Doesn't LeBron James know that people move from Cleveland to Miami? You aren't supposed to go the other way. James rocked the NBA world Friday with his decision to return to the Cavaliers, making them favorites to win the 2015 Finals on NBA odds.
Lowercase Decision This Time
James became Public Enemy No. 1 in the summer of 2010 when he announced his nationally televised "Decision" to take his talents to South Beach. Cleveland fans burned James memorabilia and team owner Dan Gilbert wrote a letter, pretty immaturely, excoriating James, calling him a coward and guaranteeing that the Cavaliers would win a championship before the Heat did. That's what makes James' decision so shocking with how he was treated four years ago on his way out of town.
However, James was vindicated by reaching four straight NBA Finals with Miami and winning two championships. He is four years older and wiser now, comparing his time in Miami to college in a first-person article he wrote for SI.com. James said his "relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now." He also wants to raise his kids in his hometown of Akron, which is around 40 miles from Cleveland.
This is arguably the biggest sports moment in the history of Cleveland. It hasn't won a championship in one of the four major U.S. sports in 50 years. Now Cleveland has not just LeBron but also Johnny Manziel with the Browns. It has been a great few months for that area.
Needless to say, the 2014-15 NBA futures odds were completely shuffled at the top by this decision. The Cavaliers are now +450 favorites at sportsbooks to win the title compared to +5000 offered on the NBA odds right after the Heat lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals (I believe James would have stayed in Miami if it had beaten the Spurs).
Obviously James is a transcendent player, but he admitted in that article the Cavs aren't ready to be a championship team next season. He's right. Kyrie Irving is an All-Star point guard, but he's about the only other sure thing on the roster. Guys like guard Dion Waiters and big men Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao (a LeBron favorite) are solid players but not difference-makers. The Cavs of course do have 2014 No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins, whom many project as a future star, and 2013 No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett, who was a bust last season. They also have three first-round picks next season, one of those from the Heat. Now that could be a lottery pick.
These odds are going to remain in flux because now that James has decided, the floodgates will open. Cleveland will be a shorter favorite if the team can acquire Kevin Love from the Timberwolves. The Cavs certainly have the ammunition to do so (it might cost Wiggins, among other things), and Love has said he would sign an extension there if the team got James. The Cavs also will add some shooting on the cheap, someone like Ray Allen. He has said he will play wherever James does.
Carmelo Anthony should be the next big name to decide. The Knicks are currently +6000 long shots to win the title next season. Melo re-signing wouldn't have a huge impact there. However, if he goes to Chicago , the Bulls likely would leapfrog Cleveland if the Cavs don't get Love. The Bulls can be added to your NBA picks at the price of +750.
As for the Heat, they were +400 title favorites with the Big 3 of James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade all expected back. Miami has risen to +5000. Certainly Wade will return, but he's no longer a franchise player. Bosh appears likely to sign his huge deal with Houston. Thus the Rockets are going to jump from +1500 to perhaps second-favorites behind Cleveland when/if that happens.
NBA free picks: I don't think as currently constructed the Cavaliers are favorites. With Love, yes. If not, I'd favor the Bulls with Anthony or the Rockets with Bosh. I like Chicago over Houston if both those happen because the Eastern Conference is so much easier to navigate.