- The NBA season is two-thirds done and it’s becoming easier to separate the contenders from the pretenders.
- The red-hot Raptors have emerged as the biggest threat to the Cavaliers in the East.
- The Warriors will need to snap out of their mid-season malaise to win their third title in four years.
The NBA trade deadline has come and gone and sportsbooks like Bovada [go to Bovada review] have responded to the flurry of moves across the league by recalibrating their futures odds. They’ve given the Cleveland Cavaliers a nudge following their aggressive roster overhaul and have boosted the Rockets in light of their recent hot streak.
We’ve analyzed Bovada’s Eastern and Western Conference rankings and analyzed whether they reflect our own odds for the top three contenders in each conference.
2018 Eastern Conference Odds (per Bovada)
- Cleveland Cavaliers: -135 (37/50)
- Boston Celtics: +265 (53/20)
- Toronto Raptors: +450 (9/2)
- Washington Wizards: +1600 (16/1)
- Milwaukee Buck: +1600 (16/1)
- Philadelphia 76ers: +2200 (22/1)
- Miami Heat: +4500 (45/1)
- Detroit Pistons: +6000 (60/1)
- Indiana Pacers: +6000 (60/1)
- Charlotte Hornets: +20000 (200/1)
So much for needing time to gel. The new-look Cavs have looked outstanding in their first two games together, scoring 120.5 points per outing in a pair of resounding wins over the Celtics and Thunder. Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood have given Cleveland instant offense off the bench, George Hill has provided a steady presence at the point, and Larry Nance Jr. has been able to hound wings and bigs alike with his quick feet and active hands. The most noticeable difference of all, however, has been in the play of LeBron James, who has looked energized and engaged for the first time in weeks.
Cleveland is far from infallible, but for now at least they remain the best team in the East.
MTS Eastern Conference Odds: -150 (2/3)
If anyone is capable of preventing LeBron from reaching his eighth straight Finals, it’s the Raptors. Toronto has won seven straight games and is finally sharing the wealth on offense after years of relying too heavily on Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. The team’s two All-Stars are still there when they need them, but the Raps are infinitely harder to stop now that Dwane Casey can call plays for emerging role players like Jakob Poeltl, OG Anunoby, and Fred VanVleet. Ignore this team at your own peril.
MTS Eastern Conference Odds: +400 (4/1)
No contender has struggled more in 2018 than the Celtics, who have gone 10-9 since January 1st and have lost four of their last five games. Boston’s defense continues to be exemplary, but the team has struggled to score when Kyrie Irving sits, and could desperately use another playmaker capable of getting buckets for themselves and others. Gordon Hayward will eventually fill that role, but Brad Stevens and co. will likely have to wait until next year until he’s available.
MTS Eastern Conference Odds: +350 (7/2)
2018 Western Conference Odds (per Bovada)
- Golden State Warriors: -300 (1/3)
- Houston Rockets: +300 (3/1)
- Oklahoma City Thunder: +1200 (12/1)
- San Antonio Spurs: +1500 (15/1)
- Minnesota Timberwolves: +2500 (25/1)
- Denver Nuggets: +7500 (75/1)
- Utah Jazz: +10000 (100/1)
- Portland Trail Blazers: +10000 (100/1)
- New Orleans Pelicans: +12500 (125/1)
- Los Angeles Clippers: +20000 (200/1)
Golden State Warriors
We’re so used to watching the Warriors steamroll opponents that it’s been almost disorientating to see them stumble against lesser teams like the Jazz and the Nuggets. Steve Kerr has blamed their recent lapses on mental fatigue, and has suggested that his players need to “get the hell away from each other and go sit on a beach and relax.”
The Warriors still have the best and deepest team in the league, but they’ll need to shake off their mid-season malaise and improve their focus in order to win their third title in four years.
MTS Western Conference Odds: -233 (3/7)
While the Warriors have been sleepwalking their way through the schedule the Rockets have been heating up. Houston has won 17 of its last 19 games and is now in sole possession of the best offensive rating in NBA history. You’d think that would be enough to satisfy Daryl Morey for a while, but the Rockets’ tireless GM has continued to keep the pedal to the metal by picking up Brandon Wright and Joe Johnson in a pair of post deadline moves. Wright gives them another option if and when Clint Capela gets into foul trouble, and Johnson gives them yet another deadeye shooter to provide spacing for James Harden.
Houston still doesn’t have an answer for Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, but it will be fascinating watching them try to outgun the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
MTS Western Conference Odds: +250 (5/2)
Oklahoma City Thunder
Last week was a perfect microcosm of the Thunder’s season, as OKC crushed the Warriors by 20 points on Tuesday and fell to the Lakers by 25 points on Thursday. Their maddening inconsistency has made them a risky bet all season long and will likely get them bounced from the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.
MTS Western Conference Odds: +1400 (14/1)