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2018 NBA Championship Odds: LeBron Still the East Favorite Post-Deadline

LeBron James looking up at the scoreboard
This could be LeBron James' last stand in Cleveland. Photo by Keith Allison (Flickr) [CC License]
  • LeBron James and the Cavaliers remain the Eastern Conference favorites.
  • Is it worth betting against the Warriors in the West? 
  • How did the 2018 NBA Title odds change after the NBA Trade Deadline?

Ahead of the NBA Trade Deadline, the Cleveland Cavaliers had dropped 14 of their last 22 games, including blowout losses against the Timberwolves (28 points), Raptors (34 points), Thunder (24 points), Rockets (32 points), and even the 18-36 Magic (18 points). Thanks to an older, lethargic roster that was struggling to keep up with LeBron James in the fastbreak and could not defend, it appeared the power in the East was finally shifting.

But then came the 2018 NBA Trade Deadline. The Cleveland Cavaliers acted as both buyers and sellers, trading away a whopping six players, including Isaiah Thomas to the Lakers. How did the roster makeover affect the 2018 NBA Championship Odds?

Cavaliers Remain Eastern Conference Favorites

While trying to figure out who fits where on the Cavaliers’ new roster may have you feeling like you’re watching a murder-mystery, one player – the most important player – remains: LeBron James. The four-time MVP has been to seven consecutive NBA Finals, and sports betting sites are not ready to count him out of number eight.

Ridding the roster of Isaiah Thomas alleviates locker-room tension, and means more possessions will start with the ball in LeBron James’ hands. The departures of Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, and Channing Frye signal a necessary shift towards a faster, younger roster. Three of the newcomers – Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr, and Rodney Hood – are 25 years old and very athletic, while 31-year-old George Hill brings defense and another guard who can effectively play off the ball.

Out In
Isaiah Thomas Larry Nance Jr
Jae Crowder Jordan Clarkson
Derrick Rose Rodney Hood
Dwyane Wade George Hill
Iman Shumpert
Channing Frye

Even though Cleveland’s odds are a little longer compared to our last update, it’s clear sportsbooks believe LeBron will make it work with all the new faces – at least against Eastern Conference competition.

James and the Cavaliers are not worth betting on to win the 2018 NBA Championship.

However, even with the slightly longer odds, James and the Cavaliers are not worth betting on to win the 2018 NBA Championship. Both Boston and Toronto look strong in the East, and it’s likely Cleveland will run into both in the postseason. Even if LeBron is able to lift his team to a fourth straight NBA Finals appearance, the West is too strong. The Warriors or Rockets would make quick work of the Cavs, and I’d also bet on them losing to the Spurs (with Kawhi Leonard), Timberwolves, and Thunder.

If you believe there is value in betting the Cavaliers to avenge their 2017 NBA Finals defeat, you’ll find them at +750. But I’d advise betting the Celtics or Raptors, who actually possess value at anywhere from +1200 to +2500.

Can Anyone Take Down the Warriors?

In spite of losing three of their last five, including two by 20-plus, sportsbooks are not willing to budge on the Warriors’ odds to win the 2018 NBA Championship. Golden State’s average odds remain at -215. I wouldn’t expect to get odds much longer than that all season, either. While those short odds don’t present much value, you have to ask the question, is there another team in the West capable of beating the Warriors.

The answer is quite simple: no! I understand the Warriors have slipped a little lately, but this is a team that is both physically and mentally exhausted right now. Golden State has played deep into June in each of the last three seasons, and are more concerned with being healthy come playoff time than winning every regular-season game.

The only way the Golden State Warriors do not win the 2018 NBA Championship is if one of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, or Draymond Green are unable to play.

Keep in mind, this is almost the exact same roster that walked through the Western Conference playoffs without a single loss, and their lone defeat in the NBA Finals was a result of a miraculous barrage of three-pointers from the Cavaliers. You’ll see Steph Curry and company turn it on when the postseason arrives. The only way the Golden State Warriors do not win the 2018 NBA Championship is if one of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, or Draymond Green are unable to play.

If you just don’t see the value in betting the Warriors at -175, there are only two other teams to consider: the Rockets and Spurs. If you’ve waited this long to bet Houston, you’ve wasted a ton of value. Their average odds to win the 2018 NBA Championship are now +520, compared to +890 on October 30th. But if there’s any team in the NBA who can match the Warriors’ offensive onslaughts, it’s James Harden and the Rockets. If you like Houston’s live-and-die by the three mentality, you’ll want to grab the +525 odds that exist out there on them.


James Harden laying the ball up
With James Harden leading the way, the Rockets are shooting an NBA-high 42.6 three-pointers per game. Photo by Keith Allison (Flickr) [CC License].

The better value of the two lies with the San Antonio Spurs, whose average odds to win the 2018 NBA Championship are +2500. Even though Kawhi Leonard has only played nine games this season, the Spurs still sit third in the West with a 35-21 record. I’m not buying into the reports of a “disconnect” between Leonard and the team. Instead, I’m choosing to remember the way San Antonio was dominating Golden State in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals last season, before Zaza Pachulia took Leonard out of the series. If there’s any coach in the NBA who can out-scheme the Warriors, it’s Gregg Popovich.

But like I said, my money sits with the Warriors.

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