The NBA free-agency period saw some wild moves but the two-time defending champions stood their ground with their roster and are still leading the way in terms of odds for the title.
Miami (+195) are still the runaway favorites for a three-peat, and any team with LeBron James leading the way will probably be the favorites for the next few years. Dwyane Wade will probably coast through the regular season, as will Chris Bosh, but as long as these two know when to step up in the postseason, the spotlight will be on the Heat at that time of year.
Oklahoma City (+590) will have Russell Westbrook healthy and that will really help their cause as Kevin Durant tried to do far too much in the playoffs and that isn’t his game. Now, the Thunder will need someone to step up on the bench as Kevin Martin departed, leaving a void on the second unit and you need that unit to go far, especially in the deep Western Conference.
San Antonio (+1100) and Brooklyn (+1100) snuck on to the favorite list by using different methods; the Spurs re-signed Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter to make another run after taking the Heat to seven games in the Finals. Meanwhile, the Nets pulled off one of the blockbusters of the summer by trading for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry as the Celtics start to rebuild. Along with making Jason Kidd their head coach not very long after he retired, the Nets made some bold moves to boost their chances; will it pay off this season?
Houston (+1200) and Chicago (+1200) fall onto the other side of the list as they feature a couple of large unknowns. The Rockets won the Dwight Hoard sweepstakes, and now it is on the big man to help Houston take the next step, along with James Harden and Jeremy Lin. The Bulls will have Derrick Rose back and Chicago was a top challenger to Miami’s crown before the former MVP tore his ACL, but what about now? There were lots of questions about Rose’s recovery and no one knows if he’ll ever be his explosive self again.
The Los Angeles Clippers (+1400) offer some great value as they may have made the move of the offseason by luring “Doc” Rivers from Boston, and picking up J.J. Redick was a sneaky good move. He’ll be afforded the space he has never had with other teams, and Rivers will likely have him in a Ray Allen-type role, where he runs around a thousand screens to get open.
Bringing up the rear of legitimate contenders are Indiana (+1600), Golden State (+2000) and New York (+2500), although you could argue the level of legitimacy for each. Indiana can’t seem to get past Miami while the rest of the East has gotten better. They, too, could be better as Danny Granger returns. Golden State still needs to make a couple more moves, having just missed out on Howard (although they did pick up Andre Iguodala), and the Knicks are…well, the Knicks. Unless Carmelo Anthony turns into LeBron James, they’ll need a lot of help to go far. Andrea Bargnani and Metta World Peace are good additions but nobody seems to think it will truly improve their NBA betting chances.