Now that the NBA deck has just about finished shuffling in what was an unusually exciting offseason, it’s time for the oddsmakers in Vegas to weigh in with who they believe has the best chance of taking home the Larry O’Brien trophy next June.
Not surprisingly, the Cleveland Cavaliers — fresh off of signing LeBron James in free agency, and trading for Kevin Love from the Timberwolves — land at the top of the list to win the 2015 NBA title.
Bovada lists Cleveland at 5/2 as the favorites, followed by the Spurs at 4/1, the Bulls at 11/2, and the Thunder at 6/1.
It’s worth noting that sports books don’t set these odds based on who they actually are predicting to win the NBA title; if that were the case, teams like the Spurs (who won it last year) and the Thunder (who have the reigning MVP and a core that’s been together for a few years) would have been much better choices.
The odds are based on where the money is anticipated to come in, and casual fans will be easily swayed by the media swarm surrounding LeBron and Love, thereby being more likely to throw a few bucks down just in case the Cavaliers are able to put things together perhaps more quickly than expected.
Future wagers like these are beyond silly, of course, because all it takes is one key injury over the next 10 months to throw everything into complete chaos. If you are inclined to give it a shot, you want to try to find as much value as possible — which makes San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and possibly even the Clippers (12/1) or Rockets (16/1) far better investments than the Cavaliers.
Bovada’s complete championship odds for all 30 teams are listed below.
Cleveland Cavaliers 5/2
San Antonio Spurs 4/1
Chicago Bulls 11/2
Oklahoma City Thunder 6/1
Los Angeles Clippers 12/1
Houston Rockets 16/1
Dallas Mavericks 18/1
Golden State Warriors 22/1
Washington Wizards 33/1
Indiana Pacers 40/1
Miami Heat 40/1
Portland Trailblazers 40/1
Memphis Grizzlies 50/1
New York Knicks 50/1
Toronto Raptors 50/1
Charlotte Hornets 66/1
Los Angeles Lakers 66/1
Brooklyn Nets 66/1
Atlanta Hawks 100/1
Boston Celtics 100/1
Denver Nuggets 100/1
New Orleans Pelicans 100/1
Phoenix Suns 100/1
Minnesota Timberwolves 150/1
Detroit Pistons 200/1
Orlando Magic 200/1
Sacramento Kings 250/1
Utah Jazz 250/1
Milwaukee Bucks 300/1
Philadelphia 76ers 300/1
Who will we see in the NBA Finals come June?
The West looks cut and dried — if the Warriors are healthy, it’s hard to imagine any other team in that conference giving them too much trouble.
The East? That’s wide open. A good case can be made for Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, or Milwaukee finding their way in. (For a more detailed breakdown, listen to the latest PBT Podcast where Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports and myself break down the East in more detail.)
The bookmakers over at BetOnline put together these odds on potential Finals matchups, and after the first four options the odds get pretty long.
Milwaukee Bucks vs Golden State Warriors 9/2
Toronto Raptors vs Golden State Warriors 9/2
Boston Celtics vs Golden State Warriors 5/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Golden State Warriors 5/1
Indiana Pacers vs Golden State Warriors 28/1
Brooklyn Nets vs Golden State Warriors 33/1
Boston Celtics vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Milwaukee Bucks vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Toronto Raptors vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Charlotte Hornets vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Detroit Pistons vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Miami Heat vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Orlando Magic vs Golden State Warriors 66/1
Washington Wizards vs Golden State Warriors 66/1
Boston Celtics vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Milwaukee Bucks vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Toronto Raptors vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
A few quick thoughts on that list:
• Interesting that the Sixers and Celtics are just a little behind the Bucks and Raptors in the minds of the bookmakers.
• I don’t know that I’d have Houston in front of Oklahoma City as the second-best option in the West. Not this season. The Thunder have the defense and star power to do playoff damage.
• If you’re thinking about putting money on Washington or Orlando to make the Finals — against anyone — just donate that money to charity instead. That way it will do some good.
Zion Williamson will probably be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
He’s a generationally good prospect. The rest of this draft also looks relatively weak.
In fact, Williamson has such a stranglehold on the top pick, some have suggested he sit out the rest of his freshman season.
His injury during Duke’s game against North Carolina tonight will only heighten those calls.
Hopefully, Williamson is OK.
And hopefully, the system changes. The NCAA is a cartel in which schools conspire to cap compensation for athletes at a scholarship plus some expenses. In a free market, Williamson would earn far more.
Unfortunately, it probably can’t be both. If Williamson escapes this without major injury, the status quo will likely endure.
But, if this injury even allows him to play again this season, it might be a warning shot that causes him to sit until he can enter the NBA draft.
Again, I hope he’s healthy enough to make that decision for himself.
Friday morning, Jayson Tatum guaranteed the U.S. team would beat the World team in the Rising Stars game that night. The U.S. team won.
So, Tatum was asked Saturday morning whether he wanted to guarantee anything for that night. He guaranteed he’d win the Skills Challenge. He won.
So, then ESPN’s Rachel Nichols asked Tatum whether he wants to guarantee anything else. And he really let it ride.
We’re going to win the Finals this year. February 16th, mark it. Jayson Tatum says we’re going to win the Finals this year.
Obviously, Tatum wasn’t going to pick against Boston. But this wasn’t that. He could have easily avoided such a grand proclamation.
Instead, even if he were just caught up in the emotion of an All-Star Saturday Night victory and taking the interview especially seriously, Tatum put a little more attention and pressure on the Celtics.
I’m not convinced that’s what this team needs.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Kristaps Porzingis will sign long-term with Dallas this summer, and Porzingis he was on the same page.
But he will be a free agent. Restricted, but a free agent, nonetheless.
Porzingis’ exit from the Knicks provided a clue about where he’d want to go if he explores leaving the Mavericks.
Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:
The four teams Porzingis had on his wish list of trade destinations were the Nets, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors, according to two people with knowledge of the list who were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Porzingis had little leverage to get to any of these teams. Because he’ll be a restricted free agent, the Knicks or any team acquiring him would retain immense team control over him.
The Nets and Clippers project to have cap space this summer. The Heat and Raptors don’t.
But even if Porzingis signs an offer sheet elsewhere, Dallas will will likely match it.
Still, Porzingis will become an unrestricted free agent someday – 2020 in the unlikely event he accepts his qualifying offer or a future year if he signs a multi-year deal this summer. It’s probably best to file away this list until then.