The season is roughly a quarter of the way through and we’ve had more than our fair share of surprises thus far. If we would have told you before the season began that the Golden State Warriors would be ambling along in fourth place in the West would you have asked suggested that another round of cocktails might not be the wisest choice? We certainly couldn’t blame you but here the defending champions sit at 16-9, matching their loss total for the entire season back in 2015-2016.
Without further ado, let’s give a couple of quick hits as well as the corresponding NBA odds for a championship title being dealt by the best online sportsbooks found all over at Sportsbook Review.
- Golden State Warriors (-150) – Only a team like Golden State could still be considered the prohibitive favorite with three other teams above them in the Western Conference standings. Draymond Green has been on the shelf since November 15th, suffering from a sprained right toe, and the Warriors have gone 6-6 straight up without the six-year veteran in the lineup and won’t likely see him dress for another week or more. In addition, center Damian Jones is out for the season with a torn left pectoral muscle, which has left the champs thin in the post. But that hasn’t stopped the oddsmakers from making GSW the favorites to repeat as NBA champions.
- Toronto Raptors (+800) – The Raps were viewed as paper tigers by many before the season started after tearing through the 2017-2018 regular season with 59 wins and garnering the top seed in the East before they were swept in the second round by the Cavaliers. Toronto was not content and fired their Coach of the Year, Dwane Casey, and promoted Nick Nurse to take the helm. The Raptors are proving the pundits wrong and the NBA odds seem to back that up as they currently own the best record in the league and have won 10 of 13 in front of their rabid fans at Scotiabank Arena.
- Boston Celtics (+1100) – The Celtics were supposed to be a force of nature this season with a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to claim the East and make a charge at the Warriors. Well, things haven’t exactly turned out that way as Hayward has just now found his groove as a valuable sixth man off the bench as opposed to an underachieving starter. Jaylen Brown has been hindered by injuries and is not playing up to par while backup Terry Rozier, who looked silky smooth in Irving’s stead late last year, is grumbling that he’s no longer in the spotlight. However, the Green Machine has won three straight and seems to be turning the corner.
- Houston Rockets (+1200) – If you want to know how long the NBA season is, imagine a team that is currently under .500 being tagged as having the fourth-best chance to win the NBA championship. If the season ended today, the Rockets would not even be in the postseason but as we all know, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. But a healthy Houston team is a winning Houston team as evidenced by the fact that the Rockets have lost all five games when Chris Paul has been out of the lineup while dropping two of three when Harden was sidelined with a hamstring injury. When healthy, the Rockets are very much a team to beat.
- Philadelphia 76ers (+1500) – A one-hundred dollar bill will net you $1500 if you bet the Sixers to win the title six months from now. Philadelphia’s bevy of high draft picks are bearing fruit and after adding the talented Jimmy Butler to their roster, they are officially for real. Nevertheless, the Markelle Fultz experiment continues with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft being hindered by shoulder issues. It’s too early to tell whether this pick has bust written all over it but the Sixers are certainly talented enough to get by and challenge without him.
Will LeBron James buy an NBA team when he retires?
For all the money and fame it brings, the career of a professional sportsperson is a relatively short one, often coming to an abrupt end in their mid to late 30s. At this point, most are left searching for a new outlet for their competitive natures, as well as a way to invest their considerable fortunes.
Buying a sports team is one of the most popular options available and stars who have done this in the past include Michael Jordan who famously owns the Charlotte Hornets and Magic Johnson who is a leading shareholder in the LA Dodgers.
Now the player whose ownership future is being widely speculated over is LeBron James. At 33 he probably has a few more playing years ahead of him but his thoughts must surely be starting to turn to his eventual retirement.
One thing is for certain and that’s that his estimated $233 million fortune plus lifetime sponsorship deals with the likes of Nike, Sprite and Kia rumoured to be worth over $1 billion mean that his pockets will be more than deep enough to buy a substantial share of almost any team he chooses.
It’s also something he’s already done in the English Premier League with a $6.5 million investment and 2% stake in the Liverpool FC soccer team. With the club riding high in the league he’s already seen its value rise to around $32 million.
But basketball’s his first love so it would seem more than likely that he’ll set his sights on an NBA team when the time comes, but which one?
The logical answer would be the Lakers but, unfortunately, this wouldn’t be allowed under the terms of the cap arrangements with the team and would be in conflict with the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement. So he’ll have to set his sights elsewhere.
There’s a strong tradition of players buying into the teams that they used to play for so how about the one that James has represented the most in his career, Cleveland Cavaliers.
With stints from 2003 till 2010 and 2014 to 2018 he’s spent no less than 14 years playing with them and his heart definitely lies in his home state, Ohio.
But one thing to consider is that when he left the Cavaliers for the Lakers earlier this year one of the reasons cited was his poor relationship with the current owner, Dan Gilbert. Whether he’ll want to business with Gilbert remains to be seen.
Then there’s the possibility of the other team he’s represented, Miami Heat. This would very much be an outside option compared with the Cavaliers but in basketball, as in life, nothing’s absolutely out of the question.
But with a possible three or four more seasons left with the Lakers it’s not a decision that James is going to have to make in the immediate future. And when he does it’s more than likely that his first overtures will be made to the Cavaliers.
As to how they’ll respond to this, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Killer Kemba & Shamrocks Sinking
Walker En Fuego
If you asked the casual hoops fan to list the best players in the game, names like LeBron, Steph, Anthony Davis, and Kyrie Irving might be among the first to be uttered. But there is a force in Charlotte whose name should be whispered whenever the elites of the game are mentioned. Kemba Walker has been a destroyer of late, as evidenced by his most recent outings where he shredded the 76ers for 60 points in an overtime loss and then followed up that gem with 43 in a winning effort over the Celtics on Monday night.
Oddsmakers at some of the most trusted and respected online sportsbooks like Bookmaker were dealing Boston as 3 ½ point favorites in that game but clearly, they had the wrong favorite and didn’t prepare for another stellar performance from the two-time NBA All-Star. Walker has now eclipsed Steph Curry as the NBA’s scoring leader, averaging 29.6 points per game, and has contributed mightily to a Hornets season record that wouldn’t be sniffing .500 without him.
Celtics forward Gordon Hayward had this to say after Monday’s game, “He’s been unbelievable, especially when your whole game plan is to stop him and he is still going off and doing what he does. He’s an unbelievable player.”
The seven-year veteran has come into his own over the past three seasons, averaging 23.2, 22.1, and currently 29.6 points per game. Walker and the Hornets will close out the week with a game at home against the Pacers on Wednesday and then hit the highway for a date with the Thunder on Friday and then an early evening affair against the Hawks in Atlanta.
Green Machine Broken
The Celtics are completely out of sync and lost their following two games to Utah and Charlotte after a huge win over Eastern Conference big shot Toronto. Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and the entire lot appear to be disjointed but there is one name that keeps popping up as the one many perceive to be the culprit – Gordon Hayward.
The former member of the Utah Jazz, who was wooed to Boston as a prized free agent before last season, suffered a gruesome broken leg in the opening game and has returned this season to much fanfare. However, the euphoria of a healthy Celtics roster has dissipated into utter disappointment and head coach Brad Stevens even pulled him from the starting unit to open their game against the Hornets with Aron Baynes getting the start. It made little difference as Baynes went 1-for-4 from the field and Haywood contributed another clunker on 1-of-6 shooting.
The Celtics have an ideal opportunity to get back on track with games against the Knicks at home before they travel to Atlanta and Dallas to close out the week. If the Shamrocks continue to struggle against those teams then the reality that this team simply isn’t as good as it looks on paper will begin to set in, and for the first time since he’s been coaching the Celtics, Brad Stevens could be nearing the hot seat. But before panic ensues in Celtics Nation, the head coach had this to say about his charges, “We have to build a tougher team mindset than we have. We just don’t have that mindset yet that we need.”
Many believe that it is only a matter of time before the C’s get well but in the interim, they are now slipping down the Eastern Conference standings where they sit tied with Orlando and Charlotte for sixth through eighth place. It’s basement playoff real estate that has been unfamiliar to Boston over the past few seasons and if change is gonna come, it better start soon.
Jimmy Butler Trade Doesn’t Faze Celtics or Raptors, Yet
For the last eight years, LeBron has guided his Eastern Conference team to the NBA Finals, winning the championship on three occasions. Now that he’s moved to the Los Angeles Lakers to add to his Hall of Fame resume, the Boston Celtics have emerged as the favorites to make it to the finals, per Forbes. But, there’s a sense of optimism among many teams in the east, particularly those in the Atlantic Division, that they can now have a shot at the championship, most likely taking on the eternally powerful Golden State Warriors to do so.
As a show of how optimistic all of the top eastern teams are, the Philadelphia 76ers traded for All-Star forward Jimmy Butler of the Minnesota Timberwolves, joining the likes of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons to form their new big three. The trade cost the 76ers a 2022 second-round pick, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and Robert Covington while they also received Justin Patton, as reported by ESPN.
But, do the 76ers, adding another All-Star to their line-up, enhance their odds of coming out of the Eastern Conference as NBA finalists, or is there simply too much competition to contend with right now?
Toronto Raptors going all-out
After taking the Toronto Raptors to the peak of the Eastern Conference with a 59-23 record, Dwane Casey’s team inevitably fell to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the postseason. Following this, the Raptors opted for a change at head coach after Casey’s seven-seasons of building which culminated in this franchise-record season. Casey’s firing came just two days before he would be named the league’s coach of the year, according to the New York Times. So, with the job handed to Nick Nurse, people expected the team to drop off, somewhat, this season.
But, something that has seemingly helped the Raptors to take that extra step forward and look to capitalize on the James-less conference is the high-risk trade for Kawhi Leonard with the San Antonio Spurs, sending fan-favorite DeMar DeRozan the other way. It was the story of the summer, with many analyzing its long-term implications but, for this season at least, the Raptors have a player who has greatly benefitted from a change of scenery, per The Sportster. At the 15-game mark, Leonard averaged 24.2 points, 1.7 steals, 6.5 defensive rebounds, and 2.4 turnovers per game through 11 starts.
Boston star unfazed by Butler move
From the start of the season, the Boston Celtics have been the favorites from the Eastern Conference to go on to the NBA Finals. When healthy, they are one of, if not the deepest team in the NBA, making them the conference’s most formidable foe for the Warriors. With an 8-6 start, they’re off of the pace set by the Toronto Raptors, but in the NBA, as long as a team makes it to the playoffs, they can overcome their regular season record to come out on top.
Star point guard of the Boston Celtics, Kyrie Irving, was posed the question as to how the Jimmy Butler trade impacts the battle in the Atlantic Division. With the Philadelphia 76ers on 9-7 at the time, it could be seen that one new star player might take them past the Celtics. But, at this stage in the season, Irving simply responded: “Who cares, honestly? It’s still so early,” as reported by Celtics Wire.
Did the Butler trade influence the Atlantic Division?
The Boston Celtics boast a remarkably talented and deep team, and the Toronto Raptors are tearing away from the rest of the Atlantic Division, so it would be understandable for neither team to be overly fazed by the Philadelphia 76ers trading for another star player. As deliberated by the NBA Blogtable, experts see the deal as tightening the group, but not enough to push Philly into being true contenders just yet.
The Philadelphia 76ers were a dark horse to make it to the NBA Finals from the start of the season, lining up just ahead of or alongside the Milwaukee Bucks. As of November 15th, with the trade done and dusted, Betway has the 76ers at +400 to win the conference, with the Celtics at +187.50 and the Raptors at +150. While it was, without a doubt, a huge trade in the NBA, in the eyes of the experts, it’s still not enough to push the 76ers ahead of the Celtics or the Raptors as leading contenders for the Eastern Conference.
It may, however, set the wheels in motion for the 76ers to become a super-team next summer, potentially paving the way for them to lead the conference over the next couple of seasons. As explained by Fadeaway World, the Sixers could make a move for pending 2019 free agent Kyrie Irving, should they play their cards right.
If this were to happen, it would be difficult to see any other team coming close in their star power. Only time will tell if the Butler trade has been as influential as it has been suggested, and it may be that it takes until the next year or so before the full effects are seen.