If you're a basketball fan who revels in the soap opera of player movement in the offseason, then Houston has been a pretty good place to be for the last half decade or so. The Dwight Howard Chase of 2013, the failed Chris Bosh Chase the following year, the Ty Lawson deal in 2015, the Chris Paul trade in 2018, and now everything that's going on over at Toyota Center the last few weeks. I mean, sure, no rings, but damn, there's never a dull a moment!
Which brings us to the last few days, where nothing new has really happened with the Rockets — Mike D'Antoni's contract extension is still in a holding pattern, Chris Paul and James Harden still need time to cool off, and trade rumors abound. However, the league round them, specifically the Western Conference, has been turned upside down.
We've seen two catastrophic injuries to the Golden State Warriors (Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson) that threaten their ability to even make the playoffs next year. We've seen Kawhi Leonard finish his business in Toronto with a title, which might make a move to, say, the Clippers more likely. Finally, Anthony Davis is now a Laker, having been traded by the Pelicans for three players and three first round picks.
The draft is this Thursday, and then the free agency pay window opens a week or so after that, but already the oddsmakers in Las Vegas are baking in projected player movement into the 2019-202 NBA Title odds. Here are the latest odds, as of Monday, at the Westgate in Las Vegas:
LA Lakers 3/1
LA Clippers 7/1
Golden State 12/1
Oklahoma City 20/1
New York 50/1
San Antonio 60/1
New Orleans 60/1
Ok, there's a LOT to unpack here:
The Lakers are the favorites? WHAT?!?
Yeah, they made a trade for Anthony Davis, and yeah that gives them two of the top ten players in the league, but Davis misses on average about 15 games a season, and LeBron James (at age 35, by midseason) is beginning to show signs of wear and tear. Also, there's the small matter of filling out the rest of the roster. Just five Lakers are under contract right now, and they have $23 million in cap space.
Kawhi Leonard is believed to be headed to the Clippers.... but Toronto is still 10/1
The oddsmakers are not ready to give away free money on either of the two favorites to land Kawhi — the Clippers and the Raptors — so they're keeping the odds short on both. A bet on the Clippers at 6/1 is a bad bet even if they DO land Kawhi. If they don't land him, it's a dead ticket. I actually think the Raptors at 10/1 is a decent bet. If they land Kawhi, you're sitting on a tremendous value, and it looks like the worm is turingin in their favor in the Kawhi chase.
The Rockets at 8/1 sound about right
As much as the soap opera has been swirling over at Toyota Center, the reality is that, as currently comprised, and with the Warriors now banged up and sitting at 12/1, the Rockets are in a really good spot in the West, provided that the James Harden/Chris Paul rift is just your normal, competitive beefing among teammates and not something toxic.
Boston's window is closed
Man, a couple years ago, Boston was sitting on a ton of draft capital, a deep roster with a great mix of youth and experience, and room to nab a star in free agency. Now, they just watched Kyrie Irving walk out the door and may be overly in love with their young assets, passing on trades for bigger stars like Kawhi Leonard and, most recently, Anthony Davis. Life comes at you pretty fast.
Brooklyn is getting somebody, probably Kyrie
Man, the last time Brooklyn was as short as 25/1 to win the title, they probably had Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce on the roster. It looks like this is where Kyrie Irving is going to land, but with Kyrie still in his mid-late 20's, this should be a little different than the last time the Nets landed some former Boston assets.
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New York is in no man's land
If the Knicks don't sign any free agents, they should be in the 200/1 group. If they sign a free agent, it's probably Kevin Durant, who will assuredly be sitting out 2019-2020 to recover from his Achilles tear. So plunking them down at 50/1 feels like they have no clue what to do with the Knicks, which makes Vegas pretty much like the Knicks' fan base.
The 200/1 long shots are fascinating
Six teams sit with the longest odds of 200/1, and each is morbidly intriguing:
* Detroit is maybe the most depressing team in basketball, with max deals committed to flawed bigs Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, and overpriced Reggie Jackson running the point.
* Charlotte is about to decide whether to offer a super max deal to Kemba Walker, whose had two seasons above .500 in eight years in Charlotte.
* Miami and Cleveland both would be wastelands this decade, if not for LeBron James.
* Washington is about to experience John Wall on a super max. Fun, fun!
* Minnesota was considered a rising power in the West two years ago, with a bunch of young talent and Tom Thibodeau running things. Now they're 200/1 to win the title.