NBA 2017-2018 Season Preview
The 2016/2017 NBA season saw a third straight matchup between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. The Cavs were the defending champions, but Golden State acquired Kevin Durant in the offseason, a move that would prove pivotal for their future. The Warriors were practically unstoppable heading into the Playoffs. Once there, they swept each opponent. They ended up beating the Cavs 4-1 overall—the Cavs giving them their only postseason loss. Durant completely elevated their game and made them the best team in the league. It was clear that teams would have to make some changes in the offseason if they were to keep up with the Warriors.
Once the offseason came, it was time for overhaul. After another Finals loss to the Warriors, Cleveland’s star point guard Kyrie Irving wanted out. A trade occurred between the Cavs and the Boston Celtics, sending Irving over in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and picks. While Boston picked up a younger, better version of Thomas (who would’ve likely required a max contract in the next season), Cleveland added some much needed depth to their squad. Cleveland also added veterans Dwayne Wade and Derrick Rose to their squad. Boston acquired Gordon Hayward from the Utah Jazz, making them a formidable opponent in the Eastern Conference.
Western Conference teams had more pressure, being grouped with the Warriors. The Houston Rockets added Chris Paul from the Clippers, providing them a new and better option at point guard. This would also alleviate some of the playmaking off of James Harden’s shoulders. Outside of the Rockets, the Oklahoma City Thunder made the most significant moves, adding Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to their roster. This creates a powerful trio, but one made up of All-Stars. Some analysts wonder if the 3 of them can coexist on the floor.
The 2017/2018 season will be an interesting one. Most insiders already anticipate a fourth straight rematch of Golden State and Cleveland in the NBA Championship Finals. From a betting standpoint, there are tons of opportunities seeing as how many games there are in the regular season as well as post season NBA playoffs and championship finals top things off. With a revamped Western Conference and a slightly more competitive Eastern Conference, this season is shaping up to be one for the fans.
Contenders in the West
The Western Conference is undeniably stronger than the East. The players in Western teams could likely run circles around their Eastern counterparts. The talent is so lopsided that the NBA changed the All-Star Game format to make things more competitive. If you are discussing which teams stand a chance at winning, there is no way around mentioning the Warriors. They are the best team in the league. Outside of them, you have the Spurs, Rockets and Warriors. Other teams will try, but a 7-game series is grueling and it will be tough to outlast the upper-tier teams.
If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s the mentality the Warriors took this offseason. They retained their key players and added some bench players to help spread the floor. This will give their starters a chance to rest without risking losing any momentum. Their starting lineup consists of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia—simply too much offensive firepower. If the Warriors get into an early rhythm, it is hard to bounce back. They have 3 lethal shooters from outside the arc and an inside option in Draymond Green when the center opens up. The Warriors are a lock in most games from a betting standpoint. They did lose their first game against the Rockets, so they are not unbeatable. They also have a target on their back, as teams are tired of them being the best.
Houston have long been touted as a contender in the West, but they fail to make any impact each year. James Harden is an offensive powerhouse, but a liability on defense. Chris Paul provides an outlet for them on both sides of the court. Their starting lineup is made up of James Harden, Chris Paul, Ryan Anderson, Clint Capela and Trevor Ariza. Expect the Rockets to have quite a few 100+ point games, but they won’t make it if they don’t address their defensive woes of last season. They beat the Warriors in Golden State on opening night, but the question remains if they can win a 7-game series.
San Antonio are too stubborn to miss out on Playoff contention. They are the most consistent team in the league and have the best coach in Gregg Popovich. Their starting lineup consists of Kawhi Leonard, Dejounte Murray, Danny Green, Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge. They also have Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker and Rudy Gay on their bench. ‘Fundamental basketball’ is a term applied to the Spurs and they implement it each season. Their discipline is impeccable, a testament to their coach, and their cohesiveness makes them one of the best in the league. If they want to contend, they’ll need more out of Aldridge, who was practically a non-factor in the Playoffs last season. If Leonard can stay healthy, they may have a shot at beating the Warriors.
Oklahoma City are the X-factor team in the NBA this season. Russell Westbrook had the best season of his career last year, but it was not enough to help them in the postseason. They acquired Paul George and Carmelo Anthony in the offseason, giving them 2 veteran playmakers. Their starting lineup includes Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Steven Adams and Andre Roberson. The question is whether the 3 All-Stars can mesh on the court. All 3 are used to being the focal point, so they will need to learn to share if they want to flourish. If they can get their chemistry in order and remain healthy, the Thunder could very well be the next best thing in the West. There is already animosity between the Thunder and Warriors thanks to Durant’s departure, so this will be one of the most exciting matchups in the league.
Contenders in the East
The Eastern Conference is nowhere near as stacked as the West. The only 2 real contenders are the Cavaliers and the Celtics. League analysts will tell you—the East is all Cavs. There is no competition for LeBron James and Co. Kyrie Irving leaving to join the Celtics made them the only real threat. Gordon Hayward to the Celtics seconded this notion. There are the Atlanta Hawks and the Miami Heat, but they are still far off of what they need to beat Cleveland in a 7-game series.
The Cavaliers have arguably the best player in history—LeBron James. James’ presence would make any team instant Championship contenders. With Irving’s departure, the Cavs saw Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Ante Zizic come over. This addressed one of their biggest problems—depth. Their new staring lineup is Jae Crowder, Kevin Love, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Derrick Rose. Thomas won’t be able to play for some time, as he is nursing a hip injury, but if he returns with the same quality he had in Boston last season, the Cavs will have a powerful weapon. They also added veterans Dwayne Wade and Derrick Rose. These 2 may not be as fast as they once were, but they have plenty of raw talent and experience. Another interesting change was moving Kevin Love to center, moving Tristan Thompson to the bench. This gives them the opportunity to spread the floor while simultaneously providing rotation at the center position. The Cavs looked pretty weak in last year’s Finals against the Warriors—Durant was too much for them. They are hoping that these offseason changes will give them what they need to reclaim their title.
Last year’s Eastern Conference Finals was the Cavs v. the Celtics. Boston is the second-best team in the East, but they were missing a few key elements. They added Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward in the offseason, giving them a new identity. With these changes, the Celtics appeared to have what they needed to give the Cavs a run for their money. However, they lost Hayward to a broken leg in the season opener against Cleveland. Hayward’s injury is devastating to their team and their Playoff chances, but the Celtics will press on. Hayward won’t be able to return until next season, so it is possible that the Celtics add someone else to make up the absence, but that remains to be seen. As things stand now, they won’t be able to challenge the Cavs. Their updated lineup will likely be Marcus Morris, Al Horford, Jason Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.
The Favorites to Win (Our Picks)
We foresee a NBA Finals rematch of the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. While teams made significant changes, it is not enough to compete with these 2 in a 7-game series. The Warriors pretty much have the same team as last year, so the question falls to the Cavs if they added enough depth to keep up with them. The Thunder could challenge in the West if they get it together, but only time will tell how their new team functions.
Our picks are a Western Conference Finals with the Warriors v. Thunder and an Eastern Conference Finals with the Cavs v. Celtics. This will result in a fourth-straight rematch in the Finals. We predict that Cleveland will come out on top. If they lose any starters to injury, the odds will shift in favor of the Warriors. You can find betting lines on all teams throughout the season through any of the sportsbooks recommended in this guide, all offering legal NBA betting options.
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