Just when NBA fans thought they were back on terra firma and the outlook for the 2016 season looked settled, the ground started to ominously rumble. Dwyane Wade left the Miami Heat to return to his home city of Chicago; the Knicks swung for the fences by trading for Derrick Rose; and one of the all-time greats, Tim Duncan, called it a career.
Alright, so maybe Wade leaving Miami isn’t exactly ground-shattering at this stage of his career, but the news is odds-shifting. Are the Chicago Bulls medium-three of Wade, Jimmy Butler, and Rajon Rondo ready to dethrone the mighty Warriors as the odds-on favorites for the NBA title? Of course not. Did they grab the attention of the Eastern Conference’s second-tier? Absolutely! Getting Denzel Valentine in the draft sweetened their odds a little, too. For a team that parted ways with Rose, Pau Gasol, and Joakim Noah, the Bulls are in pretty good shape.
Although Tim Duncan’s retirement has sent waves through the NBA, it doesn’t affect San Antonio’s title odds too much. At this point, Duncan’s biggest contributions to the team were no longer on the floor.
Rumors suggest that these tremors may be a period of relative calm before a real storm. Talks of the Oklahoma City Thunder trading Russell Westbrook are becoming more prevalent. A move of this magnitude would demolish the Thunder’s odds, and could be enough for a team like the Celtics, Bulls, or Knicks to transform into genuine title contenders.
Speaking of Boston, their first-round pick, Jaylen Brown, has used the summer league to show off the athleticism that caught the eye of Celtics’ general manager Danny Ainge. Many questioned Boston for taking Brown with the third-overall pick, but I’ve already seen enough to conclude that the former Golden Bear will be able to contribute in a big-way this season.
Although Brown has been a nice story, the biggest headline out of the summer league has been first-overall pick Ben Simmons. The 19-year-old Australian has seized the attention of the basketball world with his supreme physical capabilities and extraordinary court vision. Regardless of what combination of Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, and Jahlil Okafor the 76ers decide to keep around, one thing is certain: Simmons is the real deal.
The Brooklyn Nets’ lack of quality additions (cough, Jeremy Lin) and decision to trade Thaddeus Young to reach for an injury-prone shooting guard in the first-round has the Nets primed for a 25- win season.
One move that didn’t garner much attention was the Raptors signing Jared Sullinger. The Raptors had one glaring hole in their roster this offseason, and that was at the four-spot. Patrick Patterson is a reliable option off of the bench, but they needed to replace Luis Scola in the starting lineup. After missing out on Pau Gasol, the signed the former Buckeye. Sullinger has struggled with his weight as a pro, which has offset his unique skill-set. But his one-year, $6 million is low-risk, high-reward for Toronto.
The aforementioned teams have shaken up their odds of winning the NBA title; here’s how …
NBA Title Odds 2017
Golden State Warriors: 5/6
Cleveland Cavaliers: 15/4
San Antonio Spurs: 9/1
Boston Celtics: 18/1
Los Angeles Clippers: 25/1
Toronto Raptors: 35/1
Chicago Bulls: 40/1 (previously 80/1)
New York Knicks: 40/1
Oklahoma City Thunder: 40/1
Atlanta Hawks: 50/1 (previously 35/1)
Miami Heat: 50/1 (previously 30/1)
Minnesota Timberwolves: 50/1
Houston Rockets: 70/1
Indiana Pacers: 75/1
Memphis Grizzlies: 75/1
Dallas Mavericks: 80/1
New Orleans Pelicans: 80/1
Portland Trail Blazers: 80/1
Detroit Pistons: 100/1
Washington Wizards: 100/1
Charlotte Hornets: 125/1
Utah Jazz: 125/1
Los Angeles Lakers: 150/1
Milwaukee Bucks: 150/1
Orlando Magic: 150/1
Denver Nuggets: 250/1
Philadelphia 76ers: 250/1 (previously 500/1)
Sacramento Kings: 300/1
Brooklyn Nets: 500/1
Phoenix Suns: 500/1
New NBA Coach Odds
As we all know, the right coach can drastically change the expectations of a team. Every bench boss needs some talent to work with, but a change in system and motivation can have a major effect on a roster. Ten teams will be under new management, so to speak, this season: the Brooklyn Nets, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings, and the Washington Wizards.
How will each coach fare in his new environs?
Odds to be the first new coach fired
Dave Joerger, Kings: 5/2
Kenny Atkinson, Nets: 4/1
Nate McMillan, Pacers: 6/1
Mike D’Antoni, Rockets: 9/1
David Fizdale, Grizzlies: 9/1
Luke Walton, Lakers: 15/1
Scott Brooks, Wizards: 20/1
Jeff Hornacek, Knicks: 25/1
Frank Vogel, Magic: 50/1
Tom Thibodeau, Timberwolves: 75/1
Joerger is the next coach in line to feud with DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento. Joerger will be Boogie’s sixth different head coach since entering the league in 2010; no coach has lasted longer than a year since Paul Westphal. Cousins has already voiced his displeasure with his team’s draft decisions, so this one could be over quickly. The only mitigating factor for Joerger is the fact that Cousins is only under contract for two more seasons, and all signs point to him taking off after that, if they don’t trade him prior.
The Nets are going to be awful this season, and there’s nothing Kenny Atkinson can do about it. There’s not much management can do about it either, at this point. But they can use Atkinson as a scapegoat when things go historically poorly.
The Pacers will regret their knee-jerk reaction to fire Frank Vogel. There is a ton of pressure on Nate McMillan to make a deep playoff run. Failure to meet expectations could result in his early dismissal.
Many of these coaches are highly-reputable though and will be given ample time to build their respected teams into contenders, but can we predict what Phil Jackson will do in his senile state?
Odds to have the best record in 2016-17
Jeff Hornacek, Knicks: 3/1
Tom Thibodeau, Timberwolves: 7/2
Mike D’Antoni, Rockets: 6/1
Nate McMillan, Pacers: 7/1
David Fizdale, Grizzlies: 15/2
Scott Brooks, Wizards: 12/1
Luke Walton, Lakers: 25/1
Frank Vogel, Magic: 30/1
Dave Joerger, Kings: 50/1
Kenny Atkinson, Nets: 100/1
If, and this is a big if, Derrick Rose can stay healthy, the Knicks have the pieces to displace the Raptors as the second-seed in the East. Hornacek’s most complicated task will be getting Carmelo Anthony to buy into a team game and play some defense. Regardless, the East is wide open right now, and the Knicks may have a big-three in the making with Rose, Anthony, and Kristaps Porzingis.
Tom Thibodeau is taking over a very talented, but very young, Timberwolves squad, but he doesn’t want anyone hyping up his team just yet. Sorry, Thibs, the Wolves are ready to compete for a playoff spot.
Odds to make the playoffs first
Jeff Hornacek, Knicks: 5/1
Nate McMillan, Pacers: 5/1
Tom Thibodeau, Timberwolves: 5/1
Scott Brooks, Wizards: 11/2
Mike D’Antoni, Rockets: 11/2
David Fizdale, Grizzlies: 11/2
Frank Vogel, Magic: 100/1
Luke Walton, Lakers: 100/1
Dave Joerger, Kings: 200/1
Kenny Atkinson, Nets: 250/1
As you can see, the odds are pretty even at the top of this list. I’m sure I do not have to explain why, but I like to, so I will. Three of these teams qualified for the playoffs last season and don’t appear to be in any serious risk of not making it back. This would result in multiple coaches being the first to make the playoffs.
Then there’s the Timberwolves and Knicks: both got significantly better in the offseason and have a good shot of finding their way in.
I haven’t even touched on the Wizards. They barely missed out last year and definitely have the talent to crack the field.
In sum, six of these teams have a very good chance of making the playoffs this year. The other four, well, they’ll also play basketball.
Odds to win an NBA title first with their current team
Tom Thibodeau, Timberwolves: 11/2
Jeff Hornacek, Knicks: 7/1
Luke Walton, Lakers: 9/1
Mike D’Antoni, Rockets: 20/1
Nate McMillan, Pacers: 25/1
Scott Brooks, Wizards: 50/1
David Fizdale, Grizzlies: 75/1
Frank Vogel, Magic: 100/1
Dave Joerger, Kings: 300/1
Kenny Atkinson, Nets: 500/1
Unfortunately, there is not much parity in the NBA, especially not when it comes to hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy. Only ten different franchises have been crowned champions since 1984, and the league is currently incredibly top-heavy. This explains my 50-percent chance that none of these coaches ever wins a title in their current role.
However, as previously mentioned, Thibodeau has a lot of budding talent in Minnesota, and by the time they are peaking, both Golden State and San Antonio may no longer be superpowers.
After the Timberwolves, the Knicks and Lakers both have rich histories; they’ve spent the last few seasons in varying states of disarray, but the Knicks are climbing out of the cellar already and the Lakers will eventually follow. They’re the type of big-market franchises that can and do succeed in the Association.
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison (Tim Duncan) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)