NBA Championship Odds and Predictions for 2011-12 Season
by Alan Matthews - 6/17/2011
Thanks to rich players and even richer owners arguing over their share of billions of dollars, this in many ways has been the worst summer ever to bet on 2012 title props. Of course I’m referring to the NFL’s current lockout and the impending NBA version, with that league’s CBA set to expire on the last day of the month. Make no mistake about it, the NBA will lockout its players because ownership and players are way, way apart on a new CBA as team owners, other than a few big-market ones, are losing millions thanks to all those long-term guaranteed player-friendly contracts.
So just like we don’t really know what NFL teams will look like when thinking about betting on the 2012 Super Bowl, we have no idea yet what NBA teams will resemble until there is labor peace. For example, the league wants not only salary rollbacks, but a hard cap. So there’s a possibility that the Miami Heat might have to break up the Big 3 after just one season. Now, that’s unlikely as there is expected to be some sort of grandfather clause, but you can bet there won’t be any contracts more than four years in the next CBA. In addition, teams no doubt will be better able to keep a franchise player (perhaps like the NFL’s franchise designation) to avoid superstars holding their clubs hostage like Carmelo Anthony did and Dwight Howard appears to be doing.
I just wanted to preface the 2012 NBA championship odds because you probably don’t want to put any money down until there’s a semblance of labor peace, and that could well cut into the NBA’s season.
The Miami Heat are the Bodog favorites for 2011-12 at 5/2. And really this makes sense. The Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh should still be together and the Heat will get a full season, presumably, out of Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem, who both missed much of this past season. The Heat obviously have major questions at point guard (they did already give Mario Chalmers a qualifying offer), center and the bench. And needless to say the Heat don’t have any free-agent cash to spend, although it’s possible there’s a mid-level exception available, but that depends on the new CBA. However, what Miami does have going for it is that veteran players will flock there to play for the near minimum just to win a ring – like what Mike Bibby and Zydrunas Ilgauskas did this year. Plus, it’s Miami. Players want to be there. It’s probably the top destination now other than maybe Hollywood and the Lakers.
Speaking of the Lakers, they are the second-favorites for next season at 11/2 – L.A. was the second-favorite heading into the 2010-11 season as well once Miami added James and Bosh. This seems a bit high for L.A., which still has the most overall talent in the NBA but might have been together too long. The Lakers came unglued in their shocking conference semifinals sweep against Dallas and they don’t have Phil Jackson to calm them anymore. Is former Cavs coach Mike Brown really the answer? Kobe Bryant still hasn’t commented on that. And speaking of Kobe, he’s clearly starting to show his age. The guy has played 15 years and then you have to add on a few years’ more wear and tear with all those playoff runs. For example, Bryant's shot attempts at the rim dropped by nearly 1.5 a game this season. He doesn’t have the burst or spring to get there very much. The Lakers badly need another guy who can create his own shots, preferably at point guard where L.A. has its biggest hole. Maybe the Lakers can trade Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom for Dwight Howard, but until then …
The Chicago Bulls are next at 6/1. I personally think the Bulls overachieved this season. It’s hard to win on effort alone for an extended period. That’s essentially what Chicago did, with Derrick Rose carrying them to the NBA’s best record. But the Bulls’ gaping hole at shooting guard was exposed in the conference finals as the Heat double teamed Rose everywhere he went. This team can’t win a title unless it somehow lands an O.J. Mayo or Monta Ellis without giving up a key rotation piece. There is even talk the Bulls would love to trade Carlos Boozer.
I like the Oklahoma City Thunder as the best value at 15/2. They graduated from a first-round loss in 2009-10 to a conference final loss this season – and both times were ousted by the eventual NBA champion. The Thunder will move James Harden into the starting lineup next year, and that should allow Russell Westbrook some time at shooting guard; the one concern with the Thunder was Westbrook’s inconsistency in the playoffs. But Harden can help at the point. Plus, Kendrick Perkins will get a full offseason to get acclimated and Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka should only get better.
Finally, the champion Mavericks are 10/1. I just don’t seem them repeating or even winning the West again. They have some free-agent questions with Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea and Caron Butler. Needless to say Mark Cuban isn’t afraid of spending, but the new CBA might not allow him to. I think the Mavs are a one-hit wonder like the 2004 Detroit Pistons. Dallas certainly will be good as long as Dirk Nowitzki is around, but a title isn’t in the works unless somehow Cuban gets Howard to come to Texas.
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