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2018 NBA Opening Day Preview & Predictions

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Mark your Google Calendars and set it to notify you on your smartphones. Oct. 16th is the date we are all waiting for; tip-off of the 2018 NBA season.  Handicappers have already put our early lines out for games the two Tuesday games and a odds on a slew of the Wednesday, Oct. 17th matchups that should be a fairly accurate reflection of what the main books in Vegas are soon to release. If you are in an area where it is legal to bet on sports, research the reviews on different sites to make sure you are getting the most out of your sportsbook. Here is a comprehensive look at Bovada.

Let’s have a look at the two games on opening day.

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics

We get to start the season off with a possible playoff matchup between the Sixers and Celtics. Boston is at home in TD Garden and are likely to be listed as a 6-point favorite over the young, but potent 76ers squad.

The 76ers didn’t feel the need to chase a big free agent this offseason. But they did secure JJ Reddick and Amir Johnson, and they added a little bit of depth to their bench by adding Wilson Chandler and Nemanja Bjelica. Some Philly fans might be upset that they didn’t add more fire-power to the roster, but their strategy is sound. They made the playoffs with an extremely young and inexperienced team last campaign. Now that same corps of players is a little more mature and has a lot more experience. So, don’t throw a potential wrench into the mix and mess with a chemistry that is working.

Gordon Hayward had an unlucky break last season, but he and Kyrie are both expected to be on the court for opening night. Speaking of young talent, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are going to continue to grow as well and with Aron Baynes back to back up Al Horford; the Celtics will be tough in the paint all night long.

Six points seem fair, given the fact that Celtics are at home. But the 76ers could definitely cover six given the fact that the last time they played the Celtics won with a score of 112-114, on May 7th of 2018 the Sixers won 103-92, and on the May 5th, the Celtics squeaked out a three-point victory of 101-98. In fact, if you average out the last ten games between these teams, the score would be 100 to 103 for Boston. So look for this game to be closer than the projected line of six points.

Golden State Warriors vs. OKC Thunder

The juggernaut that is the Golden State Warriors gets to open their season at home against their Western Conference rivals, the Oklahoma City Thunder. The projected point spread is four buckets in favor of the Warriors.

Eight points at home doesn’t seem like a whole lot given this GSW roster, but OKC has improved significantly over the offseason … at least theoretically. Carmelo has been shipped off to Houston, and the Thunder signed/resigned eight players over the offseason. They hung on to Paul George who was inconsistent last season, but maybe now that he is focused on a four-year deal and isn’t looking to bounce out to LA next summer, OKC will see a different PG13.

The Warriors are scarier than ever … They picked up on of the best big men in the league in DeMarcus Cousins and have Jordan Bell, the young Power Forward/Center out of Oregon to back him up. The Warriors starting line up should be Klay Thompson, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and DeMarcus Cousins. Then when the stars sit, it doesn’t get much easier because they have guys like Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala coming off the bench.

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Will LeBron James buy an NBA team when he retires?

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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.

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Killer Kemba & Shamrocks Sinking

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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.

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Jimmy Butler Trade Doesn’t Faze Celtics or Raptors, Yet

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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.

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