The Brooklyn Nets franchise hasn't won a league championship since Julius Erving was dunking on the ABA in 1976. Bettors are betting big money that the Nets' title drought is about to end.
Entering this year's playoffs, the loaded Nets are the consensus favorites to win the NBA title, and more money has been bet on Brooklyn than any other team at multiple U.S. sportsbooks.
Brooklyn opened at around 9-1 to win the title and started garnering increased support from bettors in January ahead of its acquisition of James Harden. Seamus Magee, a sports trader for BetMGM, said the sportsbook "saw a wave of money [on the Nets] when rumors suggested Harden would go there."
The largest reported championship bet on the Nets so far -- $100,000 at +250 -- was placed March 9 at the William Hill sportsbook at Riverside Casino in Laughlin, Nevada.
At DraftKings' sportsbook in New Jersey, nearly 50% of the total money wagered on the odds to win the NBA title is on the Nets, including the two largest bets in the pool: $30,000 and $23,000. Brooklyn has attracted more than double the amount of money as has been bet on any other team at DraftKings in New Jersey, the sportsbook reported.
The No. 2-seeded Nets face the seventh-seeded Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs in a series that tips off Saturday.
While the action has been lopsided on the Nets, the odds suggest the playoffs are more wide-open than in recent seasons. The defending-champion Los Angeles Lakers are the second favorites at +425 at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill, followed by the LA Clippers (+550), Utah Jazz (+700) and Milwaukee Bucks (+800).
The Lakers, who take on the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs, are the first 7-seed to be favored over a 2-seed in at least the past 30 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Bettors have even taken interest in some of the bigger underdogs like the Atlanta Hawks, who are around 80-1. In late April, a bettor in Colorado placed a $20,000 bet on the Hawks at 100-1 odds to win the championship with DraftKings. And the SuperBook on Thursday reported taking a $10,000 bet on the Denver Nuggets to win the title at 40-1.
"Brooklyn is our biggest liability of the teams that I believe can actually win the title," said John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook in Las Vegas. "Our No. 1 liability is Atlanta, overall, and our second-largest liability is Golden State."
The Warriors, who are around 100-1 to win the title, host the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, with the winner earning the eighth seed and advancing to the Western Conference playoffs to face the Jazz.