Cavaliers, Warriors clear leaders on NBA Conference odds boards

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While oddsmakers have an expectation that the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors are on a collision course for a third consecutive NBA Finals clash, there is some interesting movement among the challengers.

Just more than a week out from the start of the playoffs, the Cavaliers are the -300 betting favorites on the Eastern Conference futures while the Warriors’ odds are -250 atop the Western Conference board at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

While LeBron James and the defending champion Cavaliers had a losing record (6-10 straight-up) in March, their victory against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday put them in a good position to finish first overall in the East and have home-court advantage for the first three rounds.

The Celtics (+425), led by PG Isaiah Thomas, draw in as the biggest challenger on the Eastern side. Boston is 20-10 SU over its last 30 games, slightly better than Cleveland’s 18-12 SU mark over the same number of games.

The Cavaliers clearly do have issues, particularly with tightening up their defensive play. An opponent could pounce early in the playoffs before James and Kyrie Irving find a groove.

Both the Washington Wizards (+900) and Toronto Raptors (+1200) are neck-and-neck to earn the No. 3 seed, which might mean playing Boston in the second round. The Wizards have great leadership from PG John Wall. The Raptors will have to rely on their defense – that’s why they got PF Serge Ibaka at the deadline – until PG Kyle Lowry, who’s just back from wrist surgery, is 100 percent.

On the Western Conference board, the Warriors’ odds are slightly better than the -333 they were listed at in late February. The absence of Kevin Durant (sprained MCL), who’s expected back just prior to the playoffs, has enabled SG Klay Thompson to rediscover his all-star form, while two-time MVP Steph Curry has also gone a hot streak.

Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs (+325) are seen as posing the biggest challenge to Golden State, as their price has come down from +500. The red-hot second half that MVP candidate James Harden and the Houston Rockets (+750) have put together has led to their odds dropping from +900.

Oddsmakers see the Western Conference as a three-team race, at most, with the Los Angeles Clippers (+2500) and Utah Jazz (+2500) each drawing very long odds on the NBA betting futures at the sportsbooks.

WNBA President Lisa Borders stepping down

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NEW YORK – WNBA President Lisa Borders is stepping down.

The league announced Tuesday she will become the first president and CEO of Time’s Up – an organization dedicated to safe, fair and dignified work for women. Borders says it was fully her decision to leave.

NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum will oversee the WNBA on an interim basis while a search for a successor begins,

Borders joined the league in 2016. She helped the WNBA grow in areas such as live streaming of games on Twitter and the availability of one-day daily fantasy.

Borders is the third executive to leave the league in the last six months. The league is coming off a season in which it had its highest TV ratings in four years. It begins its 23rd season next year.

Lakers move up NBA championship odds after LeBron James’ decision

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It’s important to remember the Golden State Warriors’ toughest challenge is just getting out of the Western Conference.

While four-time all-star forward DeMarcus (Boogie) Cousins likely won’t suit up for Golden State until late in the regular season as he rebuilds strength in a surgically repaired Achilles tendon, his signing has moved the Warriors into minus money on the NBA futures.

The two-time defending champion Warriors are a -175 favorite on the NBA championship odds for 2019 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. However, the balance of power in the NBA has moved even farther westward with LeBron James joining the Los Angeles Lakers, so it’s not a sure thing that the Warriors will be able to run a gauntlet through the conference to play in the NBA Finals for the fifth season in a row.

In both 2016 and 2018, the Warriors went the full seven games in the Western Conference Finals, going a combined 5-0 when facing elimination. That’s a tough margin to live on, even for a dynasty that will soon trot out five all-stars with Cousins, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant.

James’ decision has led to the Lakers (+650) having the fourth-best odds, although Los Angeles will have to make further acquisitions – Kawhi Leonard, perhaps – in order to transform from a 35-win also-ran into a serious challenge to Golden State.

Unlike the Eastern Conference that James dominated for nearly a decade, there are more good teams to scale over on the climb to the top. The upshot of the Lakers drawing action is that it might protect the value on challengers that came almost sadistically close to making the 2018 NBA Finals.

The Boston Celtics (+550) were minutes away from the NBA Finals last season and are looking forward to a full season from small forward Gordon Hayward and point guard Kyrie Irving, who were out much of the season while their supporting cast gained valuable on-the-job experience.

The Houston Rockets (+600) also came close to dethroning the Warriors and their current odds to win the 2019 NBA championship are enticing since they have yet to make a major offseason move, as they still have to come to terms with center-forward Clint Capela, while also hoping to add veteran small forward Carmelo Anthony.

The Philadelphia 76ers (+1600) round out the top five and could be worth a flier in conference championship futures, where the Celtics will be favorites.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.