NBA returns

Oct 26, 2010 7:01 AM

EDITOR’S NOTE: Beginning next week this column will contain wagering selections for three weekend games but in the inaugural column for the new season, let’s share some overall thoughts on how the season may unfold.

The 2010-11 NBA season gets underway Tuesday night after one of the most tumultuous and active off-seasons in history.

The major story of the offseason was LeBron James leaving Cleveland and joining Dwyane Wade with the Miami Heat, recruiting Chris Bosh from Toronto to form one of the most talented (and perhaps over hyped) triumvirate in NBA history.

The two time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers are again favored to represent the Western Conference in the NBA finals next June. They are prohibitive 10-11 favorites to win the West with their closest challengers expected to be Oklahoma City (6-1) and Dallas (13-2), based on odds at the Las Vegas Hilton.

But the Lakers are "just" 3-1 favorites to win the NBA Title. As you’d expect, the Miami Heat are the favorites with odds of 8-5. The Heat are 4-7 to win the East and surprisingly both Boston and Orlando are reasonably priced second choices to challenge Miami for the Eastern title with each priced at 7-2.

After the Heat and Lakers, no other team is priced at less than 10-1 odds to win the Title so if you believe that things don’t always go to form (and with NBA injuries having more of an impact in that sport than injuries in other sports), you might take a flyer on some up and coming teams such as Orlando (10-1), Oklahoma City (12-1) or Portland (25-1).

Even Dallas (15-1) and San Antonio (25-1) have solid credentials and plenty of recent playoff experience to take advantage should the Lakers prove vulnerable. With multiple titles and a still effective Tim Duncan along with a solid supporting cast, the odds on the Spurs seem exceptionally generous.

It’s hard not to like Miami’s chances to fare well but Boston still presents a formidable challenge, especially if they are healthy come playoff time. The Celtics took the Lakers to seven games last season, and their playoff run was largely attributed to having players rested during the stretch drive of the regular season after Boston had wrapped up the Atlantic division title.

Boston has its own solid trio of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett and a strong cast of support. Although aging, this trio knows what it takes to win in the post season and have to be considered a legitimate threat to the Heat.

Some interesting props that are worth considering include Miami having at least one winning streak greater than 14 games (OVER 14½) but that the Heat will fall short of winning 64½ games (they already have some injury issues as the season gets set to start).

The reasoning behind the OVER 14½-game winning streak lies largely in the fact that the Heat are so much more talented than most of the teams they will face that on many nights, that they will simply have to show up to get a win and in many stretches will only have a handful of games in which they will face a serious challenge.

If the Heat are to indeed enjoy such a lengthy win streak, there’s a strong chance it will occur over the first half to first three quarters of the season.

As to the UNDER 64½ total wins, the thinking here is that injuries and rest down the stretch will come into play, especially the rest factor late in the regular season.

Finally, it’s always easy to go with form when forecasting the NBA and the Lakers seem clearly better than the rest of the West that they are indeed the pick to make it again to the NBA finals.

Miami will face a greater challenge than many expect from both Orlando and Boston, with Boston having the great chance of thwarting the Heat’s "destiny." But age and injuries are a great concern for the Celtics and ultimately the call is for the Heat to deliver on their potential and to reach the NBA finals.

The combination of Kobe Bryant plus experience will lead the Lakers to a second "three-peat" (and coach Phil Jackson’s fourth overall) as the Lakers get a title and the Heat gain experience that may finally lead to the title in 2011-12.