Is the NBA headed for a fourth straight Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers championship series in 2017-18? At the moment, oddsmakers are pegging that to be the case.
It’s true that Warriors-Cavaliers is the most likely Finals matchup, and that Golden State is the heavy favorite to win. But is it worth betting on the Warriors to win the title?
Let’s examine the moneylines for the top championship favorites while considering a few other dark horse championship contenders at longer odds with the American online betting websites. At the end, this NBA preview will provide its advice for which teams are your best bets with our betting predictions and picks.
NBA Championship Favorites
Golden State Warriors (Best Odds of -160 at Bovada)
The Warriors should be even better in their second season with Kevin Durant, as the team continues to adjust to its fourth star. Last season, they were just 5-7 in games decided by five points or fewer, despite going 62-8 in all other contests. Their crunch-time execution is bound to get better with all of the team’s talent.
The supporting cast also got even better in the offseason, bringing in Omri Casspi, Nick Young and Jordan Bell to replace Ian Clark, Matt Barnes and James Michael McAdoo.
Health and the ability to avoid shooting slumps will be the key for this squad. Otherwise, don’t expect anything less than a championship.
Cleveland Cavaliers (+450 at Bovada)
The Cavs are the Eastern Conference favorite, even after losing Kyrie Irving. Isaiah Thomas and the health of his hip are a question mark, but the addition of Jae Crowder in the Irving trade will play a big role. Cleveland badly needed a three-and-D wing, and Crowder affords the squad some lineup flexibility.
In the event of a fourth straight Finals matchup against the Warriors, can the Cavaliers do better than their five-game loss last June? Having both a healthy IT and Crowder does raise the team’s ceiling, but the Warriors should also be better than last season. Backcourt defense is also a huge concern.
Did the Celtics get better during the offseason? Yes, but it’s not as clear-cut as some might think. They lost their best player from last season (Isaiah Thomas), two of their best two-way players (Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder) and two solid rotation big men (Kelly Olynyk and Amir Johnson) to essentially add Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes and rookie Jayson Tatum. That’s a net gain, but not a massive one.
Head coach Brad Stevens has his work cut out for him in terms of putting all the pieces together. Irving wants to be “the man” now that he’s out of LeBron James’ shadow, but Kyrie needs to keep Hayward and Al Horford involved in the offense. The team got just a bit weaker on defense and still has a major rebounding problem.
NBA Championship Dark Horse Bets
Houston Rockets (+2800 at MyBookie)
This may be a hot take, but the Rockets could be a much better team than the Cavaliers right now, especially with the concern over Isaiah Thomas. Of course, Houston likely has to beat the stacked Warriors to even make the Finals, so that’s the main reason for a huge gap to their championship odds.
A potential Rockets rotation of Chris Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, Luc Mbah a Moute and Nene means Houston has nine average to above-average players it can use for its playoff rotation. It has plenty of offensive-minded players, enough defensive-minded guys and some guys who can do both pretty well (Paul, Ariza and Capela come to mind).
Paul and Harden both have gotten a bad rap for their playoff performances in the past, but this might be the most talented roster either player has had.
Toronto Raptors (+10000 at BetOnline)
The Raptors are a flawed team. I’m not a fan of their suspect depth or lack of quality wing defense after losing Cory Joseph, Patrick Patterson, DeMarre Carroll and P.J. Tucker during the offseason. However, C.J. Miles is an elite shooter who will make things a lot easier for scoring guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Having a full season of Serge Ibaka will be a boon for this squad.
If Toronto can figure out how to get the most out of a very talented starting lineup (Lowry, DeRozan, Miles, Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas), this team can challenge for the East’s top seed. The Raptors will need to move the ball better and get more defensive commitment from their wings.
Denver Nuggets (+50000 at GTBets)
The Nuggets are really flying under the radar for NBA oddsmakers this offseason, especially GTBets. It’s almost as if what happened last season and during the summer didn’t happen. For those of you who didn’t notice, Denver had a mediocre 40-42 record in 2016-17, but got much better throughout the season with its young roster and signed Paul Millsap, who has made the last four All-Star games and gives the team a much-needed defensive boost.
Denver now has two top-25 players in the league in center Nikola Jokic and power forward Millsap. Those two have skill sets that will complement each other very well. The Nuggets also have two talented young guards in Jamal Murray and Gary Harris, both of which dealt with injuries for much of last season. Wings Wilson Chandler and Will Barton lead the rest of the roster, which is rather deep.
Our Preview’s NBA Championship Picks & Betting Predictions
Here we give our NBA Championship betting predictions and picks from the favorites and then the longshots:
- Of the favorites, the Celtics (+1000 at MyBookie) are the best bet. While this NBA Championship preview isn’t super high on the moves they made, they do lift the team’s ceiling quite a bit. An offensive trio of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford could end up being dominant, and that alone makes them a viable champion. Sure, Golden State is way better than Boston overall, but it’s worth going with a team that has a great coach, much longer odds, a couple of new stars eager to prove themselves and that plays in the weaker conference.
- Of the outsiders, the Rockets (+2800 at MyBookie) and Nuggets (+50000 at GTBets) are probably the best two bets you can make. Houston’s odds at most other sportsbooks are mostly floating in the +900 to +1200 range while Denver’s are mostly around +8000 to +18000. In these particular instances, These are outlier moneylines from MyBookie and GTBets that you need to advantage of. Feel good about investing in these two high-upside rosters.
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.