2018 NBA Championship Odds and Expert Betting Predictions
The NBA playoffs are going to be great this year. Seven of the eight first-round matchups promise to be compelling and at least somewhat interesting - sorry, Minnesota, but I have already assumed you'll be the exception as you get beaten to a bloody pulp in four mercifully brief games by the Rockets. But the unfortunate thing is that, despite the number of storylines and the number of good teams, it feels every bit as inevitable as it always seems to. Whichever one of two possible teams wins the Western Conference is going to be NBA champion, and try as we might it's hard to justify any other opinion. Really hard.
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So, while previewing the first round is incredibly interesting, and even looking at conference championship futures is interesting, the NBA Championship futures discussion just isn't among the most exciting topics out there. Fear not, though, loyal reader. I will still tackle it, and talk about not two, but six teams that are on some level compelling. (odds to win the NBA Championship are from BetOnline ):
Golden State Warriors (+140): This is the hardest to judge that the Warriors have been in years. They have been hit hard by injuries. They were lousy down the stretch. They are without Steph Curry for at least the first round. They just don't quite seem as hungry as in the past - and who could blame them? But as easy as it is to be negative about this team in so many ways, it's still important to remember that the team won 58 games, which is third best in the league, only one win behind the Raptors and nine wins more than the third-best team in the West.
So, when the Warriors bumble their way through a season and seem to be going through the motions, they are still a very good team. A great team. And the potential for much more is there.
Curry will get healthy, and he'll be fresh. And this team has experience to draw on - and a dizzying amount of talent. Are they the best they have ever been? No, probably not. But they don't need to be. I still think they are the most likely champion, and I can't argue too strongly against this price. But you won't see me rushing out to bet it, either. No value, but still my pick.
Houston Rockets (+175): James Harden is a freak, and the team has played great. Here's what I am concerned about, though - what have they left off the table? It feels like we have seen what the team is, and they have played at full throttle to get to where they are. They have had a great regular season, but there doesn't seem to be any surprises.
The Warriors have surprises - we know we haven't seen everything from them yet. But the Rockets are the Rockets, and as good as they are that makes me uneasy. They don't seem to have an extra gear to shift into - or at least not significantly more than one. And the Warriors are so far into Harden's head right now that I'm not sure he can shake them out.
If the regular season really matters then Houston will win it all handily. But it doesn't, and I narrowly pick the Warriors - though I obviously won't be too surprised if Houston gets it done.
Cleveland Cavaliers (+700): I hate this price more than I hate the Toronto Maple Leafs - and that is really saying something, because I hate nothing more than I hate the Leafs. James is playing great basketball, but he played every game for the first time this season - 14 years into his career - because he's such a narcissistic, obsessive control freak that he feels he has to do everything for this team including coach it. And he's not wrong - the team around him is more than a bit of a mess. I'd never count him out because of the impressive things he can do by sheer will, but in my mind they aren't even winning the East, so I certainly wouldn't bet them to win it all at this price.
Toronto Raptors (+800): I like the Raptors to win the East. And not just because I'm a Canadian. The bench is great, the starting backcourt is fantastic, and there is so much to like. But they, or whichever team win the East, is going to get rolled over in the Finals. It won't be close. No value here.
Philadelphia 76ers (+1800): They could win the East, though it feels a bit too soon. But they will get crushed in the Finals like everyone else. It's not interesting to look at this price because there is obviously no value.
What is at least a little interesting, though, is to look at what the price would have to be to bet that they will win a title in the next three years. Ben Simmons is truly incredible, and he'll only get better. Joel Embiid has mostly figured out how to be healthy and is similarly incredible. And they will likely add another lottery pick to an already-talented roster. The upside is dizzying here. So, if you could get +1000 that the Sixers win a title by the end of the 2019-20 season would you take it? I think you might have to.
Utah Jazz (+6600): You have to at least consider a long shot, so this is as good as any. They aren't going to win - they'd have to go through both Golden State and Houston and somehow still have something left in the tank for the Finals. So, in that sense they aren't an attractive long shot bet. But then no team is, so they are as good as any.
Rudy Gobert has been the league's top defender, and he's going to be a factor in the playoffs. Donovan Mitchell is a freak, and Ricky Rubio is playing like a man possessed. The depth is decent, too, and Quin Snyder is a much better coach than his career up to this stop had led us to believe. Lots to like. They'll win a series - which is basically like winning a title for a mortal team in the West.
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