Reputation counts more than a team’s record in NBA championship futures, but the upshot is that that can create value for the teams bent on keeping another Cleveland Cavaliers-Golden State Warriors NBA Finals from happening.
As the league comes out of the all-star break, the defending champion Golden State Warriors of Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry fame still have a modicum of betting value as a -180 favorite on the 2018 NBA championship odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The next team on the board, for a change, isn’t the Cavaliers but the Houston Rockets (+400), followed by Cleveland (+600), the Boston Celtics (+1200), Oklahoma City Thunder (+2000) and Toronto Raptors (+2200).
Houston, which is neck and neck with Golden State for the best record in the league, looks like a credible threat. With guards James Harden and Chris Paul, the Rockets are second only to the Warriors in points per game and also lead in three-pointers made and three-point percentage. There’s also the argument that if the Warriors are to be taken down, it’s probably more likely to happen in the third round, not the fourth once they really get locked into a rhythm.
The Cavaliers’ +600 price is about the best they’ll offer, since the jury is out on how all the new complementary pieces – George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. – will fit around LeBron James. Playoff seeding for Cleveland isn’t as all-important as it is for most NBA teams, due to James’ big-game moxie and ability to help his teams win on the road in the postseason.
It’s probably wise to fade both the Celtics and Kyrie Irving and the Thunder and Russell Westbrook, since neither team seems built for the playoffs. The Raptors offer a much deeper lineup as well as much more betting value, since the first point of reference is how they have expired quickly against the Cavaliers in the playoffs two years in a row. But Toronto is much more efficient this season and that could make a difference in May and June.
Similarly, the Minnesota Timberwolves (+3300), with center Karl-Anthony Towns, forward Andrew Wiggins and two-way forward Jimmy Butler, are an intriguing Western Conference dark horse. The franchise’s 13-season playoff drought means the Timberwolves are off of general-interest bettors’ radar, but they are a talented team and, well, history doesn’t play the games.
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