Congratulations to the NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs!
The Spurs avenged their tough loss to Miami in last season’s NBA Finals with a resounding four-games-to-one rout of the two-time defending champion Heat, denying Miami its much desired “three-peat.”
It was a record setting performance on several levels, including a victory margin of at least 15 points in each of the four wins. In outscoring Miami by an average of 14 points per game the Spurs set the record for the greatest scoring margin in the Finals.
Tony Parker led the Spurs in scoring 17.4 points per game for the entire post season, the lowest scoring average to lead a Championship team in the shot clock era that dates back nearly 60 years to the 1954-55 season. It is a testament to the selflessness with which the Spurs played.
It was a brilliant display of team basketball at both ends of the court, reminding many of the New York Knicks who, a generation and a half ago, won a pair of NBA titles in a four-season span using a similar blueprint that emphasized unselfish play at the offensive end of the court and a commitment to defense at the other end.
San Antonio’s bench was also a major factor in winning this series in impressive fashion, greatly outplaying Miami’s reserves.
The next major date for NBA fans comes next Thursday, June 26, when the annual draft takes place. Considered the deepest in many seasons the draft will be the starting point for teams to reshape their rosters for next season, followed by the free agency free for all that begins in July.
The most closely watched aspect of this free agent season will be what may likely be termed “Decision II” as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have decisions to make in terms of whether they will return to Miami next season or opt out and test the marketplace.
Of the “Big Three” Wade would appear to be the most likely to stay put as his play has declined in recent seasons due to the nagging injuries related to his aggressive style of play.
Knowledgeable conjecture has it that all three will decide to stay in Miami with Bosh the most likely of the three to opt out. But it is intriguing to speculate about what the impact would be if “King James” elects to opt out in the wake of the frustration resulting from losing in the Finals.
The other big name to hit the market is Carmelo Anthony who has opted out of his contract with the New York Knicks. The strongest rumors have Anthony headed to either Chicago or Houston. Chicago presents the better opportunity for Anthony in his quest to win an NBA Title as the Bulls play in the considerably weaker Eastern Conference.
Should Derrick Rose return healthy and with a solid core of players led by Joakim Noah who already plays some of the best defense in the league, Anthony’s disdain for that end of the court might not be as great a liability as if he played in Houston or elsewhere.
Odds to win the 2015 NBA Title are already available and there are some interesting candidates to consider, including the current champion Spurs who are listed at 7-to-1 odds.
One team to avoid is Miami. Currently listed at odds of 5/2 (though likely to rise) the Heat have several issues to address in the off season even if James, Wade and Bosh return. As noted above, the Heat’s bench was a liability in the Finals and had been a source of concern several times during the regular season when injuries to starters required the reserves to step up.
Indiana is listed at 15/1. The concern about the Pacers relates to their horrific collapse over the second half of the regular season after they looked like the team to beat well into January. The Pacers never really recovered even though they reached the Eastern Conference Finals, losing to Miami in six games.
If the Pacers can regroup and make changes that lead to more team harmony, Indiana could be one of two teams most likely to unseat Miami and deny the Heat a fifth straight trip to the NBA Finals.
That other Eastern team would be Chicago, with or without Carmelo Anthony. Of course, much hinges on the return of Rose, who missed all of 2012-2013 after playing just 39 games the previous season and 10 games this past season. Rose will be only 26 when the 2014-15 season starts in late October. The Bulls have been cautious with Rose and if he returns close to 100 percent healthy the Bulls’ odds of 15/1 to win next season’s NBA Title will be attractive.
The tougher decisions come in the West where San Antonio will again be one of the favored teams and considering their track record of success that dates back to their first of five NBA Titles back in 1999 have to be given serious consideration to repeat. Those 7/1 odds are reasonable.
Portland, with its dynamic duo of LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard could be a viable longshot after breaking out this past season. The Blazers are listed at odds of 30/1.
The Los Angeles Clippers, with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin leading the way, are a bit too short priced at 10/1 odds to generate much enthusiasm.
Perhaps the most intriguing Western team posted at generous odds is Houston. Led by Dwight Howard and James Harden, the Rockets are 20/1 to win the NBA Title.
Along the same lines is Golden State where Steve Kerr will make his NBA coaching debut next season. He takes over a team that has shown steady progress over the past few seasons and seems poised to take “that next step.” At 25/1 the Warriors will attract more than modest interest.
Of course there are inherent risks in playing NBA Futures so soon after the current season ends. With such a small roster of 12 to 15 players, many teams will have a much different look when the season starts in October than when the prior season ended in April. Because just five players are involved in the game at any one time the impact of an individual player’s performance in basketball is arguably greater than that of any single player in the other major sports.
Keep an eye on the Futures odds over the next few months and once most of the major moves have been made – both via the draft and in free agency – you might have some attractive prices to play in, say, mid-August when little attention is paid to the NBA while football is on the horizon and baseball’s Division races are the focus of the sports headlines.
Enjoy the off season and this column will return in the fall when the 2014-15 campaign is about to tip off.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]