The Cleveland Cavaliers opened at 11-4 to win the title in 2016. They've got a lot going for them, especially LeBron James, but are the Cavs worth betting at these NBA odds?
The NBA is LeBron James' world, and the rest of us are living in it. Here we are once again with James sitting on top of the futures market; his Cleveland Cavaliers opened at 11-4 to win the title, and as we go to press, the Cavs are holding firm over at Bovada, with the Golden State Warriors moving from 4-1 to 7-2 in early action. The Warriors are the defending champions, after all.
Are the Cavaliers worth a bet at this price? Yes, we're always preaching about how the value on the NBA odds list is farther down the board – the Warriors opened at 25-1 one year ago, for example. But this could be a very special Cavs team in 2015-16. They've got James, they've got injured All-Stars returning to action, and they've got a chance to make some offseason upgrades to the supporting cast. Don't forget: It was Year Two in Miami that James earned his first ring with the Heat.
Squaring the Circle
Before we get too deep into the Cavs themselves, let's remind ourselves why chalk is usually not the way to go with your basketball picks. It isn't quite as profitable as it was before the Internet came along, but the easiest and most reliable way to eke out a winning margin is by fading “square” bettors, not by trying to predict the outcomes of basketball games – let alone entire seasons.
Square bettors are a lot easier to predict. They love favorites, and they also love James, especially now that he's back in Cleveland where he “belongs.” Whatever team James is on will draw so much action, the NBA odds will get so chalky that your profit margins will dry up and blow away. Less glamorous teams will carry less chalk and deliver more money when they happen to win. The Warriors were one of those teams this year. So were the San Antonio Spurs (17-2 at the open) last year.
But what if this particular version of the Cavaliers is that damn good? Forget the marketplace – if you have enough reason to believe that Cleveland is more likely than 11-4 to win the title, you should make that bet. James (25.9 PER last year) has been to the NBA Finals five years in a row, so it's easy to imagine the Cavs at least winning the Eastern Conference. That's half the battle right there.
It's also easy to imagine the Cavaliers getting over the hump once Kyrie Irving (21.5 PER) and Kevin Love (18.8 PER) are back in the lineup and healthy. Of course, that's assuming both James and Love exercise their player options for next year, or are re-signed if they opt out. Surely James wouldn't leave now, would he? Hmmm. And Love has stated his desire to return, which would make sense given his shoulder injury and the way the salary cap is expected to rise next summer. But it's not like Love was treated well by Cavs fans this year.
Then there's Anderson Varejao (17.7 PER), who was playing some good basketball before he was lost for the season to a torn Achilles. He was largely forgotten about after Timofey Mozgov (18.7 PER) came over from the Denver Nuggets in January, but even if Varejao doesn't start, he would be a welcome addition to Cleveland's bench.
If he can stay healthy. Which is always a question mark, and just one of several on this roster. Who knows what kind of lineup the Cavs will trot out this October? Probably a highly competitive one, but there are so many variables in play, it doesn't appear worthwhile to bet on the Cavaliers at this price. And if that doesn't scare you enough, James is 30 years old now. Don't let his new hairline fool you.