Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready for some NBA basketball? The season is a bit more than a month away but training camps open this week. Let's examine some future NBA odds.
The Atlanta Hawks led the Eastern Conference with 60 wins last year, seven more than No. 2 Cleveland, but it's the Cavaliers who are the -200 East favorites. And obviously that's no surprise because the Cavs have LeBron James and no one else does. Oh yeah, Cleveland also has other All-Stars such as point guard Kyrie Irving and power forward Kevin Love. Remember, LeBron didn't have Love in last year's playoffs following the first-round win over Boston and Irving was banged up all postseason. He only played in Game 1 of the NBA Finals loss to Golden State because of a fractured kneecap.
Season wins totals aren't out yet, but I would caution against going 'over' any total the books list for Cleveland -- and it's going to be a high number. That's because Irving might not debut in the coming season until January as he works his way off surgery on that knee. Plus we all saw how exhausted James appeared to be at the tail end of the Finals. I think he gets a handful of games off this season to keep him fresh. The guy already has played more minutes in his NBA career than both Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, to name two. That's unbelievable. James also has played more postseason minutes already than Michael Jordan and Bill Russell. There's just no point in the Cavaliers trying to kill themselves getting the top seed in the East. They showed last season they didn't need it.
Atlanta is only +1400 to win the East despite those franchise-record 60 wins. The Hawks were exposed a bit in the playoffs by Washington and then Cleveland, which swept the Hawks in the East Finals. The Hawks also lost very good two-way forward DeMarre Carroll to free agency.
Chicago finished with the third-best East record in 2014-15 at 50 wins before bowing out to the Cavaliers in six games in the East semis. The Bulls are back totally intact. The big question with them is if Derrick Rose can stay healthy for a full season. He sure hasn't proved capable of that in a while. Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson also had trouble staying healthy last year. Maybe the fact that hard-driving coach Tom Thibodeau has been replaced by Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg will help the Bulls from a health point of view. I guarantee you the Chicago front office has told Hoiberg to ease up on the minutes for guys like Rose, Noah and Jimmy Butler. The Bulls are +500 second-favorites on NBA odds in the East.
Miami missed the playoffs last year with a 37-45 mark but the Heat are +1200 third-favorites. They will have a full season, presumably, of Goran Dragic and Chris Bosh in 2015-16 so that win total should increase dramatically.
Golden State led the NBA with a franchise-record 67 wins last year but the Warriors are only +250 second-favorites on NBA picks to repeat as Western champions. San Antonio, which finished 12 games worse than Golden State and lost in the first round of the playoffs in an epic series to the Clippers, is the +200 favorite. The Spurs were the big offseason winners in free agency in keeping everyone of note on the team and adding Portland star forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Just be aware that Coach Gregg Popovich loves to rest his guys in the regular season so the Spurs probably won't finish with the West's best record.
The Warriors also kept everyone of note, but it's hard to see them going 39-2 at home again. The big riser is Oklahoma City at +400. Of course the Thunder just missed the playoffs last year largely because Kevin Durant was limited to only 27 games due to numerous foot surgeries. He has a clean bill of health now. Will this be his final season in a Thunder uniform? Durant is the big catch in free agency next summer and his hometown Washington Wizards are going to come heavy after him.
The big dropper on NBA odds is Portland, which is only +8000 at TheGreek to win the West despite finishing 51-31 last year. But the Blazers were gutted in free agency and trades. Their only returning starter is Damian Lillard. It's definitely a rebuilding year in the Pacific Northwest.