The NBA is growing in popularity by the year but not for the same reasons as the NFL. Parity in football is king where any given Sunday Team X could beat Team Y, but that’s not how things roll with the round ball.
Most casual fans can correctly predict the two participants in the NBA Finals at the start of the season because of how few surprises basketball presents its viewers. Sure, no one expected the Indiana Pacers to be any good and they nearly bounced the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs. But in the end, we got what we all expected: Warriors-Cavaliers Part IV. There’s no reason to think Golden State won’t be celebrating again this time next year, but there is some debate as to who they’ll be playing.
LeBron James has played in every Finals this decade and no one is certain where he will be playing next season. BetOnline lists the Los Angeles Lakers as the favorites (+150) to land LeBron James this summer. The Cavs have a 9/2 (+450) shot of keepin the King in Cleveland.
James’ impending free agency gives bettors potential value that normally doesn’t exist in the NBA futures market. Remember: the Houston Rockets were +3000 to win the title before they traded for Chris Paul. One superstar acquisition can turn middling team into a true contender overnight. James, CP3 and Paul George could all be on the move this summer, and with the growing trend of player pacts, there could be a new super team formed this summer.
Here are five teams with value to win the NBA championship:
Boston Celtics (+700)
The Celtics finished with the best regular season record in the Eastern Conference a year ago and they came one game shy of representing the conference in the Finals even though their two best players never played a minute in the playoffs.
They’ll come back next season with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward joining a starting five of Irving, Gordon, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. That’s pretty, pretty, pretty good. Injuries are a part of the game but the Celtics are due for some better health luck in the 2018-19 campaign.
re: 2018-19 NBA Title ... we are not permitted to offer odds where LeBron might end up, so at this time it is reflected in next year’s title odds ... there will be drastic changes to these after free agency (ie if LeBron does not go to Phi, Bos would then be the East fav)— Jeff Sherman (@golfodds) June 3, 2018
Boston also has the future draft assets to pull off another blockbuster trade should general manager Danny Ainge find a way to improve the team. The odds should be lower for this team but the books are worried about the possibility of LeBron going to Philadelphia and turning the Sixers into the next big thing in the Eastern Conference.
That seems like a longshot with the current situation in the 76ers’ front office.
New Orleans Pelicans (+8000)
Anthony Davis reminded everyone of just how damn unstoppable he can be on the basketball floor. He averaged 33 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks during a four-game sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs.
Coming out of the Western Conference is always a difficult challenge with the Golden State Warriors looming large, but they hung with them for the first three games of their second round series this year.
The Pelicans have a difficult decision on what to do with DeMarcus Cousins. The All-Star big man is an impending free agent and is recovering from a torn Achilles’ tendon – an injury that’s been devastating for several NBA players including big men like Elton Brand, Maurice Taylor and Mehmet Okur.
Milwaukee Bucks (+10,000)
Again, it’s a superstar league and Giannis Antetokounmpo fits the bill. He is one of the 10 best players in the Association and he’s still only 23 years old. The Bucks finally found themselves a decent NBA coach in Mike Budenholzer and they have other young pieces that should improve next season. We expect Budenholzer to get more out of Eric Bledsoe and Thon Maker.
Milwaukee isn’t a free agent destination but the club does have some options with Jabari Parker about to hit restricted free agency.
Los Angeles Clippers (+10,000)
The Lakers won seven fewer games than their Staples Center roommates and they don’t have their own pick in this year’s NBA draft. And yet they have the fifth best odds to win the NBA title next season at +1400 while the Clippers are in deep longshot territory.
The Clippers can offer everything the Lakers can only without the burden of playing under all the banners. They have two first round draft picks and could have a max salary slot if DeAndre Jordan and Austin Rivers opt out.
If Paul George wants to play in LA, maybe he does it in a Clippers jersey instead of a Lakers one. And the Clippers have enough contracts expiring in 2019 to be able to create more cap space pretty easily.