Perhaps unlike NBA postseasons past, there is betting value on offer with the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers and the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
Although neither of the teams that have contested the last three NBA Finals are a top seed, the Warriors are the +135 favorites on the odds to win the 2018 NBA championship at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Warriors at plus money is worth taking for bettors who believe success is self-perpetuating.
The Houston Rockets, who had the best overall record, are the +160 second favorite, before a drop down to the Cavaliers (+650) and the Toronto Raptors (+850), the top Eastern Conference seed.
The NBA is a front-runner’s league. Fifty-two out of 71 champions were a No. 1 seed in the league, conference or division. The Cavaliers are the No. 4 seed in their conference; only one team has ever won the NBA title from that starting position.
In finals matchup odds, a fourth consecutive Cavaliers-Warriors matchup has the top prop at +345. There is slightly more value on offer for having it all come down to the Raptors and Warriors (+368), Cavaliers-Rockets (+469), or the Raptors-Rockets (+498).
For the first time since James brought his talents back to northeast Ohio, the Cavaliers (+125) are plus money on the Eastern Conference champions futures. Toronto has been the league’s deepest team for the balance of the season and its +155 prop is enticing, since this might be the strongest squad the Raptors have yet assembled. Since there is still a wait-and-see attitude with Toronto, their price is likely to stay higher for longer than the Cavaliers’ price.
The Warriors (-110) are slight favorites on the Western Conference champions futures, followed by the Rockets. As in the East, the choice comes down to whether one thinks the regular season foreshadowed a changing of the guard.
There is also ample value in NBA playoff series prices as Round 1 tips off on Saturday. The Boston Celtics (-170), with guard Kyrie Irving out, might be fine for at least one series, but the No. 7 seed Milwaukee Bucks (+150) and Giannis Antetokounmpo have the athleticism to break down Boston’s excellent defense, and could pull the upset.
With Joel Embiid (face injury, concussion) due to miss at least one game, the talented but callow Philadelphia 76ers (-465) could run into some issues with the Miami Heat (+390). Miami has exceptional depth for a No. 6 seed and its strong defense could pose problems for young 76ers such as Ben Simmons.
On the Western side, the tightest series is likely the Oklahoma City Thunder (-135) against the Utah Jazz (+115). Oklahoma City has the edge in seasoned individual talent – Russell Westbrook, Paul George – but its suspect defense gives Utah a chance to take the matchup to a full seven games.
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.