As LeBron James softened the criticism coming from some of his haters, he should know that some of us will never give up. He may have won this year, but he’s still only 3-4 in the NBA finals; yes, I may be a little bitter about Sunday night’s outcome, but I doubt I’m the only one. (Please, don’t let me be the only one.)
In spite of the extreme loathing I feel towards James, I do have to give credit where credit is due. When the Warriors had all but won the series after Game 4, LeBron showed up and took his game to an incredible level. He took the Cavs from the brink of defeat to become the first team in the history of the league to win a finals series when trailing 3-1. But James has still lost more than he’s won, in case my feelings towards him weren’t already clear.
The historical collapse silences the Golden State Warriors’ bid to be known as the greatest team of all-time. The ’96 Bulls, led by the greatest player of all-time (subtle jab), may have only won 72 games during the regular season, but they won a championship. Michael Jordan was 6-0 in the finals, just for the record (not so subtle jab). Right, back to Golden State. They’ll now have to set their sights on 2016-2017 to cement themselves as the best team ever.
And speaking of 2016-17, it’s time to turn our attention to that rapidly approaching season! Setting my sarcasm aside, it’s never too early to start making future predictions in the wonderful world of ball.
With the NBA draft, as well as free agency, looming, a lot of the odds below will change, some pretty drastically. But there’s no reason to wait. We’ll just do it all again in a month or two! So join me in thrusting onward in this journey to determine whether Cleveland can repeat, which players will make the most of the upcoming season, and how a few other pieces of the 2016-17 plot will unfold.
2016-17 NBA Futures
Odds to win the NBA Championship:
- Golden State Warriors: 22/5
- Cleveland Cavaliers: 5/1
- San Antonio Spurs: 9/1
- Oklahoma City Thunder: 23/2
- Los Angeles Clippers: 18/1
- Toronto Raptors: 18/1
- Portland Trail Blazers: 20/1
- Memphis Grizzlies: 25/1
- Boston Celtics: 35/1
- Houston Rockets: 40/1
- Dallas Mavericks: 40/1
- Miami Heat: 45/1
- Atlanta Hawks: 50/1
- Indiana Pacers: 50/1
- Washington Wizards: 50/1
- Chicago Bulls: 55/1
- Charlotte Hornets: 60/1
- Detroit Pistons: 60/1
- Los Angeles Lakers: 70/1
- Sacramento Kings: 70/1
- Utah Jazz: 70/1
- Minnesota Timberwolves: 75/1
- New York Knicks: 75/1
- New Orleans Pelicans: 80/1
- Brooklyn Nets: 100/1
- Milwaukee Bucks: 100/1
- Denver Nuggets: 150/1
- Orlando Magic: 150/1
- Phoenix Suns: 225/1
- Philadelphia 76ers: 250/1
“Cleveland behind Golden State? Man this guy is letting his hatred of LeBron color his judgment,” you might be saying. But it’s just the opposite LeBron probably isn’t going anywhere. But I’m not prepared to put Cleveland’s odds shorter until we know for sure that he’ll be back in Ohio.
Betting on Philadelphia is not even worth the dollar.
Odds to win the Eastern Conference:
- Cleveland Cavaliers: 6/5
- Toronto Raptors: 11/2
- Boston Celtics: 10/1
- Miami Heat: 15/1
- Atlanta Hawks: 18/1
“Probably” is still good enough to dominate the Eastern Conference odds (barring a big name coming to the East via free agency). Expect Boston to continue what they have been building under head coach Brad Stevens. Should DeMar DeRozan bolt to Los Angeles come July, the Celtics may be able to surpass Toronto for the two seed.
Odds to win the Western Conference:
- Golden State Warriors: 13/7
- San Antonio Spurs: 9/2
- Oklahoma City Thunder: 6/1
- Los Angeles Clippers: 8/1
- Portland Trail Blazers: 12/1
Oklahoma City stays in the top-three because Kevin Durant has not left yet. Also, the Clippers remain near the top because we still don’t know if they are going to blow up their core. Even if all remains as it was, the Portland Trailblazers are not far behind thanks to budding superstar Damian Lillard.
Odds to win NBA MVP:
- Steph Curry: 17/3
- LeBron James: 19/2
- Kevin Durant: 10/1
- Damian Lillard: 23/2
- Paul George: 15/1
- James Harden: 18/1
- Russell Westbrook: 20/1
I don’t think I’m the only one who is wondering if Steph Curry will ever come back down to earth. The back-to-back MVP is defying the shooting odds. Unless he drops off or suffers an injury, he’s the clear to receive the award for a third consecutive season.
Depending on what Kevin Durant does in free agency, he may get some votes if he is able to turn a bottom-feeder into a contender. On a similar note, Russell Westbrook could evolve into a legitimate MVP candidate if he keeps OKC competitive with Durant out of the picture. Given the way Damian Lillard finished the season, you have to expect him to be in the conversation, too.
Odds to win Rookie of the Year:
- Ben Simmons: 13/3
- Brandon Ingram: 11/2
- Buddy Hield: 7/1
- Jamal Murray: 12/1
- Dragan Bender: 15/1
Currently, signs are pointing to the Philadelphia 76ers drafting Ben Simmons. With the state that the 76ers are in, it would seem logical to give your rookie every opportunity possible to succeed. Fortunately for Simmons, he doesn’t have to maintain a GPA in this league, so he should have no problem displaying the talent that has him projected as the top pick in the upcoming draft.
A bit of a sleeper that I have included here is Buddy Hield from Oklahoma. If the Boston Celtics do hold onto the third-overall pick, then you can bet they’ll be looking for an offensive player. Insert Buddy Hield. It could be a great fit for both, but there’s a good chance they deal the pick.
Odds to win Defensive Player of the Year:
- Kawhi Leonard: 13/2
- Hassan Whiteside: 7/1
- Draymond Green: 15/2
- DeAndre Jordan: 12/1
- Rudy Gobert: 18/1
I have to give the nod to the back-to-back DPOY, Kawhi Leonard. However, Hassan Whiteside was more than a block per game better than the rest of the field. The Heat’s young rim-protector could dethrone Leonard and take home the hardware for the first time in his career.
Odds to win Sixth-Man of the Year:
- Jamal Crawford: 17/4
- Will Barton: 22/3
- Enes Kanter: 8/1
- Andre Iguodala: 10/1
- Evan Turner: 15/1
This is always a tough award to predict, as you’re never sure if a player’s performance off the bench in the previous season could be enough to push him into a starting role. However, if Jamal Crawford stays put in Los Angeles, he would surely be coming off the bench, and would be the favorite to defend his title. (He now has a record three in his trophy case.)
Watch out for Enes Kanter though, especially if Kevin Durant winds up wearing a new jersey next season.
Odds to be the first coach fired:
- Alvin Gentry, New Orleans Pelicans: 4/1
- Michael Malone, Denver Nuggets: 9/2
- Kenny Atkinson, Brooklyn Nets: 9/1
- Brett Brown, Philadelphia 10ers (Whoops, typo): 19/2
- Earl Watson, Phoenix Suns: 12/1
- David Fizdale, Memphis Grizzlies: 20/1
- Tyronn Lue, Cleveland Cavaliers: 30/1
Despite Brett Brown coaching Philadelphia to 47 wins during his three-year tenure as head coach, he seems to have the support of management – evident from the extension he was given last December. I know contracts in professional sports are about as guaranteed as the weatherman’s weekly forecast, but I’ll trust Jerry Colangelo, 76ers’ chairman of basketball, for now.
Alvin Gentry and Michael Malone are closer to getting the axe than any other coaches in the league. Gentry has been around the league and back, and hasn’t experienced a ton of success throughout the trip. After being fired in Phoenix during the 2012-13 season, Gentry didn’t get another opportunity to be a head coach until New Orleans came calling last year. He would go on to coach them to an underwhelming 30 wins (though Anthony Davis did miss 21 games). Should the Pelicans get off to a slow start this season, I don’t see Gentry being around too long.
As for Malone, he only has 188 games as a head coach under his belt, but they have not been very successful. Malone is the proud owner of a 38.3 winning percentage, and I’m not sure if he’ll be able to improve that number with the roster he has in Denver. If the team doesn’t show signs of progress, I could see him gone by mid-season.
Tyronn Lue makes an appearance here because LeBron James is fickle when it comes to his assistant.
Odds someone makes more threes than Steph Curry: 7/1
In order to calculate this, I just looked at the chances of Curry suffering an injury that would keep him out at least a quarter of the season. If Steph is healthy, there is very little chance of anyone hitting more triples; hey, look at that, Steph just tossed “slim” up from half court and nailed it.
Odds Cleveland and Golden State meet in a third-straight NBA Final: 9/1
It seems likely that the Warriors will at least lose Harrison Barnes this offseason; yet, they will still have the services of the Splash Brothers and Draymond Green. The bigger concern is whether the Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, and the rest of the West get much better. Despite winning an NBA-record 73 games this past season, the Warriors didn’t exactly run away with the conference; San Antonio won 67 games themselves. The path Golden State faces on the route back to the NBA Finals will have many worthy challengers.
Cleveland, on the other hand, remains the heavy-favorite to represent the East in the finals again. If Kevin Durant finds his way to the Eastern Conference next season, it would become a much tougher road for LeBron and company.
Odds of a team winning more than 66 Games: 4/1
Only 12 teams in the history of the NBA have won more than 66 games in a season. Consider yourself incredibly lucky that you were able to witness two of those teams this past season. It’s the only time two teams accomplished the feat in the same year. Add in the 2014-15 Warriors and it’s clear that we have been spoiled like a five-year-old with a smartphone.
Let’s remember that 66 wins is an incredible achievement and not start taking what we’ve experienced for granted.
With that being said, there are four teams playing at an elite level right now: Golden State, San Antonio, Cleveland, and Oklahoma City. Do I think any are capable of winning 67 games? Of course. I’d be an idiot in a chair (well, more of one anyways) to suggest Golden State and San Antonio aren’t “capable” of it, since they just proved they are. (In fact, the Warriors just joined the Chicago Bulls as the only two teams to win more than 66 games in consecutive seasons.) However, no team has ever done it in three consecutive seasons.
Looking to the Cavaliers, they don’t seem have any sense of urgency in the regular season. They’ll rest their stars when necessary, knowing the East will still be theirs for the taking. As for the Thunder, even if Durant stays, they still have to play the Spurs and Warriors a combined seven times per season.
Odds both Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett play in 2016-17: 6/5
Neither player has announced his intentions yet, which has me believing they each want to give it at least one more year. Duncan would have a good chance of winning his sixth NBA championship, and Garnett seems content in his player/coach role with the young Timberwolves. However, neither is capable of being a difference-maker anymore, which could push at least one towards retirement.
Odds of the Philadelphia 76ers winning 20+ games: 7/4
In the 2012-13 season, the 76ers won 34 games; since then, they have won a combined 47 games (over three seasons), with only ten wins this past year. The franchise now has two of the three worst seasons in NBA history in its dubious record books. They make a great cheesesteak though, right?
With either Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram joining Jahlil Okafor (and possibly Nerlens Noel, if they don’t trade him, and Joel Embiid, if he ever plays in the NBA), you would think they should at least get close to 20. Yet, this is the 76ers we’re talking about. Do you really expect them to improve by ten full wins? I don’t.
Odds the Golden State Warriors break more than three NBA records: 4/1
I’m not too sure what records are left for the Warriors to break at this point. After breaking countless team and individual NBA records, last season, there aren’t many. And next year’s team can’t break the same records the 2015-16 team just did, can they? That would be unfathomable. Er, it would be, except the Warriors already expanded my view of what’s possible.
Odds on the next city to be awarded an NBA franchise:
- Las Vegas: 9/1
- Seattle: 15/1
- Vancouver: 20/1
Right now, the NBA is not eager to expand its 30-team league. However, with the recent news that Las Vegas is getting an NHL franchise, it wouldn’t be absurd to see the NBA follow suit.
The latter-two cities on the list are both former homes to NBA franchises, and both present some serious issues for expansion. Seattle would need a new arena, and the rest of the NBA already dislikes the trips to Canada as it is. Although they are long-shots, they have the civic knowledge and experience necessary to play host to an NBA franchise.
Odds LeBron James leads the Tune Squad to a victory over the Monstars: 100/1
When it comes down to crunch-time, I’m just not sure if Bugs Bunny can hit the game winning shot, since we know LeBron isn’t taking it. For James’ sake, I just hope the Nerdlucks don’t get their hands on Andre Iguodala.
(Photo credit: Keith Allison (Stephen Curry) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)