No NBA player movement has happened yet this offseason, but odds for the NBA championship are already posted with two of the top sportsbooks. While it’s true that the draft, free agency and trades will change the landscape of the league, we can still have a pretty good idea which teams will be among the best in the league next year.
This NBA Championship 2018-19 preview will discuss the consensus top four teams with the shortest odds to win the title next year and then point out three other teams below them that could be more likely to win the championship than their betting odds suggest. We will conclude our NBA Championship predictions with a pick.
Top Favorites For NBA 2018-19
Golden State Warriors (+130 with BetOnline)
Much to the chagrin of many NBA fans, Golden State is the favorite to win its fourth title in five years next summer. The Warriors’ stars seem to be closer than ever and they are all unselfish enough to continue taking less money to keep the team intact.
We did see them get taken to the limit by the Rockets this season, though, and that was with Chris Paul missing Games 6 and 7, both Warriors wins. Can any team finally topple them in 2019? Potential injuries are always a factor that should make you wary about betting on a team with such short odds.
The Rockets are the rightful No. 2 in championship odds. Houston was the league’s best team during the 2017-18 regular season by a healthy margin, and it was basically unbeatable when James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela were all healthy. One of the big question marks for next season, though, is the 33-year-old Paul’s health. He is seemingly always injured, though he often plays through it.
Houston is also assumed to be one of the top choices for LeBron James’ free agency this summer. Given the strong construction of the roster from top to bottom, though, it is safe to say the Rockets will be one of the league’s top title contenders next season whether or not James joins them.
Philadelphia 76ers (+550 with BetOnline)
The 76ers exited the playoffs rather meekly, losing a second-round series to the shorthanded Boston Celtics in five games. However, Philadelphia’s future is extremely bright thanks to the star power of 24-year-old Joel Embiid and 21-year-old Ben Simmons and other strong young prospects like Dario Saric, Markelle Fultz, T.J. McConnell and Richaun Holmes.
As is the case for Houston, these odds have the possibility of LeBron James joining the team built in. Don’t be surprised if Philadelphia is at the top of James’ list right now, given that the team has a bunch of improving talent and keeps LeBron in the East, where the competition for an NBA Finals berth isn’t quite as stiff.
Boston Celtics (+650 with BetOnline)
The team with arguably the highest ceiling in the league over the next few years is the Celtics. They just came one win away from the NBA Finals despite missing arguably their two best players, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, for the entire postseason. In the regular season, the pair combined to miss 103 games, and their squad still won 55 contests.
If both players are back healthy next year, Boston is going to be scary. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are two of the top young wings in the NBA right now, and Al Horford is one of the most versatile centers in the game. Boston has a bunch of assets, including players and draft picks, that could help make the roster even stronger before the season starts.
Combine all of this with the fact that Brad Stevens is one of the best head coaches in the NBA, and the Celtics are a very strong title contender for next season.
Top NBA 2018-19 Dark Horses
San Antonio Spurs (+2500 with Bovada)
According to some recent reports, Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard may not be as upset with the Spurs as many people originally thought. If he is healthy next season and fully buys into the organization, San Antonio should take a big step forward. Remember, the Spurs won 67 and 61 games in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons respectively.
What is holding the Spurs back from being in the top tier of West teams with the Warriors and Rockets is its lack of shooting punch and defensive versatility. San Antonio uses many players who are either solid shooters and weak defensively, or vice versa.
Once again, there’s the chance of LeBron James going to this squad. If he joins the Spurs, they should be considered as every bit as dangerous of a title threat as the Warriors and the Rockets.
Toronto Raptors (+6600 with Bovada)
The Raptors are hitting the reset switch for next season in terms of coaching, bringing up assistant coach Nick Nurse to take over for the fired Dwane Casey. Casey had led the Raptors to five straight playoff berths and five consecutive seasons of at least 48 wins, a benchmark the franchise had never hit before he arrived.
Toronto’s main struggles have shown up in the postseason over the past several years, though. They have a history of losing series in resounding fashion, often to lower seeds and often to LeBron James. In 2017-18, the squad seemed to change its culture to center more on ball movement and improved defensive intensity, but that all disappeared in the playoffs again in a second-round sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Remember, the Raptors absolutely dominated the regular season in 2017-18 before the playoff issues cropped up. It will be interesting to see if Nurse can change the course of this franchise in a positive way.
Utah Jazz (+8000 with Bovada)
The Jazz have found the right recipe for success in the modern NBA. They have an athletic, slashing guard who can shoot and create for himself and others (Donovan Mitchell) and a long, rim-protecting center who is a fantastic screen-setter and finisher around the rim (Rudy Gobert). They also have versatile role players who play strong defense.
The Jazz looked very competitive with the Rockets in their second-round playoff series this year despite missing point guard Ricky Rubio. Almost all the members of Utah’s roster are on the upswing of their careers, too, so count on the team topping the 48 wins it totaled in 2017-18.
2018-19 NBA Championship Predictions & Picks Final Verdict
In my opinion, the Celtics have the most favorable listed odds with the USA sports betting websites of any team in the NBA. They are playing in an Eastern Conference that will likely be much less competitive, especially if LeBron leaves, and they have a stacked roster and an elite coach. They have a very good chance of making the Finals. While they probably wouldn’t be the favorite against Golden State or Houston, they would definitely have a decent chance to win the series.
The Rockets stick out as another top contender with good odds. It took poor health luck, unfortunate officiating and a terrible three-point shooting performance in Game 7 to lose to the Warriors this year. The difference in payout for those teams for 2018-19 shouldn’t be so extreme.
As far as dark horses, the Raptors and Jazz are good choices. Toronto’s issues in the postseason seem to be mainly mental, and a new head coach gives the squad a chance to get over those. The Jazz may be in the tougher conference, but they have the best defense in the league and are building their team in the right way.
All in all, your four best bets would be the Celtics, Raptors, Jazz and Rockets, in that order. So if you want the one betting predictions then it is this:
- Boston Celtics (best at +650 with BetOnline) to win the 2018-19 NBA Championship.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.