By: Nick Camino
There are two ways to look at the recently released odds to win the 2014-2015 NBA Championship in virtually every Las Vegas sportsbook:
1. The obvious way is that the Cleveland Cavaliers have the best odds to win the NBA title this upcoming season.
2. Or, the analytical way, in that if you know the workings of “Sin City” and exactly how they determine those odds, as well as a little NBA history; the wine and gold are anything but favorites to actually win it all.
The biggest offseason in the history of the NBA, in which the Cavaliers welcomed back LeBron James and resigned Kyrie Irving to a long-term extension, received a tremendous final touch on Aug. 23 when three-time All-Star Kevin Love was officially traded to Cleveland from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The same Kevin Love who is only 25-years-old. The same Kevin Love who is coming off of his best-career season in which he averaged 26.1 points per game, as well as 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists.
James, who a case could be made for NBA Executive of the Year, has helped bring together himself and Love, along with other veterans like Mike Miller, Shawn Marion, sharp-shooter James Jones and maybe still Ray Allen, and teamed them up with a young nucleus of talent in Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson, as well as friend and former teammate Anderson Varejao.
An absolute overhaul. An amazing infusion of talent. The perfect mix of star-power, young talent and experienced veterans.
Whatever you want to call it, the Cavs went from the outhouse in the Eastern Conference to the penthouse. From a team who hasn’t sniffed the NBA postseason since James left four years ago to a reserved spot in the Eastern Conference Final. But, let’s be careful in listing them as the “favorite” to win the NBA Championship.
First, let’s keep in mind a few things.
The oddsmakers in Vegas are much smarter than we are. The billions and billions of dollars spent on lavish hotels, bright lights, excessive casinos, extravagant restaurants as well as amazing pools and architecture does not come from losing to the public. Over an extended period of time, “John Q. Public” (you, me and the rest of the country) has no chance against the books in Vegas.
So, despite seeing the most recent odds to win the 2014-2015 NBA Championship that look like this:
Cleveland Cavaliers 16/5
San Antonio Spurs 4/1
Oklahoma City Thunder 6/1
Chicago Bulls 10/1
Los Angeles Clippers 12/1
Houston Rockets 22/1
Golden State Warriors 30/1
(In case you were wondering, the Philadelphia 76ers are listed with the worst odds in the NBA at 650/1).
Despite those odds, the Cavs are not actually the “favorite” in the eyes of Vegas. The various sportsbooks are only protecting themselves and reacting to the immense amount of action they are getting on Cleveland to win it all.
“John Q. Public” is enamored with the new-look Cavs. The addition of Kevin Love helps fuel that, but mainly it is the return of “The King” that is causing the bettors to plunk down their not so hard-earned cash on the Cavaliers.
Sportsbooks and casinos are simply protecting themselves from all of the action they expect to get on the Cavs due to people’s overwhelming excitement.
So yes, while the Cavs are “favorites” in Vegas sportsbooks…it’s simply to protect themselves from all the money that is being bet on Cleveland.
Could you imagine if Vegas had kept the Cavaliers at 50/1 odds like they were prior to James coming back?
There would be no more Vegas. The “Sin City” would become the “Winners Circle” and that just doesn’t happen in the desert. Sorry to ruin your dream.
Now, let’s get out of the casino and head over to the hardwood.
Yes, James is back. The new “Big 3” with the four-time MVP, Love and Irving immediately makes the Cavs a contender. But forget Vegas, even in basketball terms, can they really be seen as a favorite?
Along with a new group of players that will probably take time to gel and acclimate to each other, the Cavs have a new head coach in David Blatt. Not to mention two of the new “Big 3,” Irving or Love, have never even been to the NBA Playoffs.
Meanwhile, the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs welcome back virtually every player from a team about as fundamentally sound as we’ve seen in years and embarrassed James and the Miami Heat in the finals. The Oklahoma City Thunder still have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook teamed up with players who actually have playoff experience. The Chicago Bulls were a playoff team even without former MVP Derrick Rose, who has fully recovered from another knee injury. And, we’re not even mentioning talented teams like the Clippers, Rockets, Warriors, Mavericks and Trailblazers who were all playoff teams this past season and should only get better.
History also shows us winning an NBA title with new players in the first year is very rare.
Most recently in 2010, James did not immediately win with his cast of All-Stars his first year in South Beach.
The San Antonio Spurs won titles in 2003, 2005 and 2007, but ’03 was not the first year Tony Parker teamed up with Tim Duncan and the rest of the Spurs. Parker joined San Antonio in 2001 and Manu Ginobli didn’t join the Spurs until 2002.
Digging even deeper into the history books Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant teamed up in 1996 and did not win the NBA Championship until four years later in 2000.
Yes, the infusion of talent here in Cleveland is amazing and it probably will boost them immediately into the Eastern Conference Finals in a weak conference where the only threats appear to be the Bulls and Wizards; but that is still far from an NBA title.
This offseason has been unbelievable to witness for the Cavaliers. Relevant basketball has returned to downtown Cleveland. But, while Vegas has the Cavs listed as “favorites” and the fans are gushing with excitement, winning an NBA title in this first upcoming season will be much more difficult than it appears.
Remember, Vegas doesn’t lose and the Cavs simply do not have history on their side.
- Nick Camino