NBA Offseason Odds: Writing the 2017-18 Script

LeBron James vs the Wizards
LeBron James (Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en])

Even though the Cavaliers postponed the inevitable in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, the 2016-17 season went exactly according to script, if you’re looking big picture. The Warriors and Cavs met in the finals for the third straight time, as expected; Russell Westbrook had a monster season after Kevin Durant left OKC, as expected; and New York knickerbocked all over the front of its blouse, as expected.

If you were thoroughly bored by the festivities, you weren’t alone. The year was pretty well devoid of surprises. Not even a single coach got fired!

Some things are going to stay the same in 2018. Hate to break it to you, but the Warriors are heading straight back to the finals unless San Antonio can assemble its own superteam (more on this below), and Westbrook is going to keep his preposterously high usage rate unless the Thunder add a premier free agent like Blake Griffin (more on this below).

But I’ll be damned if we’re going another year without a coach getting canned! As that nameless officer in Top Gun yelled after Maverick’s circus-stunt fly-by, “I want some butts!

Odds are that I’ll get some (more on this below). Who will it be? Keep reading for the odds, along with an aircraft carrier’s worth of other props for the 2017-18 NBA season.


TEAM PROPS

Odds to win the 2017-18 NBA title

  • Warriors: 5/6
  • Spurs: 11/2
  • Cavaliers: 6/1
  • Celtics: 19/1
  • Rockets: 22/1
  • FIELD: 14/1

Steph Curry and Kevin Durant could both leave the Warriors in free agency this summer. It’s equally likely that my skinny, 5’10-frame gets signed to a multi-million dollar deal. All indications are that the Warriors’ big-four will reunite next year, so pencil them in for another 67 wins or so.

San Antonio is the league’s best hope for “parity” (which, in this context, means any team that can compete with Golden State). If the Spurs can add the likes of Chris Paul and a quality big, they should be able to at least push Golden State in a best-of-seven.

Despite a Game 4 rout, the 2017 finals showed  that Cleveland is a piece or two short of competing with KD and co. Unfortunately, they won’t have the cap space to do much about it, unless they move Kevin Love. Their better tack may be to replace coach Ty Lue with a defensive mastermind who can turn Love and Kyrie Irving into serviceable players at that end of the floor. Too bad Gregg Popovich already has a job.

The Celtics’ current odds reflect a middle ground between Option A, in which they use their cap space and 2018 first-round pick (via the Nets) to sign/trade for the likes of Gordon Hayward and/or Paul George and/or Jimmy Butler, and Option B, in which they retain all their draft picks and aim to become the Eastern Conference power when LeBron finally fades.

Odds of a Cavaliers/Warriors rematch in the 2017-18 NBA Finals: 1/1

Odds neither the Cavaliers nor Warriors make the 2017-18 NBA Finals: 11/1

What a ridiculous state of affairs. It’s about six times more likely that we see the Cavs and Warriors meet for the fourth straight year than witness a finals without either team. At least there should be some turnover at the bottom of the bracket, speaking of which …

Most likely non-playoff teams to make the 2018 post-season

  • Heat: 1/2
  • 76ers: 4/5
  • Timberwolves: 1/1
  • Pelicans: 6/5
  • Mavericks: 8/5

Goran Dragic vs Washington
Goran Dragic (Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en])
The Heat started last year 11-30, yet finished at .500 and only missed out on the postseason because they lost the tiebreaker to the Bulls. Now the rumors are that they’re going after Gordon Hayward in free agency. Even if they don’t land a big name in the FA market, 2017 playoff teams like Indiana, Chicago, and Atlanta could fall off a cliff.

There isn’t going to be as much turnover in the West. But the Blazers are poised to fall out and the T-Wolves should finally start to turn their embarrassment of young talent into wins. There could be room for more new playoff blood if the Clippers blow it up.

Most likely playoff teams to miss the 2018 post-season

  • Trail Blazers: 2/3
  • Pacers: 1/1
  • Bulls: 1/1
  • Grizzlies: 5/3 
  • Clippers: 5/3
  • Hawks: 5/2
  • Thunder: 7/3

Over/Under Warriors 2017-18 regular-season wins: 66.5

Hitting the over means matching or bettering last year’s win total. It’s a crazy number for an NBA O/U, but there’s no reason to set it any lower. Last season featured key injuries plus Steve Kerr resting his stars at times. This Dubs team could sleepwalk to 60 wins.

PLAYER/COACH PROPS

Odds to win 2017-18 MVP

  • Kawhi Leonard (Spurs): 11/2
  • James Harden (Rockets): 6/1
  • LeBron James (Cavaliers): 6/1
  • Russell Westbrook (Thunder): 8/1
  • Kevin Durant (Warriors): 9/1
  • Stephen Curry (Warriors): 12/1
  • John Wall (Wizards): 22/1
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks): 25/1
  • Anthony Davis (Pelicans): 25/1
  • Karl Anthony Towns (Timberwolves): 35/1
  • Isaiah Thomas (Celtics): 35/1
  • FIELD: 4/1

Westbrook is going to win the award this year, and a lot of voters are going to feel like Harden and/or Leonard got robbed. The novelty of averaging a triple-double will wear off by next season, while advanced stats — which show that Harden was more efficient than Russ — will continue to come to the fore.

Look for Leonard, the most complete player in the league, to get a strong push as he plays the role of shining knight in the 2017-18 rendition of Anyone But The Warriors.

Odds to win 2017-18 NBA Rookie of the Year

  • Ben Simmons (76ers): 9/2
  • Lonzo Ball (UCLA): 6/1
  • Markelle Fultz (Washington): 13/2 
  • Josh Jackson (Kansas): 8/1
  • Jayson Tatum (Duke): 8/1
  • De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky): 8/1
  • Malik Monk (Kentucky): 10/1
  • FIELD: 17/2
Ben Simmons with LSU
Ben Simmons with LSU (Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire)

Every so often a non-top-five pick, like Michael Carter-Williams (2014), emerges and wins the ROY. But a quick scroll through the history of the award reveals a lot of very early draftees. Of the last 13 winners, 11 heard their names called in the top five. There’s a pretty strong consensus on the top five prospects in this year’s draft class: Fultz, Ball, Jackson, Tatum, and Fox. Throw in Simmons, last year’s first-overall pick, and Monk, who could be pushed into the top-five because of team needs, and you have a seven-player list that should include the winner.

Simmons enters the year as the favorite. The obvious downside with him is health after he missed the entirety of what should have been his rookie season with a foot injury. The upside is that he was able to spend last season getting familiar with the Philly offense and learning the pro game from the sideline. It was basically a redshirt year for the Aussie, much like the prior two seasons were for his teammate Joel Embiid. Look how that turned out.

Without knowing where the 2017 draftees are going to land (apart from Ball, whose Laker jersey might as well be available in the team store already) it’s hard to predict who will star in their first year. So much depends on fit. If Fultz goes to Boston, he won’t have the same usage rate as, say, Monk with a team like Philly, where he would be counted on to make shots from day one.

Next NBA coach fired

  • Jeff Hornacek (Knicks): 8/1
  • Alvin Gentry (Pelicans): 8/1
  • Fred Hoiberg (Bulls): 17/2
  • Stan Van Gundy (Pistons): 17/2
  • Nate McMillan (Pacers): 10/1
  • Doc Rivers (Clippers): 10/1
  • Earl Watson (Suns): 12/1
  • Tyronn Lue (Cavaliers): 15/1
  • Dwane Casey (Raptors): 15/1
  • Brett Brown (76ers): 15/1
  • FIELD: 7/1

The names at the top have two things in common: (1) they coach teams whose owners/fans who won’t tolerate any more losing, and (2) they coach teams that will, in all likelihood, continue to lose. But with so many guys on the hot-seat entering the offseason, there’s no true front-runner to be out of work first.

Odds Manu Ginobili retires prior to start of 2017-18 season: 4/5

Much like his on-court game, Ginobili’s brought his trademarked caginess to questions on retirement. Soon to be 40, odds are that Father Time finally beats the Argentinian. If he does come back, it’ll obviously be on another one-year deal with the Spurs. There’s no chance he retires wearing anything but silver and black. The same can’t be said of 2017’s other big-name free agents …

Odds on Dwyane Wade’s team to start 2017-18 season

  • Bulls: 2/3
  • Heat: 5/1
  • Cavs: 6/1
  • FIELD: 9/1

Odds on Carmelo Anthony’s team to start 2017-18 season

  • Knicks: 4/1
  • Celtics: 5/1
  • Cavaliers: 6/1
  • Clippers: 8/1
  • FIELD: 3/2

Odds on Chris Paul’s team to start 2017-18 season

  • Clippers: 3/5
  • Spurs: 5/2
  • Field: 9/1

Odds on Blake Griffin’s team to start 2017-18 season

  • Clippers: 3/5
  • Thunder: 5/1
  • Celtics: 5/1
  • FIELD: 19/1

Odds on Gordon Hayward’s team to start 2017-18 season

  • Jazz: 2/3
  • Celtics: 5/2
  • Heat: 15/1
  • FIELD: 18/1

2017 NBA DRAFT PROPS

Odds to be the no. 1-overall  pick in the 2017 NBA draft

  • Markelle Fultz (Washington): 1/5
  • Lonzo Ball (UCLA): 7/1
  • FIELD: 19/1

Whether the Celtics hold onto the pick or not, Fultz is going no. 1. He’s the best prospect available, with both an extremely high upside and very safe floor.

Over/under draft position for …

  • Markelle Fultz (Washington): 1.5
  • Lonzo Ball (UCLA): 2
  • Josh Jackson (Kansas): 3.5
  • Jayson Tatum (Duke): 4
  • De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky): 4.5
  • Malik Monk (Kentucky): 6.5

Over/under international players drafted the first round: 3.5

By “international,” we’re talking about guys who didn’t play in the NCAA. So we’re looking at a couple locks — Frank Ntilikina (France) and Terrance Ferguson (Australia, by way of Tulsa) — and a couple maybes — Isaiah Hartenstein (Germany) and Anzejs Pasecniks (Latvia). French center Jonathan Jeanne was poised to be the third lock, but tragically saw his stock fall when he was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome. Meanwhile Pasecniks countryman Rodions Kurucs withdrew his name from the draft.

Over/under number of Big Baller Brand Z02s sold by the NBA draft (June 22, 11:59 PM ET): 950.5

Lonzo Ball at UCLA (Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)

Lonzo Ball’s signature shoes only sold about 400 pairs their first week, with sales steeply declining. If they hit a thousand by the draft, LaVar should be ecstatic.