Why wait? The NBA sure didn’t.
With the regular season on the immediate horizon, the league (or, more specifically, the Thunder and Rockets) went ahead and created some rim-rattling buzz. Oklahoma City sent one of its own Big 3, James Harden, to Houston for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and multiple first-round draft picks.
Happy basketball season, ladies and gentlemen! To kick it off, let’s take a peek at some future odds (plus a look at how recent developments have impacted futures betting in other sports).
All odds provided by Sportsbook.ag.
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Miami Heat (+175) – The team everyone loves to hate is favored to capture its second straight championship this season, and why not? Miami lost nobody of note and added sharpshooters Rashard Lewis and Jesus Shuttlesworth to stretch the floor. As a result, the Big 3 could have an even bigger field day than it did in 2011-12. The Heat open the season at home against Boston on Tuesday, favored by 6.5 points.
Los Angeles Lakers (+200) – You thought the rich got richer in South Beach? How about in L.A., where the Lake Show added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to give Kobe Bryant some more help? The Lakers are -120 favorites to win the West ahead of Harden-less Oklahoma City (+170). They are -8.5 faves in Tuesday’s season opener at home against Dirk Nowitzki-less Dallas.
Oklahoma City Thunder (+350) – There’s no doubt about it; OKC is set up gloriously for the future. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are only on the up and up, Kevin Martin is in his prime, and first-round picks will be coming out of the woodwork. But should the Thunder have risked losing Harden for nothing at the end of this season and went all out right here, right now? Regardless of the answer to that question, Oklahoma City still has a real shot at the 2013 title even if no longer a top favorite.
NCAA Basketball Championship
Indiana (+600) – For the first time since Bob Knight (save for one miracle run to the NCAA final under Mike Davis in 2002), Indiana is squarely in the NCAA title picture. Tom Crean has Indiana not only back on the college basketball map, but in the center of it. The Hoosiers will be led by Cody Zeller, Christian Watford, and likely a star frosh in Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell.
Louisville (+700) – The Cardinals did not go into the 2011-12 season with many expectations, but they made it all the way to the Final Four. This time around, they obviously have those expectations. Almost everyone is back and — if players stay healthy unlike last year — the result should be one of the deepest teams in college basketball. It all starts with senior point guard Peyton Siva, who is looking to go out on top.
Kentucky, UCLA, and North Carolina State (+1200) – Two of the sport’s most revered programs are expected to contend once again. Defending champ Kentucky is no stranger to playing with a completely different roster from season to season, and Big Blue will have to do it again. UCLA, meanwhile, is expected to return to prominence thanks mostly to an awesome recruiting class led by Shabazz Muhammad.
The relative outsider to the party may be the team expected to be the next beast of Tobacco Road. Duke and North Carolina appear to have unwelcomed company in the ACC, but more importantly, N.C. State could be a player even on the national scene. Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Leslie are two of the best players in the nation.
San Francisco 49ers (+350) – San Francisco was already the stand-alone favorite even before Monday night, having separated itself from the Giants and Texans. The Niners did nothing to change any minds in Vegas, thrashing NFC West foe Arizona, 24-3. When Alex Smith plays like that, there is no more complete team in the league.
New York Giants (+450) – Based on recent head-to-head history, it’s hard to imagine the 49ers beating the Giants in a possible NFC Championship showdown. But will the G-Men make it that far? They won on Sunday, albeit by half the length of a Dez Bryant finger.
Houston Texans (+500) – Houston is still at the top of the AFC heap according to oddsmakers, favored to represent the conference in New Orleans at +175 ahead of New England (+200). The Texans should have a home snoozer against Buffalo this week, but after that they play four of their next five on the road—including at Chicago and at New England. Showtime!
NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship
Jimmie Johnson (-140) – Johnson picked up his fourth win of the season last weekend in Martinsville to surge past Brad Keselowski into first place. With three races to go, you can’t bet against a five-time cup champion when he’s already out in front.
Brad Keselowski (+120) – It’s a two-horse race, with Keselowski keeping it close just two points behind Johnson. Keselowski may not have the experience of Johnson (he’s in the Chase for only the second time in his career), but he is a Top 10 machine. He’s finished in the Top 10 in 14 of his last 16 races.
Kasey Kahne (+1500) – Everyone else is at least 26 points behind Johnson and in need of a virtual miracle. Kahne stands in fourth, three points behind Clint Bowyer. The reason for Kahne being the third favorite is his last three finishes: eighth, fourth, and third.
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