2014 NBA Futures Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 6/25/2013
When LeBron James and Chris Bosh decided in the summer of 2010 to join Dwyane Wade in South Beach, the Miami Heat immediately became NBA title favorites for the 2010-11 season. Of course, the Heat did reach the Finals that year, but they lost to the Dallas Mavericks for the title, something that appears to have really spurred James.
The Heat were big favorites for the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season as well, and they capped off that season with a championship, LeBron's first, by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder. Broken record alert: The Heat were again huge favorites entering the 2012-13 season and repeated.
One thing that is now clear with Miami is that the club is far from invincible as it appeared to be in the regular season when it won 27 games in a row. The Heat had to win a Game 6 in Boston in last season's East Finals before taking a Game 7 at home. They had to win another Game 7 at home in these playoffs to dispatch Indiana. Miami had almost no right winning Game 6 of this year's Finals at home, but the Spurs gagged down the stretch. Was there really ever any doubt the Heat would then win Game 7?
Thus, when I tell you that Miami is a +250 overwhelming favorite at Sportsbook.ag to win a third straight title next June, don't take it to be automatic. It's fairly clear the Heat need home-court advantage. They didn't look good in losses in Indiana and San Antonio. LeBron has been brilliant in Game 7s in his career, but I want to see what he does in one of those away from home. James' 37 points in Game 7 against the Spurs tied a record set by Boston's Tom Heinsohn for most points in a Finals Game 7. It should be noted that Michael Jordan's Bulls never went past six games in their six NBA Finals wins.
So what can stop the Heat? Certainly No. 1 would be Wade's knees, as he was a shell of himself often in these playoffs. There also has been some talk of trading Chris Bosh, who was scoreless in Game 7 against San Antonio. The Heat were bullied by Indiana big man Roy Hibbert and by the Spurs' Tim Duncan. However, I don't see Pat Riley breaking up a team with a chance to threepeat. And there's talk that former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden might resume his career with the Heat. If he can even give the team 20 minutes a game that could solve the Heat's problems in the middle.
The Heat shouldn't have any trouble luring those veteran players who are looking to win a ring at the tail end of their careers. Ray Allen was one of those this season, and he has a player option to return. I rather doubt he chooses free agency at age 37. Chris Andersen will be an unrestricted free agent and probably is out of Miami's price range with the Heat so far over the cap. That will hurt a bit. But as long as LeBron stays healthy, this team will contend.
The East obviously will be tougher next year with the Bulls getting Derrick Rose back. Chicago is +1000 to win the NBA title and +400 to win the East compared to Miami's +110. The Bulls have the size inside to give the Heat problems but really need another scorer to complement Rose. There's been some talk of trading Luol Deng, but I don't expect that. Chicago will give it one more try with this group before likely amnestying Carlos Boozer after next season. The Bulls' bench also needs to be rebuilt again, and they are over the cap as well.
Indiana is +1500 after giving the Heat all they could handle. The Pacers will get Danny Granger back after he missed most of the season, if they don't trade him, to provide the scoring they badly need. But David West is an unrestricted free agent and might be too expensive. Indiana's bench is terrible and needs a major transfusion of talent.
Oklahoma City at +650 is the only other team under +1000 to win the NBA title. I'm fairly confident the Thunder would have reached the Finals again this season had Russell Westbrook not been lost to injury. They have to decide whether to bring back unrestricted free agent Kevin Martin, who took James Harden's place as the sixth man scorer off the bench.
Houston at +2000 is very interesting. If the Rockets can add Dwight Howard -- and they just might -- to Harden, Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik, watch out. The Rockets have cap room and plenty of tradable assets (Thomas Robinson, Royce White, Terrence Jones), so they can make a few moves. I didn't mention Jeremy Lin because I think young Patrick Beverley is the team's starting point guard going forward.
The Clippers are +1500 with the addition of Doc Rivers. Does a coach make that much difference? Well, ask the Lakers what it's like without Phil Jackson. I think Howard would love to play with Chris Paul on the Clips, but I'm not sure the Lakers are willing to do a sign-and-trade. The Clips are likely to deal young point guard Eric Bledsoe for a scorer, however.
The Lakers are way down at +3000 because of the uncertainty of Howard's return and when/if Kobe Bryant is back from that Achilles' tendon tear. Maybe sitting out the first few months is actually a good thing for Kobe.
I see a Miami vs. Clippers/Rockets final if one of those teams gets Howard. I'd put down some money on either now because clearly the odds will shift dramatically if Howard does land with one. If he stays with the Lakers, I expect a Heat-Thunder final. Miami threepeats and then LeBron leaves.
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