The Milwaukee Bucks hadn't won an NBA title since 1971, and they hadn't even reached the NBA Finals since 1974. However, they ended their championship drought Tuesday night. Could it be the start of a dynasty?
Meanwhile, the Phoenix Suns have still never won an NBA title. Before this year, their only previous NBA Finals appearances came in 1993 and 1976. Can they get back to this point and try to win their first championship in 2022?
The Bucks and Suns should remain strong teams heading into the 2021-22 season, so perhaps one (or both) could get back to the NBA Finals for a second year in a row. But there's a lot of work for them to do before that can happen, and other teams around the NBA are sure to improve this offseason.
Here's a look at the early odds for the top contenders to win the NBA title next year, including how likely it is that either Milwaukee will repeat or that Phoenix will finally break through.
Top Odds to Win NBA Title in 2022
Brooklyn Nets: +200 (bet $100 to win $200)
Los Angeles Lakers: +600
Milwaukee Bucks: +850
Phoenix Suns: +1200
Los Angeles Clippers: +1300
Golden State Warriors: +1300
Utah Jazz: +1300
Philadelphia 76ers: +1600
Denver Nuggets: +2400
Dallas Mavericks: +3000
Complete list available at FanDuel Sportsbook
If the Bucks are going to make it back to the NBA Finals next year, they're likely going to need to again get past the Nets. This year, Milwaukee won a seven-game series against Brooklyn in the second round of the playoffs, overcoming a 3-2 deficit with back-to-back wins in Games 6 and 7.
Still, the Bucks have already proved they're capable of beating the Nets in a postseason series. Milwaukee may not have as many big names, but Giannis Antetokounmpo has developed into a superstar, while others such as Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez are valuable supporting players.
And as Antetokounmpo alluded to after the Bucks' title-clinching Game 6 win over the Suns, the formation of superteams around the league has only motivated Milwaukee to succeed in the fashion that it has.
"I could've gone to a superteam ... but this is the hard way to do it, and I did it," Antetokounmpo said, per ESPN's Tim Bontemps.
So why not do it again? Antetokounmpo is a two-time NBA MVP and now an NBA Finals MVP, and the scary thing for other teams is that the 26-year-old may still be getting better. One of his only weaknesses in recent years has been his free-throw shooting, yet he went 17-of-19 at the line while dropping 50 points in Game 6 of the Finals.
There doesn't seem to be too many potential title contenders in the Eastern Conference. The 76ers may be one of the only teams that could challenge the Nets and Bucks. The path could be there for Milwaukee to have an opportunity to try to repeat as champions.
Things will likely be more difficult for the Suns in the Western Conference. They may not be as strong, either, if veteran point guard Chris Paul decides not to return. The 36-year-old has a $44.2 million player option for the 2021-22 season, but he could decide to hit free agency after his first season in Phoenix.
There are quite a few teams that will be looking to knock off the Suns in the West. That includes the Lakers, who fell to the Suns in the first round of the playoffs. But LeBron James and Anthony Davis will be back, so Los Angeles will be capable of a bounce-back showing.
The Jazz were the No. 1 seed in the West this year and should still be a strong team. The Nuggets and Clippers will be seeking revenge against the Suns and are poised for deep playoff runs. And the Warriors could get back to the postseason, especially if Klay Thompson stays healthy and returns playing at a high level.
It's possible we get a Bucks-Suns rematch in the 2022 NBA Finals. Both teams should be in no danger of missing the playoffs, and each now has the postseason experience to know what it takes to make it to the end.
However, it's much more likely that we see the Bucks back next year than the Suns. And there's a strong chance that Antetokounmpo and his teammates could be celebrating again in 2022.
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