Best Bets for the 2022 NBA Finals Matchup

By Nick Sterling in NBA
| September 27, 2021 9:12 am PST

The 2021-22 NBA season is fast approaching. The preseason is less than 10 days away, and we are under a month away from the beginning of the regular season.

Last season, we saw a bit of a surprising NBA Finals series between the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks. It was nice to change things up after watching the Golden State Warriors, and Cleveland Cavaliers meet every year.

We know the top contenders in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference, but it’s always important to identify value when making these bets.

With that, let’s check out my top five best bets for the 2022 NBA Finals matchup.

5. Boston Celtics vs. Denver Nuggets (+22500)

I want to start things out with my biggest longshot that I could realistically see happening.

The Boston Celtics have been my favorite sleeper in the Eastern Conference all offseason. Boston had a down 2020-21 season, finishing with a 36-36 record. It was the first time since 2014-15 that they didn’t finish above .500.

Boston made it out of the play-in tournament before falling to the Brooklyn Nets in the first round. Without Jaylen Brown, they had little chance of defeating the Nets in the playoff series.

Even with the disappointing season, I don’t think this team is far off from the one that made three Conference Finals appearances in the last four years.

Brad Stevens transitioned from head coach to president of basketball operations this offseason. It didn’t take long for him to make key acquisitions. Here are the guys he brought in.

  • Dennis Schroder
  • Josh Richardson
  • Juancho Hernangomez
  • Al Horford
  • Enes Kanter

Jayson Tatum has all the looks of a future MVP. If he can play at an MVP level this season, I could see Boston making a run in the Eastern Conference.

In the Western Conference, my favorite sleeper is the Denver Nuggets.

Over the last three seasons, the Nuggets have quietly been one of the best teams in the NBA. Their 147 regular-season wins rank second in that span.

Denver looked like a serious championship threat last season, but their hopes took a big hit when Jamal Murray went down with a torn ACL. The injury happened in April, so the hope is he can return for the second half of the season. If he comes back at full strength, the Nuggets could be a force to be reckoned with.

Last season’s MVP, Nikola Jokic, will lead the Nuggets with Murray out, but he won’t be alone.

Michael Porter Jr. took a big step forward last season and is one of the top contenders to win most improved player. Aaron Gordon recently signed an extension with Denver and should look more comfortable as he has had a full offseason to become more accumulated with the team.

We saw the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns surprise everyone last season with their fantastic seasons. I think the Nuggets have a great chance to replicate their success.

4. Miami Heat vs. Los Angeles Clippers (+11000)

Here, we have two more of my dark horse picks that have a more realistic chance to make a championship run.

Following an appearance in the 2020 NBA Finals, the Miami Heat had a disappointing 2020-21 season. They finished sixth in the Eastern Conference, but the Milwaukee Bucks swept them in the first round.

This offseason, Miami went to work on upgrading their roster.

Their biggest move came early on when they acquired Kyle Lowry in a sign-and-trade with the Toronto Raptors. Lowry brings a veteran presence with a championship pedigree. The 35-year-old averaged 17.2 points and 7.3 assists last season.

Miami also signed P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris. All three moves made them one of the big winners of free agency.

The Heat enter the season with three all-star caliber players in their starting lineup. It certainly doesn’t hurt having Tyler Herro coming off the bench.

Even if Miami doesn’t have the same fire-power as other teams, they are just as competitive because they have the best coach in the NBA in Erik Spoelstra. Spoelstra knows how to exceed expectations and has five NBA Finals appearances on his resume.

Our Western Conference representative is the Los Angeles Clippers.

With all the surprise teams last season, I feel like everyone wrote off the Clippers. Los Angeles finished fourth in the Western Conference, but they made their first Western Conference Finals in franchise history. Unfortunately, they suffered a massive loss in the Conference Semifinals.

Kawhi Leonard went down with a knee injury that later turned out to be a partially torn ACL. He had surgery in July and will likely miss the majority of the season.

Even without Leonard, the Clippers have enough talent to remain in the race.

Paul George will take over as the main guy in Los Angeles. We saw George operate as the star player in his time with the Indiana Pacers.

When Leonard missed time in the playoffs last season, we saw George take over games.

Game 5 (Conference Semifinals) Game 5 (Conference Finals)
Points 36 41
Rebounds 16 13
Assists 5 6
Field Goal/Attempts 12/22 15/20

Truthfully, this really hinges on Leonard returning from his partial ACL tear. If he can come back late in the season and make a big impact in the postseason, I could truly see the Clippers making a finals run.

Without him, they’ll have their work cut out for them.

3. Brooklyn Nets vs. Utah Jazz (+1800)

Now, we’re starting to get into the matchups that a lot of people have in mind.

The Brooklyn Nets enter the 2021-22 season as favorites to win it all. They have the best big three in the NBA in Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. The team struggled with injuries last season, but the big three finally saw the court together in the postseason.

Unfortunately, that didn’t last, as both Harden and Irving missed time in the Conference Semifinals. Despite heroic efforts from Durant, the Nets fell in seven games.

Brooklyn did bring in Patty Mills and Paul Millsap in free agency, but that was the extent of it. The biggest thing for their championship hopes is the health of their big three. Check out how many games each player missed last season.

  • Kevin Durant: 37 missed games
  • James Harden: 36 missed games
  • Kyrie Irving: 18 missed games

It’s not a huge deal in the regular season, but this team will run into trouble in the postseason if their players aren’t healthy.

For now, they enter the season as one of the top contenders in the Eastern Conference.

The Utah Jazz have been a consistent five or six seed in the Western Conference for the last few seasons. Everyone knew they were a playoff team, but no one was taking them serious as a championship contender. That all changed last season.

Utah finished with the best record in the NBA. They cruised through the first round of the playoffs before suffering a disappointing defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers in the Conference Semifinals.

Even with the disappointing end, we saw Donovan Mitchell show out for the second straight postseason.

  • 32.3 points
  • 5.5 assists
  • 4.2 rebounds
  • 43.5 three-point percentage

I know there are many people who are going to wonder if the Jazz can replicate their 2020-21 success. Looking at their roster, they have all the pieces to make a championship run.

Mitchell, Jordan Clarkson, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Mike Conley will lead a Jazz offense that finished fourth in the league in scoring. Three-time defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert will guide a Jazz defense that ranked top three last season.

With Quin Snyder leading the way, Utah has what it takes to make a finals run. Can they build off their 2020-21 success?

2. Milwaukee Bucks vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Who wouldn’t want to see a Finals matchup between Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James?

The Milwaukee Bucks faced a lot of criticism following a disappointing defeat in the 2020 playoffs. Instead of cutting bait on Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee signed him to an extension and traded for Jrue Holiday.

Well, the moves paid off as the Bucks won their first championship in franchise history. Antetokounmpo was the star of the postseason. He missed some time at the end of the Conference Finals but returned with one of the greatest NBA Finals performances in NBA history.

  • 35.2 points
  • 13.2 rebounds
  • 5.0 assists
  • 1.8 blocks
  • 61.8 field-goal percentage

Antetokounmpo put up 50 points and 14 rebounds in the championship-clinching game.

The only big contributor the Bucks lost this offseason was P.J. Tucker. Tucker wasn’t big on the stat sheet, but his defensive intensity is something that you can’t replace. However, the Bucks have a pair of All-Defensive caliber players in Antetokounmpo and Holiday.

Everyone pushes extra hard when they’re playing the defending champions, but Milwaukee has enough fire-power to handle it.

They have the best chance to take down the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference.

In the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers will look to make their second finals appearance in three seasons.

Los Angeles had an extremely disappointing 2020-21 season. Both James and Anthony Davis missed extensive time with injury, dropping the Lakers to the seven seed. Davis once again went down in the playoffs, leading to a first-round exit.

This offseason, the Lakers went to work on upgrading their roster.

Their biggest move came on draft night when they acquired Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards. The nine-time all-star broke the record for most career triple-doubles last season. He’ll give the Lakers another ball-handler this season, taking some pressure off James.

I could sit here and tell you all the players the Lakers added this offseason, but that list is way longer than the players they retained. Only James, Davis, and Talen Horton-Tucker remain from the 2020-21 team.

Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo are back with the team after playing elsewhere last season. Both players were on the Lakers 2020 championship roster.

In a star-driven league, not many teams can rival the Lakers. They enter the season as the favorites to win the Western Conference. From there, it’s all about winning another championship.

My Top NBA Finals Matchup Pick

  • Brooklyn Nets vs. Los Angeles Lakers (+500)

I know it’s no fun picking the favorite, but the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers seem destined for the 2022 NBA Finals.

Brooklyn has enough fire-power to rival the 2017-2019 Golden State Warriors. Because they have three great players, I think they could afford one injury and still be the favorites.

A LeBron James-led team is always going to be one of the favorites to win the championship. It probably has something to do with the fact that he made the finals every season from 2011-2020.

Because the 2021-22 NBA season has yet to begin, we have no idea who the playoff teams will be. We have a good idea who will compete for the championship, but there’s always the possibility for a surprise contender. I can’t imagine a lot of people had the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals last season.

For all of your NBA bets, check out the top NBA betting sites.

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