The kings of South Beach are still right where they belong: atop the list at rather short odds to three-peat as champions.
With an essentially unchanged roster, the Heat are listed at +200 to win the title again. It's hard to pass up a chance to back LeBron and company in our NBA picks, even in spite of the fact other teams have loaded up in hopes they can change up the landscape.
Contending for the throne
There's a lengthy list of seven or so teams that all have a realistic chance of challenging for a championship this coming season.
We start with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls, both of whom are at +800 in the NBA odds to get the job done.
It's going to be a tougher than usual start to the regular season for the Thunder, with recent news that Russell Westbrook will miss at least the first month due to knee surgery. Kevin Durant will carry a huge load on his shoulders without his sidekick out there, and we saw how that turned out in the playoffs last season. Still, Westbrook will be back when it matters most and that will make OKC a serious contender.
Then we've got the Bulls, who get one-time MVP Derrick Rose back and running the point. Chicago should be in for a great year with their core of Rose, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, and Jimmy Butler.
Next on the list are the Los Angeles Clippers (+900), who made them big moves during the offseason. Doc Rivers has taken over the coaching duties, and J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, and others have brought in. Doc has reportedly challenged CP3 to try to take over the league, so let's see how the ultra-talented point guard responds.
The other four teams in the mix atop the list are the Brooklyn Nets (+1000), Houston Rockets (+1000), Indiana Pacers (+1000), and San Antonio Spurs (+1200).
With Jason Kidd coaching and Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry on the roster, it will be interesting to see if Brooklyn can mount a serious challenge this season. Age is certainly not on their side.
The Rockets, of course, landed Dwight Howard and he should form a nasty partnership with James Harden, while the Pacers and Spurs return similar lineups to the ones that had so much success in 2012/13.
Sneaky good value picks
Though it's hard to imagine the Heat losing, there is some great looking sports betting value out there on the futures odds list.
For example, you can find the Warriors at +1600 and the Grizzlies as high as +2800. Both teams made the playoffs last season and should be in the running once again in 2013/14. Golden State has a star in Stephen Curry and added Andre Iguoadala to their ranks, while Memphis will always be competitive because of their incredibly physical defense.
Or how about Kobe Bryant and the Lakers at +3300? OK, so there are questions about Kobe's health, but we actually anticipate L.A. will be better without Dwight Howard clogging up the lane alongside Pau Gasol. A lot will depend on Steve Nash's effectiveness as well.
Other teams to look out for include Dallas (+5000), Cleveland (+6600), and even Detroit at +7500. You have to respect Dan Gilbert's desire to make the Cavaliers a contender again, and he certainly took a gamble by bringing in Andrew Bynum. As for the Pistons, they landed Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith over the summer, but it remains to be seen how they fit together on the court.
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