Once pegged as extreme longshots, Vegas seems to have changed its tune on the Brooklyn Nets. With Thursday’s vote to approve the NBA’s return on July 31, Caesars Sportsbook has adjusted the Nets’ title odds from 750-1 to a respectable 60-1, putting them on equal footing with Utah and Oklahoma City.
Currently seeded seventh in the Eastern Conference, the Nets would meet the defending champion Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs started today. Luckily, for Brooklyn, the season won’t resume for another two months, potentially allowing hobbled stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving enough time to recover from their respective surgeries.
While the Nets have not committed to either player suiting up when the season resumes, their drastic improvement in title odds would suggest bettors are banking on at least one, if not both superstars returning. “I would rather be cautious and deal 60-1 than get hurt when we hear news,” Caesars director of trading Jeff Davis told ESPN’s Doug Kezirian. “I don't want to post 150-1 odds, and the problem is you take a bet of a couple thousand and it pays $300,000 and you're stuck if [Durant is] good.”
When the NBA resumes its season in Orlando next month, it will present a unique challenge for bettors as teams that would traditionally benefit from home-court advantage no longer have that luxury. “Every single team is in the same situation,” noted Davis, who has installed the LeBron James-led Los Angeles Lakers as prohibitive 2-1 favorites to win their 17th NBA championship. “I don't know what the schedule is going to look like but it won't be awkward travel of cities and time zones.”
The neutral-site games should level the playing field somewhat, though it’s still hard to envision the Nets making a legitimate title run, or even finishing above .500 (30-34 record through 64 games). Then again, we’ve yet to see Brooklyn at full strength with Durant still recovering from last year’s torn Achilles and shoulder woes limiting Irving to a mere 20 regular-season appearances. The Nets weren’t expecting to get either player back this season, though the downtime afforded by the league’s coronavirus hiatus could change that.
Though it will be tempting to get both players back in hopes of pulling off a potential playoff upset, Durant and Irving still face uphill battles to see the court again in 2020. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has been adamant Durant won’t suit up this season while Irving’s shoulder surgery calls for a six-month recovery, shelving him through at least August. And even if, by some miracle, both are able to return, the Nets, for all their star power, would still have to go through Toronto, Boston and Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference with one of the LA juggernauts likely to await them in the Finals.
It’s a longshot, but Vegas seems to have much more faith in the Nets than other fringe playoff teams like the Spurs (1,000-1), Wizards (1,000-1) and Kings (2,000-1), who all face steep, bordering on insurmountable odds of hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy when the NBA crowns its champion in Orlando this summer.