One of the most anticipated seasons in recent NBA memory commences tonight, and there are storylines worth watching all over the place. There are heroic returns from the league’s brightest superstars; Kobe returns to the Lakers, D-Rose comes back to Chicago and of course, The King returns to his hometown Cavaliers bringing an avalanche of expectations along with him.
We are going to dive into the season with a preview column, and look to get the same results as my MLB Preview which plucked out the Baltimore Orioles at 7:1 to win the AL East, the Cardinals and Angels are division winners and delivered Kansas City as one of my three World Series value wagers at 35:1 (wouldn’t it be nice to have that to hedge off this series??). With the NBA there isn’t nearly as much variability as baseball. I can say confidently that one of five teams WILL win the NBA Title and NO ONE else is a contender worth placing a wager on. However, there are some great values in OVER/UNDER wagers. We will take a look at a few decent values.
And of course, under the radar and completely out of the media conversation are the defending champion San Antonio Spurs; an afterthought in the media buzz, and JUST the way they like it.
It’s safe to say we will not have a Finals rematch this season, so WHO will we see battle for the title? Let’s take a look into the NBA crystal ball, as well as a few of my favorite over/under wagers for win totals in 2014-2015.
NBA 2014-2015 SEASON PREVIEW
There are really only five potential plays here, so it comes down to meting out some slim value where you can find it. That leaves the Los Angeles Clippers as the team with the best value at . The Thunder will struggle earlier in the season with Kevin Durant sidelined for a little over a month which could very well be enough to push them into the #3 seed. San Antonio seems to just keep coming back no matter how many years get tacked onto the legs of Timmy Duncan, Ginobili and Parker, but interstingly, despite their five rings, the Spurs have never repeated as Champs. Sooner or later Father Time will make an impact, perhaps this is finally the year.
Either way, I like the Clippers emerging from a brutal Western Conference. This is Doc Rivers’ second season in La-La Land and his squad is finally healthy and Donald Sterling-free. Chris Paul is the best floor general in the league and he has weapons all over the place. Blake Griffin is emerging as the best power forward in the NBA and a legit MVP candidate. With his improved mid-range shooting, footwork and free throw shooting I’m not exaggerating in calling him an MVP candidate. It’s possible he and Paul will split some votes, but he’s a good flyer at some steep odds.
The improvement in Griffin makes JJ Reddick an absolutely deadly weapon on the perimeter and will preclude teams from doubling Blake with any frequency. They have great team depth and are an excellent defensive team (Reddick excluded) with Matt Barnes and DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul. The West is brutal with eleven teams that could compete for the #3 seed if they were in the East, but I’ll take the Clippers to emerge.
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OTHER NBA CHAMP VALUES:
While the whole world is handing the Cavaliers the trophy, I’m going to grab the value in the Chicago Bulls. One thing we have learned in this new era of free-agent mega-teams is that chemistry takes some time to develop. Assuming that LeBron/Love/Kyrie don’t instantly make magic, it leave no other option in the East other than Chicago. Seriously, who else COULD win the East? Toronto? Washington? Miami? It has to be the Bulls and that makes them a nice buy at 6:1
WIN TOTAL OVER/UNDER
MIAMI HEAT: OVER 43.5 – Be cautious burying the Heat too soon. I think this team could finish as high as third in the East if Dwyane Wade stays healthy (I get it – BIG IF). Prepare to be reintroduced to the greatness of Chris Bosh who will be revitalized playing with the basketball in his hands for the first time in five years. Josh McRoberts is a natural irritant to other teams, meaning at all times you have either McBob or Birdman on the floor wreaking havoc. If the Heat can get anything out of Danny Granger you could be looking at one of the deeper teams in the East and one with more star power than any outside of the Big Two. Add in the misery of their division and the lack of depth in the East and this team could win fifty games.
PHOENIX SUNS: UNDER 42.5 – Last year was a blast. They came within a game of the playoffs and would have been the fourth seed in the East. This team is pretty good and their backcourt of Dragic and Bledsoe is as good as any in the league. The problem is the West is SO GOOD. New Orleans, who will likely miss the playoffs is GOOD with arguably the third best player in the league as Anthony Davis enters his prime. My point is, they are probably no better than the 9th or 10th best team in the West. That’ll make getting over .500 a real challenge this year. They added Isiah Thomas from the Kings, but it’s hard to see where the 20/8 guy from a year ago is going to play. This team would win the Under 6’5’’ title, but unfortunately for them, there are many people that small in the NBA… I’ll take the UNDER
INDIANA PACERS: UNDER 32.5 – Not only are they decimated by the loss of Lance Stevenson and injury to Paul George, now they have David West nursing injury and missing opening night, George Hill and CJ Miles (who was slated to start) injured for the first few weeks. This thing is a DISASTER and if they are smart they will tank unabashedly. Even in the dreadful East it’ll be hard to win 30 games. Even more importantly, why would the want to?? Tank the year, add a top draft pick to a healthy PG and some cap space to add another piece (hopefully PG) and get after it in 2016. This year is a lost one. Take the UNDER.
DETROIT PISTONS: OVER 36.5 – This will be an interesting case for coaching. This team was a wreck last year, but in a vacuum, ignoring HOW the pieces FIT, this is one of the five most talented teams in the East. Brandon Jennings, Greg Monroe, Josh Smith, Andre Drummond. This SHOULD be a playoff team. And I think Stan VanGundy, though it will occasionally be exasperating, can teach this team what a good shot looks like. God knows Smith and Jennings need it, as both were in the Rudy Gay category for “least efficient player” in the league. I’m betting on Stan Van, a ton of talent, and a crappy conference. I’ll take the OVER.
OTHER QUICK PICKS:
Brooklyn Nets OVER 41.5 – When healthy, this is a good starting lineup. The Atlantic Division is terrible.
New York Knicks UNDER 40.5 – This roster is WAY worse than the Nets. They missed the playoffs last year and now lost Tyson Chandler. Uh oh…
Houston Rockets UNDER 49.5 – I just don’t think these pieces fit together well. Golden State, Portland and Dallas could all be better this year, not to mention the improving New Orleans squad. Fifty wins is asking a lot of harmony between Harden and Howard and for someone (Terrance Jones?) to fill the huge void left by Chandler Parsons.
Yeah, its most likely LeBron, but let’s say the chemistry experiment takes a year or two to evolve. That leaves a few outside candidates as a decent value. Here’s my faves.
Blake Griffin – 14:1 – If the Clippers win the West, this could very well be the guy
Kevin Durant – 13:2 – Let’s say the Thunder are a few games under .500 without Durant and then storm back to win 60 games. No better way to stake a case for “value” and KD could capture his second straight MVP.
Joakim Noah 100:1 – I LOVE the sneaky value in this pick. Look, is Noah going to win the MVP? Probably not. But if the Bulls win the East and Noah is clearly the floor leader of the team?? It’s possible. Especially with some of the advanced metrics that calculate value that adore Joakim’s overall contributions.
It’s going to be an awesome season of NBA action, so be sure to visit us daily for picks and analysis all season long! Good luck everyone, and let’s have a great year!