Gary | Mon 22/08/2016 - 17:31 EDT

2017 NBA Predictions

2017 NBA Predictions
Think it's too early to roll out some championship predictions for 2016-17 NBA season? Think again. We take you through each of Bovada's top-three favorites and then look at two potential dark horse contenders for you to consider ahead of the Association's latest campaign.

NBA Bet Tips 

By Dan Favale 

Favorites

Golden State Warriors (-110)

gsw

There is normally some hesitation when it comes to betting on newly formed superteams. They are quality single-game plays, but it’s tough to predict how valuable they are on the futures front.

There are usually growing pains. Look at the 2010-11 Miami Heat and 2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers. It took them both a while to figure things out. Same goes for 2003-04 Los Angeles Lakers. And just look out how things turned out for the 2012-13 Lakers. They were a flop—historical proof that talent doesn’t always instantly, or ever, coalesce into a championship contender.

The Golden State Warriors are different after signing Kevin Durant. There may be growing pains as they try to figure out how to best use him with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, but the learning curve isn’t that steep. The skill sets of their four primary players just fit. They can all play on or off the ball, and all appear willing to embrace spot-up duty to help grease the wheels of their freshly forged championship bandwagon.

If you had to pick a team to win the 2017 title right now, it would be them. Hands down. Not the reigning champion Cavaliers, but them. So if you’re not going to invest in their championship odds, it better be because you’re turned off by how overwhelmingly favored they are. That’s the only viable excuse.

Cleveland Cavaliers (+275)

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Just because the Warriors are heavy favorites to win next season’s Larry O’Brien Trophy doesn’t mean you should steer clear of the Cavaliers. They are a worthy favorite as well. 

To start, the rest of the Eastern Conference hasn’t done enough to light a fire under the butts of LeBron James and friends. They still stand on a plane all their own. Their two most direct threats, the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics, don’t even come close on paper to matching their star power.

Losing Matthew Dellavedova to the Milwaukee Bucks is concerning. He was a pesky defender and one of the league’s better backup point guards during the regular season. But the Cavaliers will be just fine using Kyrie Irving and Mo Williams, assuming the former is healthy, so they don’t technically lose anything there.

In fact, following the addition of Mike Dunleavy, you can argue the Cavaliers got better. He is a lethal, albeit aging, three-and-D weapon and fits right into the style they like to implement around LeBron.

Indeed, the Warriors loom as a serious threat. They have the Cavaliers beat in the star-power deparment. But, like the Warriors, the Cavaliers are also conference formalities. The real shock would be seeing them get eliminated before the NBA Finals, which drums up their championship futures appeal by default. 

San Antonio Spurs (+1200)

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Betting on the San Antonio Spurs is tough this year. They still have to contend with the best-ever Warriors, a tall task for every team in the NBA, and their roster underwent a rather thorough reconstruction over the offseason.

Tim Duncan retired, Boris Diaw was traded to the Utah Jazz and San Antonio plugged the middle with a 36-year-old Pau Gasol. Truth told, the Spurs may not miss a beat. Gasol replaces everything Duncan did on offene in his heyday, and his rim protection was good enough during his two seasons with the Chicago Bulls. Diaw’s playmaking and defensive versatility, meanwhile, can be supplanted by Kyle Anderson, the third-year tweener forward whom the Spurs have developed in the D-League and during summer league play.

Changing the roster to this degree, though, is still unsettling. The pairing of LaMarcus Aldridge and Gasol won’t be as intimidating on the defensive end, and the Spurs don’t have David West, or even Boban Marjanovic, coming off the bench to provide different looks. They have David Lee, and while his offensive game fits their blueprint, he doesn’t add anything on the defensive side.

Of course, we have to acknowledge that these are the Spurs. They traffic in sustained dominance. They still have a great core, and Kawhi Leonard has turned into an NBA candidate. They are going to be just fine. Invest in them if you wish and feel pretty good about it. 

Dark Horses

Boston Celtics (+1800)

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Yes, the Eastern Conference is the Cavaliers’ to lose. But the Celtics are an up-and-coming contender, even after losing Evan Turner to the Portland Trail Blazers and Jared Sullinger to the Raptors.

Al Horford adds some much-needed superstar clout to the roster. He can play on or off the ball, is an exceptional passer, protects the paint better than most and can stretch opposing centers beyond function with his average-to-above-average three-point stroke.

Most relevant teams in the East are one LeBron James injury away from becoming a legitimate contender. The Celtics stand alone as the dark-horse exception that maybe, quite possibly, could upset a full-strength Cavaliers squad. 

Utah Jazz (+10000)

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Some bettors will want to lay down small amounts of cash on the Jazz merely because of their lucrative odds. Bovada is underrating them here, as are most people around the sportsbetting sphere, which bodes well for those of you who like to buy stock in long-shot contenders.

The Jazz played like a championship hopefuls whenever Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors, Rodney Hood and Gordon Hayward shared the floor last year. Now they get to add Dante Exum, Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw and George Hill to that party. There’s also the development of Trey Lyles to consider. He surprised the masses as a rookie and could look to make a leap in 2016-17.

From there, anything the Jazz get from Shelvin Mack and Alec Burks is gravy. They have one of the best defensive cores in the NBA and perhaps the deepest bench as well. Their ability to shift between playing big and small could, in the long run, make them Golden State’s greatest threat in the Western Conference. Don’t shy away from betting on them if you’re into the long-shot game.

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