Barring Collin Sexton becoming John Wall overnight, Kevin Love posting his Timberwolves numbers of old and J.R. Smith remembering the score of the game, we will see a new NBA Finals matchup for the first time since 2014.
And as much as we have enjoyed LeBron’s Cavaliers and Steph’s Warriors battle it out the past four seasons, a little change will do us all good and presents some opportunities in the basketball betting market.
So will the Warriors make it five straight Finals appearances, something that hasn’t been done since the Celtics of the ‘50s and ‘60s (10 straight)?
And who might they play now that LeBron has left the conference? The top bookmakers are offering some great NBA Finals matchup odds, and here are our best value picks:
We’re starting with a bang, but we can’t get enough of these odds.
The Rockets came within one game of toppling the Warriors last season, and though swapping Trevor Ariza for Carmelo Anthony won’t help much, there’s still an embarrassment of riches on that roster.
There’s no reason to think they won’t flirt with the top spot in the West and contend with the Warriors come late May.
Then there’s Philadelphia, which won 52 games a year ago, brings back their entire core plus last year’s No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz and will have a pair of MVP candidates in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. It’s fair to call each of these two teams No. 2 in their respective conferences.
But it wouldn’t be a shock to see either – or even both, in this case – match up come June. So the fact that oddsmakers, likely because Golden State is such an overwhelming favorite, is handing out +2625 odds on Karamba feels like an incredible steal.
Philadelphia is being slept on, and Houston has what it takes to dethrone the Warriors. Take Rockets vs. 76ers at +2625 at Karamba -- it’s our favorite bet.
The favorites. It is the NBA after all, and the cream usually rises to the top. This was the likely NBA Finals matchup last season before Gordon Hayward’s and Kyrie Irving’s season-ending injuries.
Now both sides are healthy (oh, and the Warriors added DeMarcus Cousins), so there’s a good chance we see the favorites battle it out in June yet again, and the odds reflect that.
It’s far and away the most likely outcome, as 888Sport has the matchup at +165, but also makes the most sense. Boston almost got there without two All-Stars, one of whom has an NBA title to his name.
They’re the two best teams in their respective conference with arguably the two best head coaches in the game. That’s a recipe for success, and if you like the best teams to make it through, bet on Warriors-Celtics at +165 at 888Sport.
Both the Rockets and Celtics held 3-2 series advantages in their respective conference finals matchups … and lost. Both teams are feeling the motivation to get back to that scene and finish the job this time around.
Considering the Celtics are the heavy favorites in the East, we love getting +1100 odds on 888Sport for Boston to win the East and the Rockets to upset the Warriors in the West.
Again, this was two wins from happening a year ago. To get these odds a year later, with the two teams very similar in makeup, is a solid play.
Just how much will Giannis Antetokounmpo improve in now his fifth NBA season? We know the Eastern Conference is up for grabs and that the last eight seasons, the conference’s best player made it to the Finals.
That’s now Antetokounmpo, who seemingly has no ceiling at this point in his career. Milwaukee was busy during the offseason to put more shooters around the Greek Freak and there’s reason to believe they’ll improve on their 44 wins from a year ago.
They took the Celtics to seven games in Round 1 of the postseason a year ago and now bring on a playoff experienced head coach in Mike Budenholzer. There’s reason to believe Jason Kidd and Joe Prunty were holding this roster back from its full potential. Now we’ll find out.
They’ve got a new arena they’re moving into this year, so momentum will be building to turn the franchise into a winner. They’re a sleeper in the East, and are a great value bet at +3400 at 888Sport to meet up with Golden State.
Hey, he’s still LeBron James. Though the Lakers are probably a year and another significant free agent piece away from contending, LeBron simply gets it done in the postseason.
He’s been to the last eight NBA Finals, averaging 28.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 6.9 assists in 168 postseason games. Are we really going to start betting against him now?
Yes, he likely will have to get past both the Warriors and Rockets to get it done, but Los Angeles has a solid young core and could always add a piece or two at the trade deadline. And if James can take last year’s Cavaliers team to the Finals, anything is possible.
What better storyline would there be if James squared off against either the Celtics, pitting the top two franchises in NBA history against one another, or a Sixers team that James was considering before opting for the Lakers.