Last month we questioned the decision of several leading online sportsbooks to choose the Cleveland Cavaliers as the favorite to win the 2015 NBA championship. Given that circumstances have changed, we’re going back on that judgment.
Last month this website ran an article critical of NBA oddsmakers who tabbed the Cleveland Cavaliers as the favorite to win the 2015 NBA finals following the announcement that Lebron James would return to the team.
Bookmakers from Bet365 to BetVictor put the Cavaliers ahead of such titans as the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, a decision which we considered to be misguided. Lebron is certainly the best basketball player on Earth but no player can single-handedly take a bottom-dweller to NBA finals favorite in a single year.
But we spoke too soon, as those tricky Cavaliers pulled off another stunning move: last week they announced a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves that would bring star forward Kevin Love to Cleveland to fill the role of Lebron’s main sidekick.
Love in Cleveland
• Bet365 is giving the Cavaliers 4-1 odds of winning the 2015 NBA championship
• The team recently added stars Lebron James and Kevin Love
• Other teams to bet on are the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder
While we criticized bookies giving top odds to the Cavaliers we mentioned that they could become the legitimate favorites with another high-profile move. That move came last week when the Cavaliers traded rookie Andrew Wiggins along with second-year forward Anthony Bennett and a future first round pick for all-star forward Kevin Love.
The deal is exactly what the Cavs needed to bolster Lebron James. They swapped two talented but unproven players for Love, an established star who is one of the best offensive players in the NBA, hands-down, and is arguably the best player that Lebron has ever played with (sorry Dwayne Wade!)
Bringing him into the fold gives Cleveland a core of James, Love and brash young point guard Kyrie Irving. The three of them are offensive geniuses that should combine for about 70 points per game, meaning that the rest of the team can focus on playing defense and making open shots.
Pairing Love with Lebron will be very interesting, as the latter’s slashing and post-up ability should lead to a lot of open shots for the former. Lebron is most comfortable when he can focus on creating opportunities for teammates, and Love is at his best when he has a skilled playmaker finding him open shots on the perimeter. It looks like a match made in heaven.
There are some downsides, however. This team will struggle defensively, with Lebron being their only proven defensive anchor. Love is borderline useless on defense. And they are still a young team; neither Love nor Irving have ever been to the playoffs. These guys have a lot to prove before they can be called contenders.
What it means for bookmakers
Take a look at the most recent basketball futures odds from online sportsbook in the UK Bet365. They have Cleveland with a 3-1 chance of winning the 2015 NBA finals, followed by the reigning champion San Antonio Spurs at 4-1, the Oklahoma City Thunder at 11-2 and the Chicago Bulls at 15-2.
Canadian bookmaker Bovada is favoriting the Cavs with 5-2 odds followed by the Spurs at 5-1 and the Thunder at 6-1. They bumped the Cavs up from what had already by a league-leading 4-1 position.
How realistic does this look? Very. What looked like a stupid decision one week ago now looks like a very smart one. The NBA tends to be a league of incumbency; the Spurs were the best team last year and it’s hard to argue why they won’t be the best team once again.
But the Cavs are now the league’s most talented team and have as good a chance as anyone. Actually if it were us, we would put the Cavaliers and Spurs neck-and-neck for the 2015 championship. As a sports bettor, either way you can’t go wrong.
Things also stand to get very interest for those who enjoying placing prop bets. These days props are perfect because mobile betting apps like the ones offered by Bet365 and BetVictor allow use to make wagers and check information anywhere, anytime.
During the a game you and your friends can bet on things like how many points Love will score, how many assists Lebron will get, and which of the two stars will lead the team in scoring. The two of them combined bring more prop betting options to the table than any duo in recent memory.
Are the new-look Cavaliers good for the NBA?
The Lebron and Love to Cleveland deals are certainly good for the team, the city and for sports bettors everywhere. But is good for the NBA overall? This looks like another “super team” on the mold of the previous Lebron-led bunch in Miami, and that wasn’t something that was all that popular with the fans.
As much as people love to watch stars, most fans would prefer to see teams build organically (as the Spurs and Thunder have) rather than by buying or trading for multiple star players. Something about that feels cheap and artificial.
This situation is a bit different from others, however. Cleveland is a hard-edge northern industrial city, not a warm and sunny celebrity magnet like Los Angeles, Miami or New York (not so warm and sunny, but you get the point). And it represents the homecoming of the prodigal son Lebron James, one of the best sports stories we’ve heard in a long time.
It’s fantastic for the NBA! Fans and sportsbettors should rejoice; whether or not the Cavaliers win the NBA finals next year (they’ll get several chances), watching them play is going to be tons of fun!