Congratulations to the Golden State Warriors who won their third NBA Title in the last four seasons and did so with an exclamation point – sweeping the Cleveland Cavaliers in four games. It was the NBA’s first Finals that featured the same two teams for a fourth straight season.
Cleveland’s LeBron James was outstanding in defeat but he clearly could not carry the Cavs by himself against such a talented and deep team as the Warriors. His task was made even tougher when considering the revelation after the series that he had injured his hand smashing a chalk board after Game 1’s overtime loss – a game the Cavs should have won.
Whether that win would have changed the course or result of the series is debatable but the most likely scenario would still have had the Warriors hoisting the trophy in no more than six games.
Kevin Durant was named the Finals MVP for a second straight season and now the attention of the NBA and its fans turns first to the upcoming Draft and then to the free agency frenzy that begins July 1. And, for those of us in Las Vegas, the NBA summer camp starts in early July as well.
Attention will also turn to the NBA Futures market with odds already several weeks old for which team will win the 2018-19 NBA Title.
The Westgate opened their odds as the NBA Finals were getting underway and have been adjusted over the ensuing week or so. Much of the early action involved speculation as to where LeBron James will be playing next season as he is expected to opt out of his contract. Reports have surfaced over the past few months the James almost certainly won’t be back with the Cavs but will consider the Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers. Even the Houston Rockets have crept into the speculation.
Following Golden State’s 4 game sweep of Cleveland in the NBA Finals the Westgate posted revised odds within minutes of the nets being cut down.
Not surprisingly, the Warriors remain the favorites at 6-5 (plus 120) after having opened at 5-4 (plus 125). Houston, which took the Warriors to the full 7 games in the Western Conference Finals, was tied for second favorite at 7-2. The Rockets were not tied with Boston – who took Cleveland to 7 games in the Eastern Conference Finals – but with Philadelphia.
There was speculation during the All Star break that LeBron (or more likely his people) were scouting the Philadelphia area for housing and schools, a report that was denied. But we all know that denials also become confirmations as subsequent events unfold.
Philly would be a nice fit for James as he would team with, and could mentor, an up and coming roster that went from oblivion to a 52 win season (and first round series win) this past season. There is already a solid nucleus in place with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. And last season’s top draft choice, Markelle Fultz, whose rookie season was limited to 14 games due to injury, also represents high potential.
And LeBron would remain in the much weaker Eastern Conference and not have to battle through Golden State, Houston or San Antonio to make it to a ninth straight NBA Finals. The Celtics would be the main challengers in the East.
Boston is fourth in the odds at 7-1 with only two other teams held at lower than 50-1 odds. Largely due to the LeBron speculation the Lakers (who won just 35 games this season) are at an absurd 12-1 odds, fifth lowest of all 30 teams.
At 30-1 odds is San Antonio. The Spurs are interesting. The Kawhi Leionard situation remains to be resolved and theirs is an aging roster, something to which James would further contribute. There are still key pieces in place to make a run should James join the Spurs and the mutual admiration and respect between James and Spurs head coach Greg Popovich is well documented.
The Spurs might be worth a play within the next week or so before the odds are taken down pending the start of free agency. Even so, virtually any NBA futures play on other than the Warriors might best be considered a bet to be made with a high expectation of being in position to hedge back should your team make the Playoffs.
The best “values” might be in the East where Indiana – following their roster overhaul following last season that still resulted in 48 wins, a fifth seed in the East and taking Cleveland to 7 games – is listed at 100-1 odds.
Minnesota may be poised to show improvement as well and the Timberwolves are also held at 100-1 odds. But 100-1 odds in the West are not the same as 100-1 odds in the East.
Enjoy the next few weeks of NBA activity and the following few months of a true off-season. It won’t seem that long before the 2018-19 season rapidly approaches.