I’m looking at three games in the National Basketball Association that have playoff and playoff positioning at stake. Let’s take a look.
Chicago (+9.5) at San Antonio – Despite the loss of both Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose, the Bulls have been able to hang tough by winning six of their last ten but Chicago finds themselves in a battle with the Cavs and Raptors for that second seed behind the Atlanta Hawks.
The defending champion Spurs have won four in a row and six of their last ten games. They are now securely in the seventh seed ahead of eighth place OKC. I don’t believe Gregg Popovich and the Spurs are content with the seventh spot though. Right now, they are less then two games out of the fifth spot and are looking to advance.
Chicago has a very good 19-11 road record while the Spurs are 22-7 at home. I see no reason for this game not to be physical and highly competitive.
Trends: Chicago is 9-4 straight up in their last 13 games…San Antonio is 4-1 SU in their last five games… The Bulls are 4-11 SU in their last 15 games against the Spurs in San Antonio… The Spurs are 2-5-1 against the spread in their last eight games.
The Pick: Take the Spurs to win but I like the Bulls getting the points.
Charlotte (+1) at Detroit – When Brandon Jennings went down with a torn Achilles’ tendon, most figured the Pistons playoff chances were over. Despite a brief flirtation, this appears to be the case. Detroit has fallen to four and a half games behind the eighth and final playoff spot. With about 20 games to go, there is time but they must win games like this one today.
The Hornets are among the teams the Pistons have to jump and they’re in no hurry to allow that to happen. Charlotte is actually tied for the seventh and eighth spots right now but based on tie-breakers is the odd team out. Both teams are headed in opposite directions as the Hornets have won four straight and the Pistons have dropped five in a row.
Trends: Charlotte is 5-1 straight up in their last six games… Detroit is 2-4 SU in their last six homes games… The Hornets are 8-16 against the spread in their last 24 games at Detroit… The Pistons are 12-6 SU in their last 18 games at home versus the Hornets.
The Pick: Detroit ends the skid today Take them to cover.
Toronto (+7) at Oklahoma City – The Raptors enter the Sooner State having lost seven of their last ten and they’ve dropped from the second seed in the East to the fourth as both Chicago and Cleveland have leaped them for the time being.
Meanwhile, the Thunder have won seven of ten and have ridden Russell Westbrook’s hot-hand. With Kevin Durant still recovering from foot surgery, Westbrook’s heroics of late have been needed. OKC has climbed into the eighth spot in the Western Conference but only has a one half game lead over New Orleans who has Anthony Davis back on the floor.
Trends: Toronto is 1-7 straight up in their last eight games… The Thunder is 5-0 SU in their last five home games… The Raptors are 2-6 against the spread in their last eight games on the road in Oklahoma City… The Thunder is 10-3 SU against the Raptors in their last 13 games games in OKC.
Detroit (+3.5) at Washington – Both the Pistons and Wizards have chosen poor times to hit losing streaks. Washington has dropped six straight games and eight of their last ten while Detroit has gone just 5-5 over their last ten and has dropped two in a row.
While the Eastern Conference is the weaker of the two conferences, the playoff race is unbeatable. Right now Detroit is in the 12th spot but amazingly, they are just one game out of the eight and final playoff spot. The Wizards are currently in the fifth spot and despite their poor play shouldn’t fall any further than sixth but stranger things have happened.
Trends: Detroit is 1-5 straight up in their last six games on the road… Washington is 0-5 SU in their last five games… The Pistons are 7-3 SU in their last ten games on the road at Washington… The Wizards are 2-8 against the spread in their last ten games versus Detroit.
The Pick: It’s hard not to like the Pistons tonight getting the points as well.
Toronto (-12) at New York – The Knicks have dropped eight of their last 10 games and as you know are now without Carmelo Anthony for the remainder of the season. I’m glad he was able to get so many minutes in the All-Star Game before shutting it down. Did you sense the sarcasm there?
Toronto is feeling heat right now from both the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They have a one half game lead over the Bulls and a one game lead over the Cavs as the teams battle for the second spot in the East. The tight predicament is due to the Raptors four-game losing streak.
Trends: Toronto is 1-4 straight up in their last five games… New York is 1-4-1 against the spread in their last six games… The Raptors are 4-8-1 ATS in their last 13 games on the road… The Knicks are 1-8 SU in their last nine games.
The Pick: This is a good place for the Raptors to get back on track but I like the Knicks getting all those points.
Atlanta (-5) at Miami – Lost in all of the discussion about Cleveland’s big win over Golden State is the fact that the Hawks continue to lead the Eastern Conference. They’ve won six of their last ten but they’ve won three straight as they head to South Beach.
The Heat are trying to survive without Chris Bosh as they currently reside in the seventh spot in the East. The problem is that there are five teams within two and a half games of them.
Trends: Atlanta is 21-4 straight up in their last 25 games… Miami is 1-4-1 against the spread in their last six games… The Hawks are 1-5 SU in their last six games on the road in Miami… The Heat are 7-15 SU in their last 22 games at home.
The Pick: I love the Hawks to cover tonight.
Memphis (-5) at Minnesota – Despite winning six of their last ten, the Grizzlies have dropped two in a row and continue to hold down the second seed in the Western Conference. The T-Wolves may have gotten Kevin Garnett back but they have the worst record in the West and Memphis comes in having played well in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Trends: Memphis is 2-4 against the spread in their last six games… Minnesota is 8-17 straight up in their last 25 games… The Grizzlies are 6-2 SU in their last eight games on the road in Minnesota… The T-Wolves are 3-14 SU in their last 17 games versus the the Grizzlies.
There are some really interesting lines tonight and just as interesting are some of the trends too. As the Knight of the Templar told Indiana Jones, “Choose wisely.”
Detroit (+2) at Charlotte (O/U 191.5) – The Pistons were playing so well following the dismissal of Josh Smith and then Brandon Jennings went down with his season-ending injury. D.J. Augustin has actually played pretty well in his absence averaging over ten points and almost five assists per game. Still, the Pistons are two games out of the final playoff spot and it’s not going to be easy.
The Hornets are in the seventh seed but have lost two straight despite winning six of their last ten. With Kemba Walker out indefinitely and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist day-to-day, Hornets could be in trouble.
Trends: The total has gone OVER in four of Detroit’s last five games… The total has gone UNDER in six of Charlotte’s last seven games… The Pistons are 5-1 straight up in their last six games at Charlotte… The Hornets are 1-7 against the spread in their last eight games at home versus Detroit.
The Pick: Take Detroit and the OVER.
Brooklyn (+11.5) at Memphis (O/U 190) – The Nets are dead even with the Miami Heat for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference but would lose the tie-breaker if the season ended today. Brooklyn has actually been better on the road than they have been at home but I’m not sure that will help here.
Memphis continues to put pressure on Golden State in the West. Right now, the Grizzlies are three games back. What’s gone in Memphis has been impressive and I don’t see this team going away any time soon.
Trends: The Grizzlies have won nine of their last ten games… The Nets have lost six of their last ten games.
The Pick: Take the Nets getting those points and the OVER.
Houston (+2) at Phoenix (O/U 214.5) – The Rockets come to the desert six games out of the first seed in the Western Conference but they have teams breathing down their necks. Portland, Dallas, the LA Clippers and the defending champion Spurs are all within three games of Houston.
The Suns find themselves currently hanging on to the final playoff spot by the skin of their teeth. New Orleans is a game back and Oklahoma City is two games behind. Phoenix must win games at home and needs to try and beat teams ahead of them in the standings.
Trends: The Suns have won four of their last ten games… The Rockets have won seven of their last ten games…
The Pick: Take the Rockets getting the points and the OVER.
Denver (+2) at LA Lakers (O/U 198.5) – These two teams have combined to lose nine straight games and they’ve also combined to win just two games in their last 20. The Nuggets are just 7-19 on the road this season and they are a full eight games out of the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. In other words, they aren’t making the playoffs.
The Lakers are a mess on and off the court as disgruntled players have started to speak out a little more than the Lakers’ front office would like. Between injuries and an overall lack of talent, this has just not been a good run for the purple and gold.
Trends: The Lakers have lost four in a row and nine of their last ten… Denver has lost five straight and has lost nine of their last ten.
The Pick: I’ll take the Nuggets getting the points and the UNDER.
It’s really amazing how things can change over the course of a season in the National Basketball Association. Injuries, coaching changes and just getting hot at the right time can all play a part in the rise and/or fall of fortunes of these teams.
Odds to win 2015 NBA Championship
Golden State Warriors 7/2
Cleveland Cavaliers 15/4
San Antonio Spurs 7/1
Atlanta Hawks 15/2
Chicago Bulls 17/2
Among these top five favorites, I honestly can’t say there’s a sure thing here. We’ve seen the Cavaliers bounce back from a losing streak and right into a nice long winning streak which stands at 11 heading into last night. The Atlanta Hawks just had a 19-game winning streak and had all five starters named “player of the week.”
The Bulls will go only as far as Derrick Rose’s health can take them and the Spurs will have to be healthy as well in order to repeat. Obviously Golden State is the favorite because they are undeniably the best team in the league right now. What worries me is the amount of three-point shots they rely on each night. Will that come back to haunt them in the playoffs when teams start to pick up the defense?
Dallas Mavericks 12/1
Los Angeles Clippers 12/1
Memphis Grizzlies 12/1
Oklahoma City Thunder 16/1
Houston Rockets 18/1
Toronto Raptors 20/1
When you look at the group above, I think the team that stands out is Oklahoma City. I say that because they are one team of this group with two guys that can carry a team for certain periods of time. That said, the Thunder are still on the outside looking in on the playoffs right now.
I can’t see Houston being a legitimate threat if Dwight Howard keeps battling health issues and I’m not sure how serious to take the Clippers. They obviously have loads of talent, but can they make it out of the difficult Western Conference? Dallas is a team that makes me think a little too. Don’t be surprised to see them hanging tough in the end.
Portland Trailblazers 25/1
Washington Wizards 28/1
Miami Heat 100/1
Detroit Pistons 150/1
Milwaukee Bucks 150/1
I really liked what Detroit was doing until guard Brandon Jennings went down with a torn achilles. They had been playing extremely well in the wake of releasing Josh Smith but now they are likely looking at a lottery position again unless they can get needed help at guard.
Portland’s fate will ride with LaMarcus Aldridge and his hand. If he can play through the pain and prove to be as effective as always then they have a shot with he and Damian Lillard. Washington will be a really interesting team to watch. They’ve lost seven of ten and their last five games so perhaps the shine on them is wearing off.
New Orleans Pelicans 150/1
Phoenix Suns 150/1
If one player could get his team to the NBA Finals it’s Anthony Davis who has been outstanding in 2014-2015. This will definitely not be his year, but if the Pelicans get some pieces around him then look out in the future.
Boston Celtics 500/1
Brooklyn Nets 500/1
Charlotte Hornets 500/1
Indiana Pacers 500/1
Remember when the Indiana Pacers were on the verge of knocking off the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference? Ya, things have changed that much in Indianapolis. They’ll be more looking for a lucky bouncing ping pong ball come summertime.
Sacramento Kings 1000/1
Utah Jazz 1000/1
Denver Nuggets 2000/1
Orlando Magic 2000/1
Sometimes the sports books in Vegas are just trying to be nice. This is the case here as none of these teams has chance in Hades of winning the NBA Title. The Kings, Jazz and Nuggets would need miracles at this point just to get into the playoffs.
With the NFL taking a break this weekend, the NBA is in my focus. Here are four games I like for you tonight.
New York (+9.5) at Charlotte – The lottery-bound Knicks are dead last in the Eastern Conference and I see little help on the way. I expect Phil Jackson to continue dumping as much salary as he possibly can.
The Hornets have won eight of their last ten and have pulled within a half game of the eight spot in the Eastern Conference. Strangely enough though the Knicks come in on a three-game winning streak.
Trends: The total has gone OVER in five of the Knicks’ last seven games… The total has gone UNDER in six of Charlotte’s last seven games at home… New York is 3-7 against the spread in their last ten games against the Hornets… Charlotte is 4-1 straight up in their last five games at home.
The Pick: Take the Hornets to cover and the OVER.
Detroit (-2) at Milwaukee – The Pistons have won seven of their last ten games as they continue to play well in the weeks since Josh Smith was sent packing. Although they are currently in the 10th spot in the East, they are just a game behind Brooklyn for the all important eight spot.
The Bucks sit at 21-21 and not surprisingly they have gone 5-5 over their last ten games. The loss of Jabari Parker to his ACL injury was a tough blow but Jason Kidd has kept this team competitive with good defense.
Trends: The Pistons are 12-3 straight up in their last 15 games… The total has gone UNDER of 12 of Milwaukee’s last 13 games… Detroit is 0-5 against the spread in their last five games against the Bucks… The total has gone OVER in five of Milwaukee’s last seven games against the Pistons.
The Pick: With the Pistons being better on the road then at home, I like them to cover and I like the UNDER.
Philadelphia (+16) at Memphis – At 8-35, the Philadelphia 76ers are going nowhere and now they have to try without guard Troy Wroten is out with a knee injury. The Sixers have lost four straight and are just a half a game ahead of the New York Knicks who have won three in a row.
Memphis has won six of their last ten and currently resides in the second spot in the Western Conference. Although the Grizzlies have been good at home (17-5), the Sixers are actually better on the road than they are home.
Trends: Philly is 1-8 straight up in their last nine games on the road… The total has gone OVER in five of Memphis’ last seven games… The Sixers are 2-4 against the spread in their last six games when playing on the road in Memphis… The Grizzlies are 5-1 SU in their last six games at home against Philadelphia.
The Pick: Take Philly getting the points and the OVER.
Washington (-4.5) at Portland (O/U 195.5) – The story here is obviously “life without LeMarcus” in Rip City. Portland’s all-star big man is out six to eight weeks with a hand injury. Portland currently resides in the third spot in the West but common sense tells us that won’t last. The question is just how long can the Blazers hang on without Aldridge?
For the Wizards, they are in the second spot in the Eastern Conference and trail the Atlanta Hawks by six and a half games. Washington needs to pay closer attention to Toronto and Chicago who are just a game behind them. The Wizards will go as John Wall goes and he’ll be challenged by good guard play in Portland.
Trends: The total has gone UNDER in four of Washington’s last six games… Portland is 1-5 straight up in its’ last six games… The Wizards are 3-6 against the spread in their last nine games in Portland… The Blazers are 2-4 SU in their last six games against the Wizards.
The Pick: I like the Blazers to halt their two game skid and take the UNDER.
Most bettors will likely have their eyes and their wagers fixed on the 16 games going on today in the NCAA Tournament, but there is also a healthy slate of 11 NBA games today that deserves a little attention as well.
LeBron James and the Miami Heat will go after their 25th consecutive victory today, while the Mavericks hope to hang in the playoff hunt in the Western Conference. Here’s a look at the top games in the Association today, via our quick picks.
Oklahoma City Thunder -12.5 at Orlando Magic +12.5
The Thunder roll into Orlando today and they shouldn’t have a problem defeating the Magic. However, coming off two straight losses, the Thunder aren’t playing their best ball right now, so I wouldn’t count on them crushing Orlando. Take the Magic to cover +12.5 in the loss.
Detroit Pistons +15.5 at Miami Heat -15.5
The Heat rallied from 27 points down to defeat the Cleveland Cavs on Wednesday for their 24th straight win. There’s no way you can beat against the Heat right now on the moneyline. However, a 15.5 spread is pretty crazy for an NBA game. Detroit has struggled, but it’s not like they can’t play. There’s no doubt Miami will win, but the wins don’t always come easy, so expect Detroit to play hard and cover +15.5.
Memphis Grizzlies -6 at New Orleans Hornets +6
The Hornets haven’t been much better at home this year than on the road and considering they are just 3-7 in their last 10 games, it’s hard to like them against one of the West’s hottest squads. Take Memphis to cover -6 even on the road.
Cleveland Cavaliers +12 at Houston Rockets -12
Even though they blew a massive lead the other night against the Heat, the Cavs proved they can hang with the best teams in the league when they are on. The Rockets have been strong lately and we know they can score points, but I like the way the Cavs are competing and I expect them to keep things fairly close. Take Cleveland to cover +12.
Boston Celtics +4.5 at Dallas Mavericks -4.5
Boston has enjoyed a strong second half without Rajon Rondo, but the Celtics have dropped the last two games and will be going on the road today, where they are just 12-21 on the season. Look for Dallas to take control and earn the win, covering -4.5.
With the NBA back from its All-Star break, there will be a lot for bettors to keep track of today. There are 11 games in action in the Association today, but don’t worry. We’ve made it easy by providing you with the winning quick picks. Check ’em out!
Memphis Grizzlies +1.5 at Toronto Raptors -1.5
The Raptors may have one of the worst records in the NBA, but they’ve stepped up their game since acquiring Rudy Gay in a trade from Memphis as winners of their last five games. However, the Grizzlies have also continued to win despite losing Gay and are currently on a four-game streak of their own. This will be the first meeting between the teams since the trade.
The Raptors got the better end of the trade, but the Grizzlies are still be far the better team. Take Memphis to cover +1.5 today.
Detroit Pistons -3.5 at Charlotte Bobcats +3.5
The Bobcats only have 13 wins on the season, but one of them came against the Pistons in the teams’ only other meeting this season. This time around, the Bobcats will have the home floor, but the last time they won back-to-back games was back in November. Go with the better overall team and take Detroit to cover -3.5 on the road.
New York Knicks +4 at Indiana Pacers -4
These two will renew their long-standing rivalry for the third time this season, as the Knicks and Pacers have split the previous two games between each other. The Knicks are coming off a two-game losing streak, but should be refreshed after the break, while the Pacers have dominated opponents at home with a 21-5 record. Look for Indiana’s defense to be the difference and for the Pacers to cover -4 today.
New Orleans Hornets 0 at Cleveland Cavaliers 0
Since both teams have been equally horrendous this season with similar records coming into tonight’s game, the odds makers are going easy on us and giving us an even line. Honestly, this one really is a toss-up though. Since Cleveland has the home floor, take the Cavs to win this one.
Miami Heat -5 at Atlanta Hawks +5
The Hawks have been superb at home this season (17-9), but the Heat have been superb everywhere and they are playing their best basketball of the season at the moment, as they are currently on a seven-game winning streak. Look for the Heat to make it eight in a row by covering -5.
Brooklyn Nets +3 at Milwaukee Bucks -3
The Bucks have gotten the better of the Nets so far this season, winning two of the previous three match-ups, but Brooklyn is coming in with plenty of momentum as winners of its last three. Look for the Nets to keep it going by winning on the road and covering +3.
Oklahoma City Thunder -2.5 at Houston Rockets +2.5
This match-up should be the highest scoring of the day, as it boasts the league’s top two scoring teams, but it’s a match-up the Thunder have dominated lately, winning the previous two meetings this season by more than 20 points on each occasion. Even on the road, take the Thunder to cover -2.5.
Philadelphia 76ers +3.5 at Minnesota Timberwolves -3.5
Although Minnesota has played better at home than on the road, they haven’t fared well without Kevin Love in the lineup, losing eight of their last 10 games. Look for the 76ers to take this one, covering +3.5.
Orlando Magic +10.5 at Dallas Mavericks -10.5
Yes, the Magic are 1-9 in their last 10 games, but the Mavericks haven’t been fantastic either, making their massive favoritism in this one unwarranted. Orlando should be able to cover +10.5 in the loss today.
Boston Celtics +7 at Los Angeles Lakers -7
I’m sorry, but the Lakers shouldn’t be getting seven points against anybody right now, much less a Celtics team that has won eight of their last 10 games. This should be easy money. Take Boston to cover +7 against the floundering Lakers.
Phoenix Suns +8.5 at Golden State Warriors -8.5
Normally I would love the Warriors here against the Suns, but as losers of their last six games, the Warriors confidence is obviously shaken. Their last win was in fact against Phoenix a couple of few weeks back and they did win by more than 8.5, but that was then and this is now. The Warriors should have enough to snap the streak, but they aren’t playing their best ball right now, so take the Suns to cover +8.5.
Now we’ll give you the inside scoop on which teams to pick as division winners. Some might surprise you. Some certainly won’t. And remember, while you might not make a lot of money on one single bet, a parlay of all six winners could score you a bucketload [pun most definitely intended!].
2011-12: Boston (39-27) | New York (36-30) | Philadelphia (35-31) | Toronto (23-43) | New Jersey (22-44)
The Atlantic looks set to be a bit of a crapshoot this season, with four of the five teams (sorry Toronto) realistically having a shot at winning the division. Whether that’s a sign of improvement within the division is debatable.
Boston certainly doesn’t look improved, and whilst losing one ‘team player’ rarely makes a huge impact, Ray Allen’s departure could do just that. Is New York better? Maybe. The Knicks are certainly older. How about Brooklyn? Joe Johnson makes the side better for sure, as does a stable lineup – no more Dwight Howard talk, yet – so yes. Philadelphia has Andrew Bynum, who could own the division, if he wants.
Odds: Boston (11/10) | New York (9/4) | Brooklyn (4/1) | Philadelphia (9/2) | Toronto (100/1)
Take: Brooklyn — This might be considered bandwagon jumping, but the Nets are certainly better than last year’s record suggests. A new identity and outlook could do wonders for this team. Philadelphia’s another dark horse that could make some noise.
2011-12: Chicago (50-16) | Indiana (42-24) | Milwaukee (31-35) | Detroit (25-41) | Cleveland (21-45)
Like last season, the Central will be contested between Chicago and Indiana. The remaining three sides have very little hope of achieving anything this season.
Chicago will have to face ‘X’ amount of time without superstar guard Derrick Rose, something that hurt the side badly last season. Preseason results have gone the way of the Bulls though. Indiana meanwhile has undergone very little change and will be hoping experience and familiarity carry through.
Odds: Chicago (5/6) | Indiana (1/1) | Milwaukee (22/1) | Cleveland (50/1) | Detroit (50/1)
Take: Indiana — Without Rose, the Bulls look very ordinary and unless Carlos Boozer is prepared to show up, very beatable. Indiana is deep, not with big name players, but with consistent players. Expect the Pacers to jump out to an early lead in the division. If and when Rose returns, then the Bulls may challenge.
2011-12: Miami (46-20) | Atlanta (40-26) | Orlando (37-29) | Washington (20-46) | Charlotte (7-59)
The Southeast is likely to be a snorefest this season. Miami has improved with the addition of Ray Allen and will garner national attention all the way to the playoffs. Nobody can dispute that. The rest of the division though, well…
Atlanta is worse. Orlando is worse. Washington is, well, an unknown. Charlotte could be better, but that starts with coaching. One thing’s for sure; Michael Kidd-Gilchrist won’t find his introduction to the NBA quiet as plain-sailing as Anthony Davis in New Orleans (not that things look easy for the Hornets).
Odds: Miami (1/25) | Atlanta (10/1) | Orlando (50/1) | Washington (50/1) | Charlotte (150/1)
Take: Miami — It may be an obvious choice, but this is a division that will be lucky to have two teams make it to the postseason. If you’re looking for an exciting bet, take both Washington and Charlotte (yes, Charlotte!) to finish above Orlando. There’s nothing magic about the Magic this year.
Oklahoma City has been the talk of the northwest for a couple of years now and that looks no different this season. With pretty much the same roster in place, this is a team that is built for long playoff runs.
Elsewhere in the division, Minnesota looks to make huge strides on last year, providing injury allows such. A second-year Ricky Rubio may well be the point guard to watch this year. Meanwhile, the jury’s out on Denver – Andre Iguodala may not be the answer – and Portland, while Utah looks to have made zero improvement this offseason.
Take: Oklahoma City — Like the rest of the west, the Northwest is unlike to herald a new division winner. Simply put, the Thunder looks better that the rest. Fans of those other four may want to start praying for injuries.
2011-12: LA Lakers (41-25) | LA Clippers (40-26) | Phoenix (33-33) | Golden State (23-43) | Sacramento (22-44)
The Lakers made big moves. The Clippers made small, but vital, moves. The Suns almost took a complete overhaul approach. The Warriors and Kings made few moves of note. The Pacific looks like it’ll be a two-horse race again this season.
Odds: LA Lakers (1/4) | LA Clippers (3/1) | Golden State (50/1) | Phoenix (75/1) | Sacramento (75/1)
Take: LA Lakers — In fairness, the Pacific could be the most competitive division in the west. A cross-hallway battle between the Clippers and Lakers will almost certainly be close. The overall result may well depend on how quickly the new-look Lakers are able to gel as a team. Take the purple and gold in the long-term, but expect a tough fight.
2011-12: San Antonio (50-16) | Memphis (41-25) | Dallas (36-30) | Houston (34-32) | New Orleans (21-45)
San Antonio certainly didn’t make a huge splash in the free agent market this summer but the front office did make the one move they needed to; re-signing Tim Duncan. Dallas meanwhile wished it could have made a big splash. With Deron Williams committing to Brooklyn, the Mavs now look like a ragtag assortment of ill-fitting pieces. Rick Carlisle has worked with worse though. Houston signed Jeremy Lin, hoping that ‘Linsanity’ will propel the team forward. Don’t hold your breath just yet. Memphis will quietly go about business and be there when the postseason comes calling.
Odds: San Antonio (5/8) | Memphis (3/1) | Dallas (7/2) | Houston (20/1) | New Orleans (50/1)
Take: San Antonio — There’s a reason the Spurs have won nine division titles in 14 seasons (the Tim Duncan era, if you will). As with the rest of the west, it’s an obvious pick but it’s all but impossible to see beyond Gregg Popovich – the best coach in professional basketball – and his battle-proven team.
The right coast came out on top last year as the Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1 in the Finals, earning the franchise its second championship and Lebron James his first.
This year, the Heat will look to repeat, something no Eastern Conference teams has done since Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls completed the three-peat in 1998. In fact, the Eastern Conference as a whole hasn’t won two straight championships since Jordan’s famous jump shot in Salt Lake City. Can Miami’s superstar team buck that trend?
The Beast of the East
It should come as no surprise that oddsmakers have made the Miami Heat, at 5/8, the favorites to win the Eastern Conference. Actually, at 9/4, Miami is favorites to win it all, ahead of the Lakers and Thunder in the west.
Miami managed to add more talent to its roster this offseason, signing free agents Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. Allen is looking for a second NBA Championship – having won one with Boston in 2008 – and apparently likes his chance more in South Beach than Bean Town. Who wouldn’t? About to enter his fifteenth year in the league, Lewis is looking to win his first.
The addition of the two former Seattle Supersonics teammates undoubtedly makes Miami a better side. Allen proved invaluable for Boston again last season, despite having to sit out a chunk of the season with injury. Lewis has always had talent, but played for some terrible sides. He follows in the footsteps of the likes of Juwan Howard, Jerry Stackhouse and Mike Bibby, journeymen who all arrived in Miami with championship hopes.
But is the East really a one horse race? Sadly, it appears so. A retooled Miami looks to have stepped up another rung on the ladder, while the rest of the conference, as we shall see, may have taken a step back. Whether Miami can win the NBA Championship is a question for another day though.
Stormy Times in the Windy City
Somehow, oddsmakers seem to believe that the Chicago Bulls (6/1) are the second best team in the East. If that’s the case, there’s no hope for those wanting to see somebody, anybody, challenge the Heat.
Chicago’s offseason has been a rough one. Derrick Rose’s ACL injury will keep him out until at least January, and if the team proceeds cautiously as it has suggested it will, that date could be pushed back much later. Will Rose miss an entire season? It’s not beyond imagining, although it I unlikely.
Without Rose, the Bulls look beatable. Carlos Boozer has not proven to be the leader he needs to be. He’ll be further thwarted by the absence of Omer Asik, who bolted for Houston. The Turk played well last season and his replacement Nazr Mohammed isn’t up to scratch. Then there’s the signing of Vlad Radmanovic, who has pretty much failed at every stop of his career. Things really aren’t looking good in the Windy City.
Rounding Out the Top Five
The thing is, it’s not just Chicago that could have problems in the East this year. The entire conference – Miami aside – looks a little worn. That shows up in the next three picks in oddsmakers rankings.
Boston (8/1) is third favorites to take the East crown. But just how good will the Celtics be?
We all know of the C’s aging roster, and we saw how it caught up to the team last season. Why would this year be any better, especially with the loss of Ray Allen?
A full training camp may get the team better prepared for the start of the season – something wildly lacking last year – and the signing of Jason Terry from Dallas is a good move, although at 35-years-old, he’s hardly a spring chicken. But can this side compete? Will we see the front office pull the trigger midseason and begin rebuilding? We’ll find out, starting in just three weeks.
After Boston, the rebooted Brooklyn Nets and the retooled New York Knicks close out the Top Five, both with odds at 12/1 to take the East.
Brooklyn is certainly the ‘hip’ team coming into the season, but having Jay Z in the owner’s meetings and a bunch of players weighed down by truckloads of cash doesn’t make a team. Only on-chemistry will do that, and that’s an uncertainty coming into the season. The addition of Joe Johnson is a good move. The resigning of Deron Williams is a very good move. Passing on Dwight Howard? That might be the best move for a team that doesn’t need off-court distractions. The Nets may well be the most interesting team in the East.
The Knicks aren’t going to shy away from water-cooler talk either. So fans are upset that Jeremy Lin will ply his trade in Houston, but the chances of Lin succeeding under the spotlight of MSG were slim at best. Veterans Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Ronnie Brewer suggest the team is looking to win now, but the only way that will happen is if somebody finds a way for Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire to play together. Raymond Felton at the point could be a disaster waiting to happen as well.
Indiana (14/1) made the moves it needed to this offseason – basically resigning Roy Hibbert, who may not be the league’s best center, but he’s the best center for the Pacers – and will be better than advertised.
Orlando (60/1) – considered better than Cleveland, Toronto, Washington (all 100/1), Detroit (125/1) and Charlotte (200/1) – are worse than advertised and will be lucky to finish above two of those sides listed.
Philadelphia (18/1) will be an interesting watch, if nothing more, as they try to woo Andrew Bynum, who arrived as part of the blockbuster Dwight Howard to the Lakers deal. Philly looked good at the tail end of last season and into the playoffs, and are potentially better this year. Bynum’s less-than-professional-at-times attitude could prove costly though.
So there you have it. Now’s the time to get your preseason bets in. Unsurprisingly, the Heat, Lakers and Thunder are currently taking the most money, but could 2012 be a season where a surprise team comes from nowhere and wins it all? It doesn’t look like it on paper, but sometimes those papers lie. That’s why we watch the NBA.
Eastern Conference Odds
Miami 5/8 | Chicago 6/1 | Boston 8/1 | Brooklyn 12/1 | New York 12/1 | Indiana 14/1 | Philadelphia 18/1 | Atlanta 35/1 | Milwaukee 60/1 | Orlando 60/1 | Cleveland 100/1 | Toronto 100/1 | Washington 100/1 | Detroit 125/1 | Charlotte 200/1
NBA Championship Odds
Miami 9/4 | L.A. Lakers 5/2 | Oklahoma City 5/1 | Chicago 12/1 | Boston 18/1 | San Antonio 18/1 | L.A. Clippers 22/1 | Brooklyn 30/1 | Dallas 30/1 | Indiana 35/1 | Memphis 35/1 | New York 40/1 | Philadelphia 40/1 | Denver 66/1 | Atlanta 75/1 | Houston 75/1 | Minnesota 90/1 | Golden State 100/1 | Orlando 100/1 | Phoenix 100/1 | Portland 100/1 | Utah 100/1 | Milwaukee 125/1 | New Orleans 150/1 | Cleveland 200/1 | Sacramento 200/1 | Toronto 200/1 | Washington 200/1 | Detroit 250/1 | Charlotte 300/1
*Odds correct as of October 9, 2012, provided by Bovada.