Obviously there is a lot left to happen in the NBA Odds this offseason, but after the dust settles from the Draft and free agency, here are some of my very early speculative picks for the East and Western Conferences next season.
The East was at one of its’ weakest points in a long time last year, and depending on what Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony do it might remain weak. Both of the aforementioned superstars opted out of their contracts, and even though both are probably leaning towards staying in their respective cities, in Melo’s case, it appears more 50/50. However both of these stars opted out to gain more leverage in their own respective situations.
Anthony opted out because he may actually leave unless the Knicks give him a max deal, which Phil Jackson doesn’t seem to want to do. James is opting out likely to give Pat Riley and the Heat more room to work with financially. Now they have the ability to ask Dwyane Wade to restructure his deal, or even trade Chris Bosh in order to keep Wade, as well as sign Anthony and James. This is not outside of the realm of possibility, and the Eastern Conference will be in flux until James and Anthony are both in either the same, or completely different uniforms next season.
Other than the Heat, if Anthony doesn’t team up with James in Miami, it looks like he’ll chose between either the Knicks or the Bulls. Chicago may not want to pay Anthony the max he could get in Chicago either, and he may be asked to take a pay cut even bigger than the initial one he would have to take to sign with a team other than the Knicks.
All the rest of the East aside, most of the fate in the East sits atop the shoulders of Wade in Miami. I could easily see Riley coming to Wade, asking him to opt out and resign for about $10 million per season over the next three or four seasons (thus making up for the $42 million still owed to him over the next two seasons). That would then put pressure on Bosh because unless he opts out, he might not control his own fate if the Heat do decide to trade him. Bosh might opt out and try to get one more max deal with another team instead of being traded to the Kings or something. Needless to say, the scenarios are almost endless for Miami and the East, and James, Wade and Bosh hold a lot of the power.
The West is almost up to the fate of the East in some ways. No one is going to make any moves this offseason until they know where Carmelo and Lebron are going. That being said, there are some teams in the West in position to make a run at one of those two stars, but the likelihood of one or both of them going to the more contested Western Conference is farfetched.
The Mavs have a lot of ways they could improve this offseason depending on the size of the pay cut Dirk Nowitzki is willing to take. Also the Warriors could get Kevin Love, immediately vaulting them into one of the favorites out West. The Clippers could make some drastic moves in order to try and lure Lebron to LA, while the Spurs are still the NBA champs, and Tim Duncan has opted into the final year on his deal.
As long as Lebron and Melo don’t come to the West, I expect the conference to look similar to last season, and will be making my NBA picks accordingly. The Spurs are seemingly still the best team even if Love goes to Oakland somehow, and even though we will see slight regression or improvement from all eight playoff teams, it might not be enough to where the landscape is changed dramatically. The Spurs, Thunder and Clippers will likely all three be the biggest favorites, with Golden State, Portland and maybe even the Rockets as dark horse candidates.