NBA Futures – What’s the Point Anymore?

17324174162_f05e2867f7_z“Too good to be true” is an expression for a reason. One day you’re George W. Bush, the president with the highest approval rating of all time. The next you’re George W. Bush, the president with the lowest approval rating of all time. The Golden State Warriors were like early Bush, in that everybody got a kick out of them. But those days seem to be over now.

Kevin Durant and the Warriors teamed up to orchestrate a heel-turn so massive, it would make the Rock cringe. The four-time scoring champion and 2014 MVP is abandoning the only franchise he’s ever known to join the team that just broke the NBA record for wins in a season. And here I thought the salary cap was in place to maintain a competitive balance.

Super teams are nothing new to the NBA: from the 2007 Boston Celtics to the Miami Heat of a few years ago. But this one hurts to see. The Warriors had built a likable and talented core almost exclusively through the draft, and made two straight finals because of it. Adding Durant to this group was the equivalent of bringing a bazooka to a knife fight (and nobody likes the guy who does that: it’s called a “knife fight” for a reason).

If ever a regular season of a professional sport was a formality, it’ll be this one. The only thing worth tracking will be whether the Warriors can top last year’s record (and given the growing pains of super team’s in the past, it seems unlikely). Worse than that, though, was the loss of the Thunder’s contender status. Durant and Russell Westbrook were a dynamic duo that almost ousted the Warriors in the conference finals. Now, with just Westbrook leading them, the Thunder will be a playoff team, but I doubt they’ll be able to challenge San Antonio and Golden State like they did this spring.

The Western Conference now looks just as boring as the East, with one team already anointed the champs. Sure, the Spurs will be good (the addition of Pau Gasol was a nice one), but even they’re going off at long odds for a reason.

Speaking of those odds, as you can imagine, there’s not a lot of gold available for betting Golden State. The Warriors are going off at 4/5 odds to win the NBA Title and, as ridiculous as that sounds, the value’s only going to get worse as time goes on.

“There has to be another team worth betting somewhere on this board,” you may be thinking to yourself. After all, Cleveland did orchestrate a miraculous upset in this year’s finals; who’s to say that can’t happen twice?

Well, history for one. The 2016 NBA Finals were the seventh rematch since 1978, and the only team to win two matchups in a row was the Michael Jordan Bulls in ’97 and ’98.

If you do want to grab some long odds with value, you could always take a team like the Los Angeles Clippers. Decimated by injuries last postseason, the Clips are due to finally get over the hump and make a conference finals, at which point you’d have the option of hedging that bet against the guaranteed-to-be-there Warriors.

Another interesting team is Boston in the East. The Celtics beefed up by adding Al Horford. (They were close to getting Durant as well, but Tom Brady must’ve said the wrong thing.) Along with third-overall pick Jaylen Brown, they have a roster capable of making a run at the two-seed. But, more importantly, if they like their chances against Cleveland in the playoffs, they have enough assets to pull off a deal at the trade deadline.

There should be some interesting talk around that deadline, too. For example, Russell Westbrook is headed for free agency next summer: would Oklahoma City really let another star player walk for nothing?

It will take just such a trade to make the NBA a more competitive place this season. Until then, we’ll just count down the days to Warriors-Cavaliers III: It’s Gotta be KD.

I’ll leave you with the revamped 2017 title futures, just to cover my bases. Hey look, the Sixers aren’t alone at the bottom anymore!

2017 NBA Title Futures

Golden State Warriors: 4/5
Cleveland Cavaliers: 7/2
San Antonio Spurs: 8/1
Boston Celtics: 20/1
Los Angeles Clippers: 22/1
Miami Heat: 30/1
Oklahoma City Thunder: 33/1
Toronto Raptors: 33/1
Atlanta Hawks: 35/1
Minnesota Timberwolves: 50/1
New York Knicks: 50/1
Indiana Pacers: 66/1
Houston Rockets: 66/1
Memphis Grizzlies: 66/1
Utah Jazz: 66/1
Chicago Bulls: 80/1
Dallas Mavericks: 80/1
New Orleans Pelicans: 80/1
Portland Trail Blazers: 80/1
Charlotte Hornets: 100/1
Detroit Pistons: 100/1
Washington Wizards: 100/1
Los Angeles Lakers: 150/1
Milwaukee Bucks: 150/1
Orlando Magic: 150/1
Denver Nuggets: 250/1
Sacramento Kings: 250/1
Brooklyn Nets: 500/1
Philadelphia 76ers: 500/1
Phoenix Suns: 500/1

(Photo Credit: rocor (Originally uploaded to Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/].)

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