The 2012-13 NBA regular season opens tonight, promising plenty of drama and excitement. From the slew of preseason injuries to the presentation of the Larry O’Brien trophy in June, all eyes will be on the hardwood and those that take to it over the next six months.
Here at CasinoReview we’ve spent the better part of October getting you ready for tonight’s tipoff. We’ve detailed both conferences, MVP candidates, and those most likely to lead the league in a plethora of statistical categories. Now all that’s left is to leave you with a few suggestions. Below we’ve picked those we like best to take each category, and thrown in a wildcard just for good measure.
Eastern Conference Champion
Take: Miami Heat (4/7)
Wildcard: Indiana Pacers (14/1)
The Heat may be a boring choice but the Eastern Conference – which has been shallow in terms of good teams for years now – has little to offer Miami in terms of competition. Of course there’s always the chance of an upstart team coming through, or injury ravaging the Heat, but this is the safest best to take.
Indiana has just enough talent and has shown just enough resolve over the past few seasons to suggest that they can go deep into the playoffs. They won’t be trying to fit in a bunch of new components. Add this to lengthier odds than the likes of Boston and Chicago and you have a nice little wildcard to put a stake on.
Western Conference Champion
Take: Los Angeles Lakers (13/10)
Wildcard: San Antonio Spurs (6/1)
The Western Conference is more competitive than the East, but despite the fact that the Lakers have runaway with the odds of late, there’s still a question of who will take the conference. The Lakers remain the best bet, thanks to that star-studded lineup.
San Antonio is by no means a longshot in the vein of a Minnesota (45/1) or Sacramento (100/1) but realistically the Spurs have a chance of taking the West. A very realistic chance. These odds a worth taking now before Popovich’s side starts rolling to another league-best record.
Take: Miami Heat (9/4)
Wildcard: San Antonio Spurs (12/1)
The question in the NBA this season is can the Heat beat the West? The answer could prove to be yes, and it could also prove to be a big fat no. At this stage, Miami looks most likely to make the Finals, and has the potential to defeat anybody from the West. OKC couldn’t beat the Heat this past summer. Can they this year?
Again, San Antonio isn’t a massively long shot but they have the potential to win out West and with all that experience, it’s hard to argue against them having the ability to beat the Heat in a long series.
Take: LeBron James (19/10)
Wildcard: Deron Williams (25/1)
James took a massive step forward last year, guiding his team to the championship and being a team leader in the same breath. If Miami is as dominant as it looks capable of, LeBron will almost certainly be a candidate for MVP. The addition of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis gives James two more legitimate offensive threats to pass off to, which gives him another string to his bow.
The Nets could do some serious damage in the East this year. A new city, arena, and lineup could give the team a new outlook on life. That’s the plan anyway. If it does, expect Williams to be the spearhead of all that is good for those new black and white jerseys. Williams also has the shortest odds (shared with Blake Griffin) for a player not plying their trade in South Beach, Hollywood, or OKC.
Take: Kevin Durant (2/3)
Wildcard: Carmelo Anthony (7/1)
Some trends aren’t worth messing with. For three straight years Durant has won the league scoring title. You’d be a fool to bet against him this year, particularly as he may need to make up for the now departed James Harden. Sure Lamb and Martin can shoulder some scoring but you think they’ll have the ball in their hands at crucial moments of the game? Harden did.
You’d more commonly be recommended to avoid betting on Carmelo Anthony in any category not titled ‘least likely to make it out of the first round of the playoffs’. This season could be different though. If New York is to be successful, Anthony needs to follow Marshawn Lynch’s lead, eat some Skittles and turn on Beast Mode. Shouldering his team – particularly with Stoudemire out for the first six weeks (minimum) – and scoring a bunch of points will be vital for Anthony if he’ss to lead his aging Knicks anywhere. He led Team USA in scoring during this summer’s London Olympics off the bench, so he can do it. But will he?
Take: Kevin Love (5/2)
Wildcard: Kris Humphries (40/1)
The obvious choice and favorite (10/4) is Dwight Howard, winner of four of the last five rebounding titles. But Howard will see some of his numbers absorbed by Pau Gasol. Plus, the Lakers tend to miss shots less that Orlando. Love becomes your best pick then. He finished second in rebounding last year, and once back from injury, looks set to lead the T’Wolves to the promised land of the postseason.
Kris Humphries is a real long shot but consider this: the Nets’ big man finished fifth in rebounding this year, and should be a little less Kardashian-shocked this year. Add to that an improved New Jersey Brooklyn side and you have an outside gamble worth some action.
Take: Chris Paul (7/1)
Wildcard: Jose Calderon (40/1)
Rajon Rondo and Steve Nash finished ahead of Paul in the assists table last season, but both look to lose some passes this year. Rondo will need to score more, while the Lakers are likely to pass the ball around more. That’s not to say Nash isn’t going to get his fair share of pick and roll assists. But Paul will be able to pass the ball off more, presumably, to the likes of Grant Hill and Lamar Odom, and Blake Griffin, of course. He’ll still need to score, but those lob opportunities will still be there.
Few people will think much of the Raptors this year, which is probably why Jose Calderon is 40/1 to lead the league in assists. The Spaniard finished fourth in assists last year though, and will still be able to play a pass-first offense north of the border, a factor that could make him a worthwhile wildcard bet.
There you have it. You’ve still got a few hours before the Wizards tipoff in Cleveland (7 PM ET) to start the 2012-13 NBA season. Get your last bets in now.