next season), this posting certainly feels like it doubles as a “prove it” line, too. As our friend Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic said on the Lowe Post podcast a couple years ago, something always finds a way to go wrong with the Wolves, even when all signs point towards success. That surely happened last season with Towns missing 52 games with a calf strain.
Should the Timberwolves +6000 championship odds (and +2800 Western Conference champs line) be higher or lower?