Excuse punters if there is not a rush to the betting windows as the 2017-2018 National Basketball Association season approaches. After two dominating championships in three seasons (and setting an all-time record for regular season wins in that lone title-less campaign), the Golden State Warriors have distanced themselves from their NBA competition to such an extent that they seem to be playing strictly for history at this point. Pre-season wagering on the Warriors involves risking your stake for scarcely a return of half the bet – bet365 is offering Golden State at unattractive 5/9 odds for the 2018 NBA Championship. A wager on the other 29 teams combined brings longer odds at 7/5.
Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and the rest of the Warriors return intact and are poised to complete the greatest four-year regular-season gallop ever. This is a team that did not have back-to-back losses in the regular season for two years, a span of 146 games. This is a team that won its first 15 games in the post-season last year and finished with an all-time best playoff record of 16-1. The odds will not favor any team defeating the Warriors four times in a seven-game series. Any punter betting against the Warriors going into the season will no doubt be factoring the possibility of injuries into that handicapping.
Not that the rest of the NBA has conceded the title to the Warriors. The handful of contenders have been busy stocking their rosters with all-stars, former MVPs, and future Hall of Famers in an attempt to match up with Golden State. The Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James have battled the Warriors in the NBA Finals the past three seasons. However, never did the distance between the two teams seem as great as in last year’s 4-1 romp by the Warriors.
Cleveland subsequently pulled off a superstar-for-superstar trade – rare in sports these days – with Eastern Conference rival Boston. The two teams swapped guards Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas. The Cavs then added former MVPs Derrick Rose and Dwayne Wade. There isn’t much competition in the East so Cleveland has time to figure out all the new working parts and spell some old bones before a possible fourth go-round with the Warriors. James’ bunch is posted at 5/1 to win the title.
Houston bulked up its roster with nine-time All-Star guard Chris Paul as a running mate for James Harden who led the league in scoring in 2014-15 and 2015-16. The Rockets won 55 games last season for Coach of the Year Mike D’Antoni and have not yet had the pleasure of tangling with the Warriors in the Western Conference playoffs. bet365 gives Houston the best chance of bullying past Golden State at 13/2 to win the conference.
Russell Westbrook won the NBA Most Valuable Player award last season as he became only the second player to average a triple-double for the entire season. Oklahoma City spent aggressively in the off-season to bring Westbrook some help in landing forwards Paul George from Indiana and Carmelo Anthony from New York. The high-powered acquisitions have not impressed the oddsmakers who give the Thunder an outside chance at the title at best – 18/1.
The only potential contender not to amp up the star power has been the San Antonio Spurs. While naysayers were predicting the end of the Spurs nearly two-decade dominance of the Southwest Division last year, they again finished first in 2016-17 with 61 wins. With the league’s best coach in Gregg Popovich and the best two-way player in Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio is given a puncher’s chance at the crown at 12/1.
The Boston Celtics were the surprise team of last season, besting Cleveland for the best record in the Eastern Conference with 53 wins. A Thomas injury eventually derailed their title bid in the playoffs. So what has Boston done for an encore? Turn over 75 percent of its roster, for one thing, including switching Thomas for Irving. The Celtics are offered to plungers at 8/1 to win this year’s championship. Given the weakness of the Eastern Conference, all that may be required is dispatching first the Cavaliers in the Conference Finals and then the Warriors in the League Finals. That is a tough ask of Boston and coach Brad Stephens.
With a paucity of good betting choices on the NBA Championship, many bettors can turn to other markets for competitive action. The league MVP race shapes up as the best with Leonard (4/1), James (4/1), and Durant (17/4) all co-favorites. Westbrook and Harden, no longer one-man shows, are 13/2 and 10/1, respectively.
In Rookie of the Year prognosticating, online bookmaker bet365 sees a three-way race among three guards: Lonzo Ball (5/2), Ben Simmons (3/1) and Dennis Smith Jr. (4/1). Ball out of UCLA has gotten the most publicity and will be grabbing the most headlines with the Los Angeles Lakers. Simmons, the top overall draft pick in 2016-17 by the Philadelphia 76ers sat out the entire season with a foot injury. He could well be the best player among the rookie crop but if teammate Joel Embiid is healthy, Simmons’ role will be a complimentary one. Nineteen-year old Smith, on the other hand, will be the focus of the Dallas Mavericks’ offense and likely to put up the most impressive statistics.
For those players who like to troll for bets on the other end of the table there are the odds on every team making the playoffs. Supporters of the Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings appear to have little to look forward to this season. The odds of the Suns not making the playoffs are 1/150 and the Kings are 1/200. And the Golden State Warriors? Betting on the Warriors just to make the playoffs would require a wager of 500 units to win 1.