So I guess there's still NBA basketball left to be played. I just assumed that by the time we'd gone like a month without a game, the season had been declared "OVER" and Adam Silver had announced that Cleveland and Golden State are co-champions. But apparently we are going to be playing more basketball starting tonight. Who knew?!?
In all seriousness, the NBA Finals do begin tonight and from a star power standpoint, this is about as good a series as we could expect when you consider a) the East was a hot mess of mediocrity all season, b) a hot mess of mediocrity that put us in danger of having a one seeded Atlanta team whose best player is…Al Horford? Jeff Teague?…in the NBA Finals, and c) injuries have ravaged these NBA Playoffs in a way that I can't ever remember happening in my NBA-watching career.
So we get Steph Curry, the reigning MVP, versus LeBron James, the universally accepted "best player on the planet." It's maybe the best "star versus star" matchup in an NBA Finals since Larry Bird versus Magic Johnson in the late '80s. As a mirror image, it probably most closely resembles 1993 or 1997 when Charles Barkley and Karl Malone, respectively, were MVPs going against Michael Jordan, who was generally believed to be the greatest player in the world.
So let's knock out a preview here, and let's do it in the language that I speak best — prop bets!
STAR PLAYERS BETS
So how will the star players perform in this series? Let's start with Curry. It looks like his counterpart Kyrie Irving is going to play through knee and foot injuries that forced him out of most of the Eastern Conference Finals. Who knows how those injuries will respond to a week of rest? I'd expect Cleveland head coach Dave Blatt to throw a multitude of options at Curry to keep Irving fresh offensively (Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, maybe even James in spots). Curry will be challenged more in this series than he was against the Rockets (which, when you consider that he was being checked by Jason Terry in the WCF is like saying, "It's colder in Alaska than it is in Texas.").
Average Fourth Round Points per Game - Stephen Curry
Will Stephen Curry (GSW) lead the Golden State Warriors in Scoring Outright in every game of the 2015 NBA FINALS?
Yes +125 (5/4)
No -175 (4/7)
Highest 1 Game Point Total - Stephen Curry
BET: OVER (I still think Curry has at least one "go off" game
As for LeBron, he's looked more like Kobe Bryant than Magic Johnson in these playoffs, with the highest usage rate of his career and games where he has just flat out been chucking. His outside shooting has been abysmal (under 20 percent from three point range), and his saving grace has been his ability to get into the lane at will. I can't wait to watch Draymond Green check him (Golden State's best option, easily). I'll go over on most anything involving James just piling up numbers.
Average Fourth Round Points per Game - LeBron James
Will LeBron James lead the Cleveland Cavaliers in Scoring Outright in every game of the 2015 NBA FINALS?
Yes +125 (5/4)
No -175 (4/7)
Highest 1 Game Point Total - LeBron James
Will LeBron James Record a Triple Double in the 2015 NBA Championship?
Yes EVEN (1/1)
No -130 (10/13)
Needless to say, with Kevin Love done for the season and Irving banged up, LeBron is kind of rubbing two sticks together while Curry has the ZIPPO lighter of Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and a solid bench as his supporting cast. Here are my favorite "supporting cast" prop bets:
Average Fourth Round Points per Game - Klay Thompson
Average Fourth Round Points per Game - Harrison Barnes
Average Fourth Round Rebounds per Game - Andrew Bogut
Average Fourth Round Rebounds per Game - Tristan Thompson
Three games into the Western Conference Finals, I figured the Warriors had a great chance to sweep whoever came out of the East. I saw enough things in the final two games against the Rockets to see some fallibility with Golden State, but not enough to move me off of picking them. I think that LeBron is an amazing player and this season might be his finest work, considering he's taken a bunch of hastily assembled parts on a team that had been a perennial lottery team and they plowed through the East. BUT it's the East. I can't let myself get clouded with just how awful that conference is. The stage is clearly not too big for the Warriors. I think LeBron gets one game in Cleveland, and I don't think the Warriors are losing a home game to a team whose second most dangerous player is either gimpy Irving or crazy J.R. Smith.
NBA PLAYOFFS CHAMPIONSHIP - SERIES PRICES
Cleveland Cavaliers (Series Prices) +170 (17/10)
Golden State Warriors (Series Prices) -200 (1/2)
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Series Exact Result
Cleveland Cavaliers 4-0 18/1
Cleveland Cavaliers 4-1 12/1
Cleveland Cavaliers 4-2 5/1
Cleveland Cavaliers 4-3 6/1
Golden State Warriors 4-0 8/1
Golden State Warriors 4-1 7/2
Golden State Warriors 4-2 4/1
Golden State Warriors 4-3 13/5
BET: WARRIORS 4-1
Odds to win 2015 NBA Finals MVP
Stephen Curry (GSW) 5/8
LeBron James (CLE) 17/10
Klay Thompson (GSW) 12/1
Kyrie Irving (CLE) 12/1
Draymond Green (GSW) 14/1
JR Smith (CLE) 30/1
Harrison Barnes (GSW) 40/1
Tristan Thompson (CLE) 40/1
Andrew Bogut (GSW) 100/1
Andre Iguodala (GSW) 125/1
Timofey Mozgov (CLE) 200/1
BET: GREEN 14/1
(NOTE: The MVP will probably be Curry, but Green is a much better value, especially if they put him on James and he does a bang-up job. Keep in mind, I'm the one who gave you Kawhi Leonard as the MVP sleeper last season, for largely the same reasons I'm giving for Green.)
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.