Even though we are less than 24 hours after the Cleveland Cavaliers winning their first NBA title, it is never too early to look at the opening future odds for the 2016-2017 NBA season.
Golden State Warriors (+250)
Even though they did not win the NBA Championship, and despite losing three games in a row and two home games to lose the Finals, the Golden State Warriors are the favorites to win the championship next season according to sportsbooks. The simple explanation to this is, the salary cap.
The salary cap is set to explode next season to $94 million. This means that teams can basically spend $100 million on teams every year and be comfortably within their budgets. The Warriors had the third highest payroll of any team this past season, but next year with Harrison Barnes becoming a free agent, and the contracts of Mo Speights and Leandro Barbosa being up, the Warriors are going to have roughly $20 million to spend this summer.
They will likely bring back both Speights and Barbosa on veteran minimum deals, but the bulk of that money could be spent on, say, Kevin Durant? It is not illogical to believe that. The Warriors could say goodbye to Barnes after an atrocious three game stretch and sign Durant to max money. It would take some financial maneuvering, but it is possible with the cap explosion.
Cleveland Cavaliers (+300)
Last week the Cleveland Cavaliers were known as the underdog and bottom NBA picks. However, now they are the NBA Champions and 3/1 to win the title next season. However, what is working for the Warriors is working against the Cavaliers. If you total up the contracts of Lebron James, (assuming he opts out and signs a max deal) Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert, that adds up to $95 million.
That's six dudes, and doesn't count their likely desire to resign JR Smith, their eventual draft pick, or roughly five or six more minimally priced options to round out their roster. The Cavs do not own the same kind of flexibility.
However, one player does, and his name is The King. James has the ability to opt out and take a smaller salary like he did in Miami in order to round out the roster a little more. It's not likely, but there are ways a defending NBA champion can lure veteran free agents for little money. See David West in San Antonio.
San Antonio Spurs (+600)
Speaking of San Antonio, they come in at 6/1 beginning the second tier of title favorites for NBA odds. The Spurs are another team with limited financial maneuverability, but they do have some things going for them. If Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli come back, the Spurs will be able to smartly shore up their bench and potentially resign Boban Marjanovic and West to be pretty close to set for next season.
The question of “is that enough,” against a Western Conference with the Warriors on top and the Clippers and Thunder battling for supremacy is a valid one, but the Spurs could have one last run in them, and an offseason where Ginobli and Duncan come back rested and healthy could give them enough firepower to upset the Warriors as things currently stand.
Oklahoma City Thunder (+700)
It's the summer of Durant in Oklahoma City. Their chance at a title next season pretty much hinges on Durant staying in Oklahoma City. If he does that, OKC is going to once again be that third elite Western team along with the Spurs and Warriors. If he leaves, and the Thunder bring in another great but lesser player, and their fate is up for debate.
However, don't place money on the Thunder to win it just yet, unless you absolutely know Durant is coming back to Oklahoma. If he does, the Thunder's mix of young and cheap talent like Steven Adams, Cameron Payne, and Andre Roberson, along with Russell Westbrook's reasonable salary gives them a championship team. The summer of Durant begins at the stroke of midnight on July 1st.
Los Angeles Clippers (+1000)
Speaking of teams who might have a tumultuous summer, the Clippers are likely in that boat as well. You want to hear a crazy and yet totally believable scenario? Kevin Durant wants to go to Los Angeles in free agency, and the teams work out a sign and trade for Blake Griffin to go back to the state he played college basketball in. Think it couldn't happen? I beg to differ.
The Clippers could sign Durant, trade Griffin to the Thunder in a separate deal, or just keep him, max out on cheap players and take their shot at a title. While I think Durant is likely going to stay in OKC, the only two Western Conference teams he would go to are the Clippers and Warriors. If he signs with LA, the Clippers would have a terrible bench again, but their starting five could be Chris Paul, JJ Reddick, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.