With the start of the NBA Season a mere fortnight away, it’s time to look at one of everyone’s favourite futures markets, the NBA champion. Coming off their third championship in four years, the Golden State Warriors have emerged as the heavy $1.55 favourites. Whilst I favour the Warriors to win the title, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t also value to be had elsewhere. This article will outline who I believe to be the NBA teams with the 5 best chances of winning the championship this season; featuring my best bet, dark horse and value play.
Golden State Warriors
Projected Starting Five: PG: Stephen Curry, SG: Klay Thompson, SF: Kevin Durant, PF: Draymond Green, C: DeMarcus Cousins
Key Reserves: PG: Shaun Livingston, SF: Andre Iguodala, C: Jordan Bell
The Warriors head into the 2018/19 season fresh off of back to back championships and with the greatest talent in the world at their disposal. After a slight regression in last year’s regular season, the Warriors were back to their best in the playoffs where they had a dominant 16-5 record. The off-season acquisition of Center DeMarcus Cousins gives Golden State an unprecedented fifth All-Star, whilst also adding a much-needed post presence. Buoyed by the returning big 4 of Curry, Thompson, Durant and Green, I feel as though Golden State is well set for their 4th title in the past 5 years. It truly is a privilege to watch this team play and I’m glad we have the opportunity to do it again in 2018/19.
Projected Starting Five: PG: Kyrie Irving, SF: Jaylen Brown, SF: Gordon Hayward, PF: Jayson Tatum, C: Al Horford
Key Reserves: PG: Terry Rozier, SG: Marcus Smart, C: Aron Baynes
The Celtics head into the 2018/19 season off the back of a great postseason run that saw them fall agonisingly short in the Eastern Conference Finals. This is especially impressive considering that newly acquired Small Forward Gordon Hayward was injured in the very first game of the season, whilst star Point Guard Kyrie Irving missed all of the playoffs. The projected starting five of Irving, Brown, Hayward, Tatum and Horford is undoubtedly one of the most balanced in the NBA. All five players are capable outside shooters and possess the talent to run a strong defensive switching scheme.
Projected Starting Five: PG: Chris Paul, SG: James Harden, SF: James Ennis, PF: PJ Tucker, C: Clint Capela
Key Reserves: SG: Eric Gordon, SF: Carmelo Anthony, C: Nene
Despite the offseason losses of Trevor Ariza and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, the Houston Rockets are still one of the most talented teams in the NBA. Fresh off of a hard fought seven game series loss to the Warriors, many will question whether the Rockets have what it takes to get over the hump. Whilst the Warriors have their number, the Rockets would probably be favoured in a series against any other team in the NBA.
Projected Starting Five: PG: Kyle Lowry, SG: Danny Green, SF: Kawhi Leonard, PF: Serge Ibaka, C: Jonas Valanciunas
Key Reserves: PG: Fred VanVleet, SF: OG Anunoby, C: Greg Monroe
I’m in the camp that expects Kawhi Leonard to have a fantastic season this year after all the San Antonio drama has been put behind him. This is a very strong starting five that contains some of the best perimeter defenders in the entire NBA. Mix this with a very strong bench and I can see the Raptors challenging for 60 wins this season. This could very well be enough to repeat as the #1 seed in the East and challenge Golden State in the NBA Finals.
Projected Starting Five: PG: Ricky Rubio, SG: Donovan Mitchell, SF: Joe Ingles, PF: Derrick Favors, C: Rudy Gobert
Key Reserves: PG: Dante Exum, SG: Thabo Sefolosha, SF: Jae Crowder
After a fantastic end to the 2017/18 season, I for one am excited to see how this Jazz team performs with a full off-season together. I expect second year man Donovan Mitchell to take another step forward in 2018/19, whilst Center Rudy Gobert competes for Defensive Player of the Year. Buoyed by one of the best home court advantages in the NBA, I expect the Jazz to be up there this season and finish with around 55 regular season wins.
Best Bet: Warriors at $1.55
Simply put, the Golden State Warriors are the best team in the NBA. Forget Jordan’s Bulls, this team also features the greatest collection of talent of all time. Whilst I’m not expecting them to push hard in the regular season, I predict that the Warriors will do enough to earn back the #1 seed in the Western Conference. With home court throughout, I just don’t see how anyone challenges this team in the playoffs. With the rival Rockets getting weaker this offseason, I expect the Warriors to further cement their legacy by capturing this three-peat.
Dark Horse: Raptors at $19
To me, $19 represents great value for the Raptors to win the championship, a bet that could likely be hedged out of later on for a nice profit. In a relatively weak Eastern Conference, the only thing standing between Canada and some NBA Finals basketball is the Boston Celtics. Should the Raptors get home court, they’d probably also be favoured over the Celtics in a prospective playoff series. I expect Kawhi Leonard to come back very strongly this season and help build on the Raptors 59-win campaign last year. Whilst I can’t see them getting past Golden State, $19 still represents decent enough value.
Value Play: Jazz at $51
At $51, I think the Jazz to win the title is another value play that could be hedged out of at a later date. This is an incredibly deep and balanced team with no real weak links that can get exposed in a playoff series. Whilst I think Golden State matches up very well with the Jazz, almost every other team in the league will be pushed to the edge in a series. Should the Jazz make it to the Conference Finals, a very distinct possibility, this would mark a great point to hedge out and collect your profits.