There’s no surprise in seeing the Golden State Warriors up there as 11/20 favourites to win another NBA Championship.
The 2017 playoffs were largely disappointing because of the Warriors’ dominance. The tension of a Finals matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers was the highlight, but even that was underwhelming as Kevin Durant justified his decision to join Golden State with a string of magical performances.
Golden State are joined by LeBron James and his Cavaliers at the top of the market at 9/2. Hardly a surprise given the recent history of the NBA postseason, and the fact that Cleveland have one of the best players of all-time in their starting five.
Cleveland waved goodbye to Kyrie Irving this offseason, however, and are without his replacement, Isaiah Thomas, for the start of the season. Derrick Rose and Dwayne Wade add experience, but the burden on LeBron has grown yet greater without his sharp-shooting accomplice. Retaining all-star Kevin Love is a positive, though.
Value just isn’t there to back the Cavs this year. The threat of the Boston Celtics – who pipped them to number one seed in the East last season – with Irving and Gordon Hayward is too great to ignore, and their 9/1 price to win the title is on the high side.
Assuming a meet-up in the playoffs with the Eastern Conference looking weaker than usual, it may well come down to a case of Isaiah versus Kyrie, and the Celtics having to find a way to stop LeBron.
The only other team in the East with the slightest sniff will be the Washington Wizards at 40/1. That price is lengthy for a team with a duo as exciting as Bradley Beal and John Wall, but they are still far short of overcoming Boston or Cleveland in a postseason series.
Even in a distinctly Golden era, this market is dominated by the West. James Harden’s Houston Rockets have been bolstered by the arrival of Chris Paul, making them fourth favourites to win a ring at 12/1. Harden could carry Houston to the second seed in the West with the assistance of Paul, and is at 5/2 to be the top point scorer in the NBA.
Houston will hope to pip the San Antonio Spurs – also at 12/1 – to the second seed in the West. The Spurs are without Tony Parker for the early weeks of this season, and have had a disappointing offseason. It’s all on Kawhi Leonard for San Antonio, who is 9/1 to top score. The Spurs are underpriced, and, given that they are at the same price, the Rockets look good value.
The rejuvenated Oklahoma City Thunder at 20/1 is a tempter. Despite the challenges of playing in a Western Conference dominated by All-star calibre players, the Thunder are a good longshot. Russel Westbrook is 7/1 to retain his MVP award, but it’s improbable with the additional assistance of Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. Their price of 4/5 to win the Northwest division is a cracker.
The Thunder’s contenders in the Northwest are the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have added Jimmy Butler. The Wolves have a maturing roster that will be targeting the playoffs, but are way out at 40/1 to win it all. Though the talent is there, the obstacles in the West are too challenging to make them worth considering.
Boston at 9/1 and Oklahoma at 20/1 are arguably the standouts for the title. While the Warriors might prove to be unstoppable again, there’s little value in backing them at 11/20 with the number of contenders this season.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*