With Spurs gone, who steps up out West?

GamingToday.com is an independent sports news and information service. GamingToday.com has partnerships with some of the top legal and licensed sportsbook companies in the US. When you claim a bonus offer or promotion through a link on this site, Gaming Today may receive referral compensation from the sportsbook company. Although the relationships we have with sportsbook companies may influence the order in which we place companies on the site, all reviews, recommendations, and opinions are wholly our own. They are the recommendations from our authors and contributors who are avid sports fans themselves.

For more information, please read How We Rank Sportsbooks, Privacy Policy, or Contact Us with any concerns you may have.

Gaming Today is licensed and regulated to operate in AZ, CO, CT, DC, IA, IL, IN, KS, LA, MD, MI, NV, NJ, NY, PA, TN, VA, WV, & WY.

On one of the busiest Saturdays we’ll see throughout the sports calendar’s year, the NBA lost its defending champion.

I lost my future. Chris Paul’s heroics stomped it out.

That sounds pretty gloomy, but I’m just talking about wagers on San Antonio to get out of the West (2-1) and win the Finals (7-2) yet again, so family and friends need not make any concerned phone calls. For the first time in three seasons, Gregg Popovich won’t coach Tim Duncan and the Spurs in the NBA’s championship round. For the first time all century, way back to Utah’s 1998 appearance, the West champion won’t be the Lakers, Spurs, Mavericks or Thunder.

We’ll have new blood

LeBron James still looms on the East side, captaining the favored Cleveland Cavaliers, but an upset would mean the 2015 NBA Finals could be extremely thin on players that either have a ring or have even played for one.

So, who wins the championship now? What team will salvage my future? Here’s a breakdown of the candidates (odds via Sportsbook.ag as of Monday, May 4).

Golden State (-150): Newly minted MVP Stephen Curry still has room on the bandwagon despite the opening game of a potentially complicated series against a Grizzlies team that aims to slow you down going decisively in his Warriors’ favor. At this point, there doesn’t appear to be much value in riding the chalk. That said, you should probably wait until the first dose of non-injury related adversity, hope the odds get closer to even money and violently fling yourself on board the GSW train. Steve Kerr appears to be the modern day Midas, blessed with quality depth and a homecourt edge that’s second to none in the entire league. Considering their 67 wins guarantee every series opener and potential Game 7 will be played inside Oakland’s Oracle Arena, that alone is a major draw. The team most likely to take them down, San Antonio, will now sit and watch like the rest of us. The prospect of having Defensive POY Kawhi Leonard and proficient defender Danny Green to match up with the Splash Brothers, not to mention the Spurs’ edge in experience, would’ve made a potential Western Conference Finals showdown awfully challenging for Golden State. To say it will be smooth sailing from here on out would be extreme, but the path certainly cleared up for them, meriting the favorite’s role the Warriors have now snatched from the Cavaliers.

Cleveland (+300): Those who have backed LeBron can’t like not having Kevin Love for the remainder of the postseason or J.R. Smith for the opening two games of the key semifinal series against Chicago. Although Love was largely a disappointment in his first year rounding out the new Big 3 in Cleveland, he did help space the floor while doubling as his team’s top rebounder. James will now have to play out of position at power forward, something he dislikes doing, for major stretches going forward. He’ll ditch the headband and get his hands dirty, but there’s no question oddsmakers have readjusted their position on the Cavs for a reason. This Bulls series is going to be a killer, far more challenging than whoever they meet in the Eastern Conference Finals should they survive. Considering they would start on the road regardless of who they would face in the championship round, I’ll continue to pass. As was the case in Miami, James’ first season after making waves with a change of scenery will come up short of a title.

Chicago (+1200): So much value here. Beating the vulnerable Cavs early in their series would bring this number plummeting, but if the Bulls manage to swipe homecourt advantage with an early win at the Q, they’ll have a chance to do something special. Injury concerns over whether Derrick Rose or Jimmy Butler will hold up weren’t completely eradicated in the first round, but both looked far better than expected. The layoff between games also means Joakim Noah is likely to get healthier the deeper we get into this, so sign me up for backing Chicago to get out of the East. Thanks to the friendly odds, that makes them the choice to try and cash in on come Finals, given the potential return on the investment. Since the Cavs will be trying to figure things out minus Love and Smith over the first few games of this series, getting them out of the way now winds up working in Chicago’s favor, a nice reward for not tanking after they chose to play things straight up down the stretch rather than slipping to No. 4 in the East to avoid Cleveland. Expect more good fortune to be in store.

Houston (+1200): If they can overcome their free-throw shooting woes, the Rockets have a lot going for them. From James Harden’s scoring prowess and his ability to get to the line to how deadly and prolific they can be from 3-point range, they’ll never be out of any game. Dwight Howard looks like he’s back to 100 percent and has Finals experience, carrying the 2009 Orlando Magic to the promised land. His defense, ability to avoid foul trouble and, yes, free-throw shooting will all be critical factors. Jason Terry and Trevor Ariza have rings, making Houston the only team besides Cleveland to have multiple players that have won championships.

L.A. Clippers (+1500): Paul, that dream-crusher, is locked in. He’s the type of player who can will a team to a title, but his body has to cooperate. Considering his injured hamstring is a major legitimate concern, you’ll have to pump the brakes on making a move here until you see him moving around fluidly. The Clippers have no chance if he can’t get to 80 percent. DeAndre Jordan, like Howard, can change the game at both ends, but can also hurt his team at the stripe. Blake Griffin has put up great numbers, but hasn’t eased concerns he comes up short in critical moments. Despite Doc Rivers being the most accomplished of any head coach left in the fight, L.A.’s lack of a bench and Paul’s injury make them a team to avoid in spite of their conquest of San Antonio.

Atlanta (+2000): There’s some value here in that the Hawks will probably not see better odds the rest of the way. If you take a shot, they could certainly reverse their deficit against Washington and would have homecourt advantage in the Eastern Conference Finals and against any team other than Golden State in the championship round. Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague have gone cold at an inopportune time, but when those guys are right, the Hawks execute at a level that should be feared.

Washington (+2200): Not to slight where they’ve gotten thus far, but it’s hard to imagine Randy Wittman hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy come June. This run will, however, do wonders for the confidence of key cogs John Wall, Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat. Even with Paul Pierce still effectively draining clutch shots and supplying leadership, it’s hard to imagine the Wizards even reaching the NBA Finals, much less winning it all.

Memphis (+6000): Come back soon, Mike Conley! Without their starting point guard, the Grizzlies are staring a sweep in the face. There’s no question Memphis has championship-caliber pieces, but it can’t fall too far behind Golden State, a team it simply doesn’t match up well with. The odds are great, but friendly for a reason.

Tony Mejia is a national sports writer and senior contributor at VegasInsider.com. He’s also the owner and operator of Antony Dinero, the most successful documented volume handicapper in the industry. View his analysis daily at VegasInsider.com. Contact Tony at [email protected].

About the Author
Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia has been a national writer for nearly two decades and has covered NBA and college basketball as a columnist, analyst, handicapper, and bracketologist for CBS Sports, Pro Basketball News, and numerous other sites.

Get connected with us on Social Media