Take some notes as we bring our early predictions on the upcoming NBA Season. Let's break down all six divisional odds from PaddyPower and my NBA picks.
The Toronto Raptors are two-time Atlantic champions and are the -600 favorites for a three-peat at PaddyPower. And they should be. It's not that the Raptors are all that great but the rest of the division is simply pretty bad. The Raptors' two biggest offseason additions were former Hawks forward DeMarre Carroll and ex-Hornets backup center Bismack Biyombo. Yawn. They lost forward/center Amir Johnson and guard Greivis Vasquez. As long as the backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan stays healthy, then the Raptors should take the Atlantic again. The Knicks (+1600) are a couple of years from being any good. The Nets (+1800) are just blah. Boston (+500) has some interesting young pieces but also is likely a few years from doing anything substantial. And the 76ers (+10000) simply aren't trying yet.
The defending Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers are the -500 favorites -- I'm a tad surprised they aren't more heavily favored. The Cavs are back intact, although there's now talk that All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving could be held out until January as he recovers from knee surgery. Thus it was quite smart of the Cavaliers to add veteran point guard Mo Williams. The Bulls are +350 second-favorites. They are essentially the same team that lost to Cleveland in six games in last year's playoffs and finished three back in the division. The big difference is that the Bulls aren't coached by defensive guru Tom Thibodeau any longer but former Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg. So they should be better offensively, but it's hard to count on Derrick Rose staying healthy and it seems like Joakim Noah is breaking down physically. The Bucks (+2000) are a team on the rise but not yet ready to win the Atlantic. Indiana (+3300) will be better with a full season of Paul George but not better than the Cavs or Bulls. I think the Cavs will coast through the regular season and give LeBron some rest at times, then turn it on in the playoffs. But I still have to take them here.
Now these odds I flat out disagree with. Atlanta is the +175 favorite as the NBA Odds, but I believe the Hawks vastly overachieved last season in winning 60 games and taking the Southeast by 14 last year. They lost Carroll in free agency but were able to re-sign Paul Millsap and added Tim Hardaway Jr. and Tiago Splitter in trades. I don't see the Hawks repeating. Miami (+180) might have the second-best starting five in the Eastern Conference in Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside. But I also doubt that Wade plays more than about 60 regular-season games. Bosh's health also is in some question. So my pick here is Washington (also +180) even though it lost Paul Pierce this offseason. But Otto Porter finally started to play up to his No. 3 overall draft status at the end of last season.
Portland (+3300) won the Northwest last season with 51 victories but definitely won't come near that win total after losing LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, Arron Afflalo and Robin Lopez. This is now a rebuilding lottery team. The Thunder are your whopping -4000 favorites. And they should win the division as long as Kevin Durant's foot stays healthy. I think OKC will also be better coached now with Billy Donovan replacing Scott Brooks. Utah (+1600) already has suffered a crushing injury, losing point guard Dante Exum to a season-ending ACL tear. Denver (+10000) and Minnesota (+7500) will be back in the 2016 lottery.
The reigning NBA champion Warriors won the Pacific by 11 games over the Clippers last season and are the -450 favorites to repeat. I don't know, I just think everything went right for Golden State in 2014-15 and that it's not likely to happen again. I like the Clippers (+230) here. They almost were big losers this offseason when it appeared that DeAndre Jordan was going to sign with Dallas, but he ended up returning. This is now a much deeper team with the additions of Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith and Pierce. The Suns (+7500), Kings (+10000) and Lakers (+25000) have no chance.
Houston is your defending champion here and the Rockets got better this offseason in trading for Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson. San Antonio (-120) was the offseason's biggest winner in landing the All-Star Aldridge and former Pacer David West, keeping Tim Duncan from retiring for one more season and re-signing Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. The Grizzlies (+500) were able to retain All-Star center Marc Gasol but pretty clearly should be the third-best team in the Southwest. New Orleans (+1100) is probably a year away from contention in the division. Dallas (+5000) bet its entire offseason on Jordan and got burned. The Mavs could finish with their first losing record since 1999-2000. I'll take Houston here as my NBA Pick-- the Spurs probably will be like the Cavs in resting some key guys during the season to stay healthy for the playoffs.