NBA Odds and Picks: Which Division Does Champion Come From?
by Alan Matthews - 10/18/2014
With the 2014-15 NBA season less than two weeks away -- opening night is Tuesday, Oct. 28 -- the sportsbooks are rolling out more and more season, team and individual props every day. Here I will look at which division houses the NBA champion with odds courtesy of Sportsbook.ag. I wonder why the site doesn't do this for the NFL, NHL or MLB.
You can probably guess the favorite: It's the Central Division at +200. That division is perhaps overdue for a title because it hasn't won one since the 2004 Detroit Pistons beat the LA Lakers in five games as underdogs. That Pistons team is the last to win a title without a true superstar. Frankly, it's the only one in probably more than 40 years to do so. No Central team has been back to the Finals since the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2007. That of course was LeBron James' only trip to the Finals with the Cavs.
Cleveland is the +300 title favorite at the site now that James has returned to northeast Ohio to form the newest super team with All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and All-Star power forward Kevin Love. All these guys are in their prime, so the Cavs could have a stranglehold on the title for a while much like Michael Jordan's Bulls did -- as long as James doesn't retire (cough, cough get suspended for gambling) to play minor-league baseball. It should be noted that the Heat in James' first season didn't win a title and in fact had the second-best record in the East behind Chicago. Miami was beaten pretty soundly by Dallas in the Finals.
The other team you are getting in the Central is Chicago, and the Bulls are +800 to win the championship. They haven't been back to the Finals since Jordan's second threepeat. This appears to be the most talented team the Bulls have had since then. Derrick Rose is back and healthy (for now) if perhaps rusty. Joakim Noah has blossomed into one of the NBA's Top-10 players and is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. Guard Jimmy Butler is one of the league's best perimeter defenders. Plus, the Bulls added free-agent big man Pau Gasol this offseason as well as two offensive-minded rookies in Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic. You can forget about any other Central Division winning the title now that Indiana lost Paul George.
The Southwest is at +250. That's solid value because you get the champion Spurs along with fellow playoff teams Houston, Dallas and Memphis. Plus, I believe the Pelicans could sneak into the playoffs this season. I would have liked the Southwest much better if Houston hadn't lost Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. The Mavs are better than last year with the additions of Tyson Chandler and Parsons. The Grizzlies about the same. I wonder if the Spurs are a bit too old to repeat; at least Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili might be although both were very good last season.
The Northwest Division is at +500. Here you are essentially betting on Oklahoma City and Portland, although I think Denver will be better this year with the return of Danilo Gallinari and trade for Arron Afflalo. The big worry is, of course, Kevin Durant's foot, on which he had surgery Thursday. He's out anywhere from 6-12 weeks -- he will be re-evaluated in six. That shouldn't affect OKC come playoff time but certainly could affect the Thunder's seeding. Would you want to play a Game 7 in San Antonio or Los Angeles or Dallas or Oakland?
The Pacific Division is +600, and that seems a tad low to me. Maybe I'm higher on the Clippers and Warriors than most people. L.A. reinforced its bench despite losing Darren Collison but is essentially the same team without the distraction that is Donald Sterling. The Warriors passed on Kevin Love and added Shaun Livingston to what is already the NBA's best backcourt.
The Southeast Division is +1200. You are throwing away your money here. I think the Heat even without LeBron could possibly reach the Eastern Conference Finals if they avoid Chicago or Cleveland before that stage. Luol Deng is a good player, and so is Josh McRoberts, the Heat's two big additions. It's all whether Dwyane Wade can stay healthy and prove he's an alpha dog again.
Then you have the Atlantic Division at +1500. Like the Heat, I could see Toronto in the East Finals if it gets the right matchups. But no further. The Nets are likely worse than last year, and the Knicks are blah.
I guess you have to go the Central because you are virtually assured of either the Cavaliers or Bulls reaching the NBA Finals, and then anything can happen. I do like the value of the Pacific odds, however.
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