How often do we enter an NBA Finals with a question mark this large looming?
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s knee injury offers a unique betting situation that you can play many different ways. The best player between the two teams is doubtful for Game 1, and his status for the rest of the series is unknown. You can bank on him coming back after the Suns take a series lead, or you can count on Phoenix to run away with it. Or maybe you think the market is overrating the Suns to begin with, and you can take Milwaukee now.
Our staff broke down five different series props for the 2021 NBA Finals, including series spreads and a Bucks comeback prop at 5-1.
NBA Finals Series Props
3 Ways to Play the Suns
Brandon Anderson: Suns -1.5 games (+120 at BetMGM)
If this were a three-game series, the Suns would be massive favorites.
Phoenix’s advantage at the start of the series is very strong. The Suns have a significant rest advantage — five days off vs. just two, plus a far less grueling path to this stage with a second round sweep instead of a seven-game rock fight like the Bucks. Phoenix also has home court advantage, and the fans have been outstanding and are sure to be even stronger in its first Finals in almost three decades.
And of course, until proven otherwise, the Suns have a HUGE health advantage early on. Giannis Antetokounmpo is doubtful for Game 1, and I have my doubts that we’ll see him just two days from now in Game 2. And don’t forget, even if we do see Giannis at some point, this is not binary. We’re far more likely to get some other more in between version of Antetokounmpo, say 80% of his usual self or maybe 60%.
This is a player whose entire game is built around otherworldly athleticism and explosiveness, and that should be very hampered with the knee injury. A lesser version of Giannis who still can’t shoot and doesn’t have the world’s best dribble suddenly just leaves another center out there clogging up the offense a bit. The Bucks are already missing Donte DiVincenzo, another important starter, while the Suns just had almost a week off to rest Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Cam Payne, all of whom were limited last round.
If these teams were healthy — let’s be honest, if Giannis were healthy — this would feel like a very even, close, cagey matchup. But the Suns dominate a theoretical three-game series right now, which means Phoenix has a great opportunity to take a 2-1 or even 3-0 lead, and that’s the most certain thing in this series right now until we see Giannis out there dominating again. Milwaukee just doesn’t bring as much talent or offense to the fight without its franchise player.
If the Suns do take a clear series lead early, they’re in great shape to win the Finals and to do so in under seven games. Phoenix has already won three road closeout games this postseason, so the Suns can absolutely come to Milwaukee and win Game 6. They could also close this out in five if they play like the better team early and Antetokounmpo never returns or does but isn’t himself.
The longer the series goes, the less I like the Suns, if only because it likely means Giannis is back and playing well and Milwaukee now has the best player on the court. The Suns series price has gotten pretty rich heading into Game 1, but with Phoenix -1.5, I get plus money and all I lose out on is a Suns in 7 scenario. I’m willing to make that trade-off with the big advantage Phoenix has early in the series.
Matt Moore: Suns to win 4-2 or 4-3 (+150 at BetMGM)
I don’t like the value at -190 to win the series which is where it quickly moved to at most books.The implied probabilities put that too high. But I like the Suns to win the series, and I think the series will be close based on how good the Bucks are.
The Bucks are the best team the Suns have faced in the playoffs outside of the Lakers and even that series went six. If the Clippers without Kawhi Leonard can take the Suns to six, then the Bucks with Giannis Antetokounmpo likely to play at some point in this series will do them the same.
You can also get +450 for Suns in 6 and +350 for Suns in 7 if you want to split your bet that way.
The Bucks will hang in this series but run out of shooting. The Suns will win this series but won’t dominate. The Suns’ resume makes them look more impressive than they are. They squeaked out wins vs. the Clippers in Game 1 and 2. They were without Chris Paul but only won two of four games when Paul returned. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bucks led the series 2-1, but I like the Suns to win the series … it’ll just take a little bit.
Austin Wang: Suns to win Game 1 and win the series (-110 atBetMGM)
With all of the big market teams out of the picture, two small markets proudly represent their city as they face off for the Larry O’Brien trophy. The Suns are currently sitting as heavy favorites to win the series at -190. As mentioned in the Game 1 preview, I see the Suns having a huge advantage to win Game 1 and take an early lead in the series. BetMGM offers a combination where you can bet the Suns to win Game 1 and the series at -110.
The Suns will have had five days of rest before this matchup compared to the Bucks’ two. That’s an advantage that gave Phoenix wins and covers in previous series against the Lakers and Clippers.
The Suns have a healthier team with Giannis Antetokounmpo’s injury status still uncertain for the NBA Finals. Even if he returns, you can’t count on him to be 100% for Game 1.
The Suns have a deeper team, with Torrey Craig, Cameron Payne and Cameron Johnson providing valuable minutes off the bench. The only reliable player off the Bucks’ bench is Pat Connaughton and he has been wildly inconsistent. The Bucks will again have to rely on their starters to play heavy minutes on a short turnaround.
Finally, the home and away splits favor the Suns. The Suns are 33-11 and 27-17 ATS at home this season. The Bucks, on the other hand, are a mediocre 25-20 straight up and 19-25-1 ATS on the road.
With all these factors in mind, I think the Suns will win the first game at home and make this -110 series price look like a real bargain in a few days. Here is an opportunity to pounce on a cheap Suns line early and even if you ultimately like the Bucks to win the series, my recommendation is to take advantage of this line now and get the Bucks at higher odds down the line.
2 Ways to Play the Bucks
Joe Dellera: Bucks to win the series after trailing at any point (+500 at BetMGM)
The return of Giannis is an interesting wrinkle. He may play the whole series, he may miss a few games, he may be limited if he does play. I like the Bucks to take this series and I’ll be supplementing some of my futures with a series price of +160.
Even without Giannis, the Bucks have a +4.6 point differential per 100 possessions during the postseason, per Cleaning the Glass. They’ve continued to play excellent offense and have posted an eFG% of 56% in playoff minutes without him, and they’ve excelled from both short mid-range and the corner 3. Assuming Giannis does not play Game 1, even if he’s a bit rusty offensively when he returns, you’re adding one of the best defensive players in the league as a mid-Finals adjustment and a morale boost.
The Suns have been 0.3 points per 100 possessions better than the Bucks this postseason, but the Suns also did not need to take down the Brooklyn Nets. Both teams have played elite defense while struggling offensively, but the Bucks have been the best rebounding team in the playoffs (53.1%) while the Suns are seventh (50.3%), and more possessions should help them in the long run.
That being said, I think the Bucks drop Game 1 and that’s why this bet has value. With Giannis listed as doubtful for Game 1, you’re still down one of the best players in the league and Phoenix is more rested and at home. I expect Milwaukee to be able to steal one of the first two games even without Giannis due to the offensive prowess of both Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton.
Even if the Bucks pull off an upset in Game 1, this gives you multiple bites at the apple at better odds. I’ve seen most of the Game 1 Suns win/Bucks win the Series props at roughly +350, and this bet allows the Bucks to fall behind at any point in the series and still cash.
Kenny Ducey: Bucks to win the series (+165 at DraftKings)
For all the fun and flashiness the Suns have showcased, they’ve lost their way a bit over the course of this postseason. It’s important to remember they were underdogs against the Lakers, and were aided tremendously by injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the first round. They breezed by a Nuggets- team in the second round that was gassed and playing without Jamal Murray — and which should never have been in the second round in the first place (thanks, Blazers). Against the Clippers, the defensive efficiency this team had showcased all year took a bit of a hit.
The Suns allowed 110.3 points per 100 possessions in those six games, which is hardly a bad number but doesn’t match what the team had done entering the series. It speaks to the Clippers’ relentlessness from three, but there were also times this team hit a mental wall. On offense, the Suns had two good games, one of which was driven by a stupidly-good performance from Devin Booker in Game 1, the other was a complete team effort in Game 6.
It’s certainly possible that the last game we saw the Suns play will springboard them back into team basketball and help Chris Paul get back to himself, but I’m pretty bearish given the meat of that series, and the fact that the Suns have shot the three at just 37.3% this postseason.
The Bucks have displayed exceptional defense throughout the playoffs, and while they have a pretty crummy offensive gameplan, they have better shooters and a player in Jrue Holiday who should go toe-to-toe with Chris Paul, perhaps besting him.
DeAndre Ayton was a huge issue for the Clippers, who came into that series without Serge Ibaka and relying on a very average center in Ivica Zubac, but the Bucks have the size to limit some of the damage there. I think this defense holds up well enough to allow the offense time to figure things out against a wilting defense, and I expect Holiday to take the reins here without Giannis.
There’s also the chance that Antetokounmpo comes back to play in Game 2, and considering I do think they can win without him, I’m not overly concerned with that injury affecting the outcome.