2014-15 NBA Season Preview: A Look at the NBA Title Favorites
We are less than a week until the start of the NBA season next Tuesday. The futures tell us there are five teams, with odds below 10-1, which are favored to take the NBA crown.
On July 11, when LeBron James announced he was returning to Cleveland, the Cavs displaced the Miami Heat as the NBA public darling. LeBron was coming home and with that a resurrection of hopes for a city and franchise that was burned by James’ announcement “that he was taking his talents to Miami.” James’ return is not just a glorified homecoming parade. Cleveland has given LeBron pieces which have excited the public to establish the Cavaliers as the betting favorite. The pieces consist of Kevin Love and Shawn Marion. Marion is underrated considering his playoff experience with the Dallas Mavericks. However, Love and current Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving have never participated in a playoff game. LeBron does have 2 NBA titles though he has a losing record in the NBA Finals. One of the Finals losses was in Cleveland, but many are stilled underwhelmed by James’ Finals resume because of the superior Miami Heat talent. Cleveland is +260, according to 5 Dimes to win the NBA Title.
The aging San Antonio Spurs are just behind Cleveland at +385. As a bettor, the Spurs still present good value and are not to be dismissed. The Spurs won 62 games in 2013-2014, the most since 2005-2006. The core of their team returns with Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. While the hype is about the age, Gregg Popovich always has a young core at his disposal. Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli, and Danny Green were key to the Spurs title run last season. After the 2007 NBA Title season, an aging Spurs team was still a concern with Robert Horry, Brent Barry, and Bruce Bowen all with 10 plus years of NBA experience. Yet, Tony Parker was just 24 and Manu Ginobli had just 4 years of NBA experience. Popovich will expect nothing less from his talented youngsters to keep the Spurs at their current level of excellence.
Kevin Durant’s foot fracture has left a ton of questions about the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 2014-15 campaign. It is unclear when Durant will return or even if there will be a recurrence of problems after his surgery. It is critical for Russell Westbrook to come through to keep the title hopes alive. Westbrook has ranked among the league’s top six scorers twice and has made three All-Star teams. Westbrook must become more of an attacking scorer instead of someone who attacks the rim in order to dish an assist to Durant. For Thunder fans and backers there is precedent for Westbrook’s success minus Durant. In 2012-2013, Westbrook averaged 33.2 points a game in 242 regular season minutes without Durant. The Thunder also has some young starters who could have breakout years in Steven Jackson and Reggie Jackson. Both developed a solid chemistry on the Summer League circuit. Oklahoma City is +675 to take win the NBA Championship.
Is this finally the year that the Chicago Bulls achieve the lofty expectations? The offseason could not have gone better as the Bulls landed Paul Gasol with a 3-year deal and will be a significant upgrade over the departed Carlos Boozer. Chicago also made some draft moves bringing in rookies Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic. Mirotic and Gasol give Chicago their best depth in the frontcourt in years as they join Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah. Finally, there is the long anticipated return of Derrick Rose for a full season which makes this team a legitimate NBA Title contender. Look for the Bulls to be balanced with scoring and tremendous defense with Mirotic, Gasol, Gibson, and Noah frontcourt along with the excellence defense of guard Jimmy Butler. Gasol is also versatile from the outside with his jump shot which will complement Rose’s slashing towards the goal. Really like the 5 Dimes number of +725 for Chicago.
It was a disappointing season last year for the Los Angeles Clippers as they were knocked off in the Western Conference Semifinals by the Oklahoma City Thunder. However, the Clippers are one of the most talented teams in the NBA. They have the league’s best point guard in Chris Paul and look for Blake Griffin to build on his exceptional 2013-14 campaign. DeAndre Jordan is the anchor of the Clippers defense, and they have solid role players in JJ Redick and Matt Barnes. They also have a championship level coach in Doc Rivers. The West is loaded this year with the Spurs, Thunder, Rockets, and my sleeper this year the Dallas Mavericks. At +900 the Clippers are as good a bet as any to take home the NBA Title.