No matter how much flack LeBron James gets thrown at him, the Miami Heat are still the favorites on the NBA futures market to win the Eastern Conference and take down their third straight championship.
Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to March 30 inclusive:
Location, location, location. By just about any measure, it’s hard to say that the Miami Heat are the best team in basketball this year. But the two-time and defending champions are still the favorites to win yet another title. As we go to press, the Heat are available on Bovada’s NBA futures market at 10-13 to win the Eastern Conference and 9-4 to complete their three-peat.
That’s what playing in the East will do for you. Miami’s only serious competition, at least in the eyes of the basketball betting market, is the Indiana Pacers at 6-5 to win the conference and 15-4 to win their first NBA championship – they did win the ABA title three times in the early ‘70s, back when Mel Daniels was doing his thing. But is that all the East really has to offer? And shouldn’t the top teams from the West be getting shorter odds?
The narrative about the awful East was established a long, long time ago, and that reputation only worsened at the start of the 2013-14 regular season, when everyone other than Miami and Indiana had a losing record. But we’ve seen a resurgence from the second-tier (all right, third-tier) Eastern contenders. The biggest leap was made by the Toronto Raptors, who are in first place in the Atlantic Division and have been one of the best teams in the league since the Rudy Gay trade. Despite that, Toronto is way down the list at 40-1 to win the East and 75-1 to bring the Larry O'Brien Trophy north of the border.
The Brooklyn Nets have also made huge strides after starting the season 5-14 SU and 6-13 ATS. They’ve been winning consistently down the stretch even without Kevin Garnett (13.3 PER), who’s been given an extended layoff to rest his bad back before the playoffs start. Garnett is expected to return anytime now, and yet Brooklyn, considered an elite Eastern threat during the preseason, is available at 18-1 in the East and 40-1 for the championship.
Then you’ve got those ornery Chicago Bulls at 25-1 to take down the Eastern title and 50-1 to finally win the whole shooting match for the first time since Michael Jordan’s second retirement. The Bulls could have folded up like a card table after Derrick Rose was injured yet again, but they’ve already clinched a playoff spot, and it looks like they’ll avoid having to face Indiana or Miami in the first round.
You won’t see the same polarity in the NBA betting odds for the Western contenders. There are so many quality teams that just getting to the second round will be a chore for anyone who makes the playoffs. That’s the main reason why the elite teams in the West have longer championship odds than the Heat.
The most likely matchup in the Western finals looks like the San Antonio Spurs versus the Oklahoma City Thunder. They’re tied at 2-1 to win the conference, although the Spurs are 4-1 to claim a fifth championship for Tim Duncan (21.7 PER), while the Thunder are 9-2 to capture their first title since the franchise abandoned Seattle.That leaves the Los Angeles Clippers as compelling third favorites in the West at 4-1, and arguably the best value among the first-tier title contenders at 15-2. While the Thunder are top-heavy with talent, and the Spurs are experienced and deep, the Clippers might have the right balance of MVP stars and veteran scrubs to get the job done in June. The Clippers?! We really must be living in the future.