With around 25 games remaining in the regular season, the playoff pressure is beginning to ramp up for some NBA squads, while others (ahem, the Heat) are starting to show their dominance. We’ll see all of that and more on display today as the Association has a juicy nine-game slate for us to sink our teeth into. Here are our quick picks for eight of the nine games in the NBA today.
Los Angeles Lakers +3 at Dallas Mavericks -3
It’s no secret. The Lakers have been the biggest disappointment of 2012-2013, but they are playing better lately. They’ve won seven of their last 10 games, including the last two. The teams have split the season series so far, going 1-1 against one another, but with the Mavs at home and also playing well (three-game win streak). I like Dallas to take this one, covering -3.
Golden State Warriors -1.5 at Minnesota Timberwolves +1.5
The Warriors hit a rough patch in recent weeks, but they are starting to get back on track, as they’ve won their last two games. Meanwhile, the T-Wolves continue to struggle without their star Kevin Love. Take the Warriors to cover -1.5 and win on the road today.
Sacramento Kings +6 at New Orleans Hornets -6
Considering the Hornets have been worse at home than on the road and considering both teams are on losing streaks entering tonight’s game and each have the exact same record, this one is a toss-up. For that reason, take the Kings to cover +6.
Cleveland Cavaliers +13 at Miami Heat -13
With the Heat playing their finest basketball of the season, they are getting a huge spread against the struggling Cavaliers. The Heat have won 10 straight and there’s no question they should defeat the Cavs on their home floor, but I just hate these huge spreads. All the Cavs need to do is play halfway decent and they will cover this spread, even on the road. The Heat will win, but it’s safer to take Cleveland to cover +13.
San Antonio Spurs -9.5 at Phoenix Suns +9.5
The Spurs are also getting a large spread and will be on the road today, where they have only been half as strong – 22-11 compared to 22-2 at home. The Suns are certainly struggling as losers of eight of their last 10, but they should be able to cover +9.5 today in the loss.
Boston Celtics +2 at Portland Trail Blazers -2
Despite dropping their last seven games, the Blazers are getting two points at home against a Celtics team that has played well recently, winning seven of their last 10 games. Even though the Celtics have been atrocious on the road, I can’t go against the recent trend here. Portland will break out of its funk, but no tonight. Go Boston to cover +2 in the win.
Chicago Bulls +9 at Oklahoma City Thunder -9
Both teams have struggled a bit recently, but the Thunder are getting nice odds to win at home, where they are 24-4 this season. There’s little doubt that they will do it, but Chicago is too good defensively to get blown away, even by the Thunder. Take Chicago to cover +9 in the loss.
Philadelphia 76ers +10.5 at New York Knicks -10.5
Both teams are coming into this game on four-game losing streaks, so it’s hard to imagine liking the Knicks by more than a few points against anyone right now. Play this one safe and take the Sixers to cover +10.5 on the road.
Although some minor deals were completed before the NBA trade deadline yesterday, there wasn’t a lot of action in terms of volume or significance, at least it may seem that way on the surface. The deals that went through under the wire actually may have a larger impact on the remainder of the regular season that some bettors realize. And as always, some teams came out with the short end of the stick, while others took advantage of the better part of the deal. Let’s take a look at a couple of winners and losers from the 2013 NBA trade deadline.
Winner – Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks definitely came out on top in a deal they made yesterday with the Orlando Magic. Both teams gave up and received three players, but the trade was highlighted by J.J. Redick, who was shipped to the Bucks.
The Bucks – currently in eighth place in the East – certainly needed a boost on the perimeter and they couldn’t have picked up someone much better than Redick, who is 11th in the league in three-pointers made. Redick is also having a career year, averaging 15.1 points this season. Big win for the Bucks here.
Loser – Orlando Magic
Sure, the Magic saved some cap space by shipping Redick, but what kind of talent did they get in return? Beno Udrih, Tobias Harris and Doron Lamb. Things don’t quite add up here. Orlando didn’t help themselves much with this trade because none of these guys has much future potential and since the Magic didn’t secure a pick in the trade, don’t expect them to improve much next season either.
Winner – Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers, who are in 9th place in the West, were also in need of a push and it looks like they got it by bolstering one of their weaknesses – the backup point guard spot. They haven’t had anyone to fill in for rookie sensation Damian Lillard when he needs a rest, that was until they picked up Eric Maynor from the Thunder. The Blazers also won by not having to give up a player and instead sent a $2.2 million trade exception. So, if Maynor doesn’t work out at the position, Portland can consider him a rental and release him at the end of the season since his contract expires at the end of the 2012-2013 campaign.
Loser – Sacramento Kings
Some would argue the Kings came out a winner from their deal with the Rockets on Wednesday after acquiring Houston’s fourth-leading scorer Patrick Patterson, but considering they had to let go of the highly valuable Thomas Robinson to get him, it looks like the Kings’ already bleak future got a little bleaker.
The Kings – who are likely headed to Seattle soon – threw away their 2012 first-round draft pick Robinson to get under the salary cap, which they did, but they also threw away a player with almost unlimited potential. There’s a reason they drafted him fifth overall, but there’s not a good reason for trading him away so soon.
Just when you think the Miami Heat and their star LeBron James can’t get any better, they do something to make you say “Wow.”
The Heat extended their winning streak to six games on Tuesday after rolling past the Portland Trail Blazers 117-104, but more impressively, LeBron James extended his streak of 30 points and 60% field goal shooting to six games as well, which set a new NBA record.
James’ 30 points and 11 for 15 shooting performance on Tuesday broke the tie with Moses Malone and Adrian Dantley, who had each achieved a five-game streak with such numbers more than 30 years ago.
“I’m at a loss for words,” James said in a televised postgame interview, via ESPN.com. “Like I say over and over, I know the history of the game. I know how many unbelievable players who came through the ranks, who paved the way for me and my teammates. And for me to be in the record books by myself with such a stat — any stat — it’s big-time.”
Incredibly, James has shot 75% from the field over the course of the last six games, draining 60 of his last 80 shots. While the numbers are unfathomable when attributed to any other team or player, when attached to the Heat and James, they actually seem to fit.
“That was typical Miami Heat stuff,” Blazers guard Damian Lillard said. “Transition, finishing strong around the rim, and LeBron picking defenses apart.”
“That’s why he is who he is,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “The best player in the game.”
The Blazers battled for much of the game, keeping things close, but the Heat did when they do best and pulled away late, sealing their sixth consecutive win.
At 35-14, the Heat now have a three-game edge on second-place New York in the Eastern Conference with one game remaining before the All-Star break. The Heat will play that game on Thursday at Oklahoma City in a re-match of last year’s NBA Finals. With the way both teams are playing, that game could easily be a preview of the Finals again this year as well.
The Heat have led NBA futures for most of the year as the defending champs and current East leaders. Since they are certainly playing like the best team in the league at the moment, I would say it’s safe to take them over any team, even with large spreads. However, if any team can end their recent run, it’s probably the Thunder.
The Association has six games on tap for us today and many of them feature some of the league’s best teams. With only three days of NBA basketball remaining before the All-Star break, you’ll want to take advantage and get your fix starting today with a modest, but tasty sampling of games. Here are our quick picks for each of the six games on the menu.
Denver Nuggets -2 at Toronto Raptors +2
Denver may have had its nine-game win streak snapped its last time out against Boston, but there was no shortage of offensive production for one of the league’s best scoring teams, as the Nuggets still managed to put up 114 in the overtime loss. Denver hit one point below that mark the last time they played Toronto back on Dec. 3, but won that game 113-110.
The Raptors have been playing well since they acquired Rudy Gay, winning their last two games, but the Nuggets feature too potent an attack for the Raptors to deal with. Look for Denver to cover -2 in the win.
Portland Trail Blazers +11.5 at Miami Heat -11.5
The Heat have looked plenty impressive during their recent five-game winning streak, a streak that has produced another streak – LeBron’s franchise record-setting streak of five consecutive games with 30 or more points and 60% shooting.
However, the Heat will be up against a team in the Blazers that defeated them earlier this year – 92-90 on Jan. 10. Considering the Blazers are also a team that plays in many close games, expect the Heat to win, but not to cover the large spread. Take Portland to cover +11.5 in the loss.
Sacramento Kings +8.5 at Memphis Grizzlies -8.5
Both teams are coming into today’s contest on a two-game win streak, but the Grizzlies have gotten the better of the Kings in their last two meetings, beating them by more than 15 points on each occasion.
With home court advantage, look for Memphis to continue its dominance over one of the West’s weakest squads and pick up another easy win while covering -8.5.
Oklahoma City Thunder -5,5 at Utah Jazz +5.5
With a 19-6 home record, Utah has been almost unbeatable in the comforts of its own building, but with the one of the league’s best offenses coming to town, the Jazz will likely be in for a major challenge.
The Thunder are scoring 106.4 points per contest and considering they’ve already beaten Utah once this year, OKC should be able to do it again, even on the road. Take the Thunder to cover -5.5 in the win.
Phoenix Suns +9 at Los Angeles Lakers -9
Both teams in this match-up have underachieved, but only one of them faced lofty expectations in 2012-2013.
However, the Lakers are playing much better lately, winning seven of their last 10 and they’ll definitely be a favorite to win against the worst team in the West. But to spot them nine points against any team right now seems like a mistake. Since they are still without Pau Gasol and are playing with a banged up Dwight Howard, look for L.A. to win, but not by nine points. Take the Suns to cover +9 in the loss.
Houston Rockets +4.5 at Golden State Warriors -4.5
The Warriors have hit the skids recently, dropping all four games on a road trip, but they’ll be at home today, where they are 16-6 on the season. Meanwhile, the Rockets are winners of six of their last 10 and will bring in one of the most explosive offenses in the league (106.1 PPG) that will look to keep the Warriors down.
Golden State is simply too talented to stay down for long though, so expect them to bounce back at home and pick up the win, covering -4.5.
Get your midweek hardwood fix tonight with a 10-game schedule from the Association. Casino Review has fished out the top three games on the slate, and then thrown in some instant picks too. Read on to find out who you should be backing on Wednesday night.
Denver Nuggets @ Oklahoma City Thunder
8:00 PM ET
Oklahoma City (30-8, 18-3 home) and Denver (24-16, 9-14 road) meet on Wednesday night for the first of a pair of games this week, and the first of four this season.
The Thunder continues to pace the NBA, becoming the league’s first 30-game winner on Monday night. Winners of four straight and nine of 11, Kevin Durant and Co. will look to make a statement against their division rivals.
Denver meanwhile has won seven of the last eight, but a big portion of that trend has come at the Pepsi Center, as the Nuggets make up for a road-heavy early schedule. The Nuggets defeated the Lakers 112-105 on Jan. 6, the side’s only road game so far this calendar year.
Expect this to be a high-scoring affair as two of the top five scoring teams in the NBA take to the court. Oklahoma City averages 105.1 points per game (2nd) while Denver scores and average of 102.7 points (5th).
Odds: Oklahoma City is favored in this one, with the spread standing at 8½. The total is 208.5
Take: OKLAHOMA CITY – The Thunder has turned Chesapeake Energy Arena into a fortress. That fortress is likely to hold-up against a Denver side that is not as efficient on the road as it is at home. Take the Nuggets to cover the spread, with the total going under.
Memphis Grizzlies @ San Antonio Spurs
8:30 PM ET
Division rivals Memphis (24-12, 10-7 road) and San Antonio (29-11, 16-2 home) do battle for a third time this season on Wednesday night. So far, both sides have held their home court advantage.
San Antonio enters the game just two back of Oklahoma City for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. A win will also put the Spurs within a half-game of the Clippers.
Memphis will be looking to gain ground on a San Antonio side that currently sits three games in front. Winning in the Alamo City won’t be easy though; the Spurs have dropped just two home games all season, the last of which came on Nov. 19. The Spurs have won 12 straight at home since.
Memphis’ woes have mainly come on the road this season. The Grizzlies have won just five road games against teams with a winning record. That trend needs to change if the side is to continue to push for a top four finish in the Western Conference. Make no qualms about it, a win in San Antonio would be a huge deal.
Odds: San Antonio is favorites (-4½) with the total at 186½.
Take: SAN ANTONIO – The Spurs simply don’t lose at home. Add to that the fact that Memphis doesn’t play well on the road and you have the recipe for a home win. The Spurs and Grizzlies rank in the league’s top five when it comes to covering the spread, which makes this one a difficult game to pick. Take San Antonio to cover. Take the total to go under. Memphis has been involved in fewer games (13) that have seen the total go under than any other team in the league.
Miami Heat @ Golden State Warriors
10:30 PM ET
The question coming into this one should have been, are the Warriors for real? Instead, we’re left scratching our heads and pondering whether Miami is for real.
Miami (24-12, 8-9 road) fell to Utah on Monday, dropping the Florida side below .500 on the road this season. That loss also lent itself to a 1-3 record to start this current six-game road trip. To put it bluntly, Miami is reeling, at least away from South Beach.
Golden State (23-13, 12-5 home) might just be the tonic the Heat needs though. Despite an impressive overall record, one that has surprised most, the Warriors have dropped three of the last four, including a tough home loss to Memphis. Prior to that game, Mark Jackson’s side had won 11 of 13 at Oracle Arena.
Miami pulled out a 97-95 win when the two sides played at AmericanAirlines Arena on Dec. 12.
Odds: Miami is favored, with the spread at just two. The total is 205.
Take: MIAMI – The Heat will take advantage of the Warriors’ mini-slump, but this is likely to be as close as the previous meeting between the sides. Take the Heat to cover the spread (just) with the total going over.
Take Chicago (21-15, 10-5 road) to win north of the border and cover the spread (-3½) against Toronto (14-24, 10- 8 home). Take the total (184.5) to go under.
Take Indiana (24-15, 9-12 road) to pile some more misery on an Orlando (13-24, 7-12 home) side that has lost 11 of the last 12. Take the Pacers to cover the spread (-1½) with the total going under.
Take Brooklyn (23-15, 8-8 road) – winners of seven straight – to defeat an Atlanta (21-16, 12-6 home) side that has been slipping of late, upsetting the Hawks and the spread (+4) in the process. Take the total to go under.
Take Boston (20-17, 13-6 home) to extend its winning streak to seven with a home win over New Orleans (12-26, 6-13 road). Take the Hornets to cover the spread (+8) with the total (183.5) going under.
Take Dallas (16-23, 10-7 home) to build a four-game winning streak while sending Houston (21-18, 7-11 road) to a fifth straight loss. Take the Mavericks to cover the spread (-4½), and the total (213) to go under; both of these sides rank in the top five in terms of the total exceeding the marker but 213 is simply too much.
After three wins on the bounce, take Washington (7-28, 1-15 road) to slip up on the road in Sacramento (14-24, 11-10 home). Take the Wizards to cover the spread (+4½) though, with the total going over.
Take Portland (20-18, 13-5 home) to defeat Cleveland (9-31, 5-19 road), but take the Cavaliers to cover the spread (+7). Take the total (197) to go under.
Monday night serves up a big NFC East divisional encounter as well as a six-game slate in the NBA. CasinoReview’s got you covered with our pick of the action on this first Monday of December.
NFL: New York Giants @ Washington Redskins
8:30 PM ET
Washington (5-6, 2-3 home) welcomes the New York Giants (7-4, 3-2 road) to FedEx Field tonight for Monday Night Football. This storied rivalry has some added flavor to it thanks to the compact NFC East standings.
A win for Washington will mean that both the Redskins and Cowboys are just one game behind the Giants with four to play. That means a small margin for error for all involved.
The two sides met earlier this season, with the Giants narrowly emerging victorious in a contest that ended 27-23. That game saw Robert Griffin III tally 258 yards through the air and 89 yards on the ground. A similar performance and we could be seeing another upset to go with the six that emerged from Sunday’s slate.
That Giants victory snapped a two-game Washington winning streak in the head-to-head series. However, it is New York that has had the run of this rivalry of late, winning 10 of the last 13 and 12 of 15 since Tom Coughlin arrived in town.
The Giants’ fairly sturdy rush defense will be up against the best rushing team in the league; Washington averages 163½ yards on the ground per game. The Redskins have won two straight games, scoring a total of 69 points. Both teams know how to pile the points on, ranking No. 5 and No. 6 respectively in scoring this season.
Odds: The Giants opened as 2½-point favorites, a number that has since risen to three. The over/under is 51.
Take: NY Giants – As much as it would be a great storyline for the Redskins to take a hat-trick of wins against division opponents in three weeks, the Giants will prove to be a little too much tonight. Take the Giants to cover the spread, but don’t be surprised if this is decided by a field goal. Despite both teams being high-scorers, take the total to go under; 51 points is a big ask in a tight divisional game.
NBA: Portland Trailblazers @ Charlotte Bobcats
7:00 PM ET
It may not be one of the NBA’s glamor matchups, but this could be a chance to make a little cash at the expense of your bookie.
After a very surprising start to the season, Charlotte (7-8, 5-4 home) has lost three straight, falling below .500. Meanwhile, Portland (7-10, 3-7 road) has lost five of the last seven and is floundering at the bottom of the Northwest Division. It’s highly unlikely that this will be a pretty game, but it’s one that the Bobcats can win. After all, Portland is the one and only casualty of the not-very-formidable Washington Wizards.
Odds: Portland is a two-point road favorite heading into Time Warner Cable Arena, with the over/under at 195.
Take: Charlotte – The fact that Portland is considered favorite plays into your hands here. The Bobcats may not have the best home record in the league, but that record is better than the Blazers on the road. Take the total to go under; points may well be at a premium.
NBA: Orlando Magic @ Golden State Warriors
10:30 PM ET
Orlando (6-10) took down the Lakers on Sunday night, claiming some bragging rights of sort in the wake of the debacle that was the Dwight Howard trade. That victory gives the Magic six wins on the season, enough to beat out four teams in the East. Basically, Orlando has had and will continue to have a tough time of it this season.
The Magic will visit Oakland on Monday night to take on the Golden State Warriors (10-6). After years of bottom-feeding, the Warriors are top of the Pacific Division, and whilst it’s far too early to get overly excited about that fact, the Warriors’ recent play – seven wins in nine games – suggests this may be a team about to turn the corner. And a team the Magic is not going to want to face.
Odds: Despite Sunday night’s win over the Lakers, the Magic are underdogs (+9½) with the over/under at 196.
Take: Golden State – The Magic will struggle in the second night of a back-to-back, giving the high-octane, hard-rebounding Warriors the advantage. Take the Magic to cover the spread though, and the total to go under.
Remaining NBA Fixtures (Favorites highlighted)
Cleveland @ Detroit | Milwaukee @ New Orleans | Toronto @ Denver | LA Clippers @ Utah
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 NBA preseason may be of little note in terms of winners and losers, but the warm up schedule does mean one very important thing: the season is nearly here.
Tipoff is just three weeks away (October 30) and unlike last year, this year we’re guaranteed games. The preseason schedule kicked off proper this week with a key focus on international flavor. The Clippers and Heat are in China. Boston and Dallas are in Europe. Orlando and New Orleans are preparing for Mexico. New York, Minnesota and Detroit will take their game to Canada (Montreal and Winnipeg) alongside Toronto.
To get you in the mood for what will surely be an intriguing NBA season, here’s our guide to this season’s Western Conference.
(Fear not fans on the right coast; we’ll have an Eastern Conference preview for you on Thursday)
The Best in the West
Since August 9, there has been just one name at the top of oddsmakers’ lists of favorites in the Western Conference. The arrival of Dwight Howard immediately shot the Lakers up the rankings, stepping over an Oklahoma City team that had previously been favored to make a return trip to the finals.
In one move the Lakers’ odds of winning a 17th NBA championship went from 10/1 to 3/1. Now, as the season gets closer, these odds have taken another fall, currently standing at 5/2.
The Lakers are favorites to win the west at 7/5 with the Oklahoma City Thunder following close at 9/5. Even before the Lakers signed Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, many predicted these two sides would meet in the Western Conference Finals but bettors should beware. There are still questions looming over both sides.
For the Lakers, chemistry is an issue. Can the superstar players get along, and can they work together? How will the team cope with another new offensive scheme (this time the Princeton offense)? Does Mike Brown have the ability to coach this bunch? Will Howard’s health stand up? Will Bryant and Nash show their age?
The Thunder might not have as many questions to answer, but they have one very important one: how will James Harden cope under the strain of contract negotiations? It’s unlikely the super-sub will get the contract he deserves due to the OKC front office signing Serge Ibaka to a long-term deal on the back of Durant and Westbrook’s big contracts. If he feels slighted, team morale could take a hit, and that’s never helped any team.
With such questions still in the air, bettors may do well to ponder the whole situation before throwing cash at their bookie.
South Texas Represent
Oddsmakers may be certain the Lakers and Thunder are headed for a showdown in June but that’s certainly not a forgone conclusion for one simple reason: the Spurs.
The record may sound broken but San Antonio still has a shot to win a championship this year. The Spurs finished with the best record in the league last year (50-16) and have done little to alter the core of this year’s team. Other than resign Tim Duncan (for a veritable bargain nonetheless) that is.
The Spurs are third favorites to take the west, with odds currently standing at 9/1, which are quite a few steps behind the leading two. Now would anybody really be so sure the Spurs aren’t going to succeed this year? Probably, but they shouldn’t because the Spurs are perennial contenders and have what it takes to beat anybody come the postseason. And that includes OKC who picked them off last year.
The Spurs are 18/1 to win the NBA championship, tied with Boston and behind the Heat, Lakers, Thunder and Bulls. The Bulls? Those are some odds that will interest more than a few bettors out there.
Rounding Out the Top Five
Dallas and the Clippers follow up the ‘Big Three’ with Western Conference odds of 12/1 each. The Mavericks had an offseason that might not have been disastrous but certainly wasn’t up to the standards we’re used to from Mark Cuban’s team. Kidd, Terry, Mahinmi, all Haywood all gone. No Deron Williams. Kaman, Mayo, Collison and Brand in. Dallas could have a tough time of it.
The Clippers meanwhile added some wily veterans (Grant Hill, Lamar Odom) to put around all that young talent. Matt Barnes’ move across the hallway at Staples may be a bust though. Now the team has to put it all together and prove they can move even further in the playoffs, or Chris Paul won’t be there next year. That’s a question that should be asked as well: how will the Clippers cope as they try to woo the point guard into signing a long term contract?
After the top five, things get a little murky in the west. Offseason moves seem to have weakened the conference, with Denver, Phoenix and Houston not looking as strong as last campaign. Memphis is currently 16/1 to take the west, which is a longshot that almost certainly won’t pay out but is a good indication of where the Grizzlies’ are right now.
Minnesota could be better than 50/1 odds sound as could Portland at 60/1. Golden State (60/1) potentially has the roster to get to the postseason (and save Mark Jackson’s job?) but the Warriors have always been flaky. The less said about Sacramento (11/1) the better. Bettors would do better to put their money on the team moving before making the playoffs again.
Western Conference Odds
L.A. Lakers 7/5 | Oklahoma City 9/5 | San Antonio 9/1 | Dallas 12/1 | L.A. Clippers 12/1 | Memphis 16/1 | Denver 33/1 | Houston 33/1 | Utah 40/1 | Minnesota 50/1 | Golden State 60/1 | Phoenix 60/1 | Portland 60/1 | New Orleans 80/1 | Sacramento 100/1
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.
Return on Thursday to read CasinoReview’s preview of the NBA Eastern Conference.