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2018 NBA Championship Futures: Odds and Best Bets

Eastern Conference(38-32) @ Western Conference(32-38)

  • Where: TBA. TBA
  • When: June 30, 2018 7:00 pm EST
  • Moneyline: Golden State Warriors (-175), Houston Rockets (+400), Cleveland Cavaliers (+600), Boston Celtics (+1200), Toronto Raptors (+1600), OKC Thunder(+2000), San Antonio Spurs (+3300)

With the All-Star Break in rear-view, it’s time to look at futures odds for potential winners of the 2018 NBA Finals.

But beware. The Golden State Warriors’ continued dominance is causing a conundrum on the betting board. Many tasty underdogs will be touted as primed to reach the big dance on June 30th, but few will have a real shot come summer. Teams will experience hot streaks and suffer cold spells, all viewed through the deceptive lens of the regular season.

Call it the Kurt Rambis Principle. Rambis was a great Association forward who was legendary for his hustle and effort. He played just as hard in January as he did in July, and racked up prolific numbers against lackadaisical foes. But he disappointed NBA Finals prop gamblers time and again, because in the playoffs, other players were playing their tails off too.

Don’t get caught up in the weekly hype – futures betting is about the future. Which club will have the talent, coaching and poise to challenge Golden State when it counts?

Bookies and bettors aren’t sure. Houston’s odds in particular seem absurd, but let’s take a closer look at all of the contenders starting with the Western Conference.

Golden State Warriors

Stephen Curry’s defending champs are sitting at (-175) odds despite a record that was only good enough for 2nd place in the Western Conference at the break. Clearly, nobody in Vegas is in a mood to doubt Oakland in a playoff series. But a futures wager at those odds promises very low reward for the risk, so the bet is only safe if we’re absolutely sure another title is a foregone conclusion.

The Warriors’ success is built on excellent defense and scoring versatility. Kevin Durant is on fire, scoring 50 points in a mid-February game against Portland. But the Trail Blazers won, 123-117. Golden State is ranked 22nd in the league in points allowed, and the squad is allowing too many rebounds while not snagging enough turnovers. Piddling issues compared to the electrifying play of Curry, Thompson and Durant in the postseason? Maybe. But we’re not liking the champs as a (-175) futures bet. Not yet, anyway.

Prognosis: Not a wise wager at this time, but keep an eye on them.

Houston Rockets

Bovada’s futures odds on the Rockets could not tell a sharper story. Houston is at (+250) to win the West, while the Cleveland Cavaliers are strongly favored to win the East. Yet Mike D’Antoni’s team is a shorter-odds bet to win the NBA title (+400) than the Cavs currently are.

In other words, Las Vegas believes that James Harden and the Rockets are unlikely to beat Golden State, but would be heavy favorites to beat Cleveland.

That feels like an oversimplified way of looking at things. After all, it’s harder to scale 2 skyscrapers than just 1.

Houston’s recent winning streak, during which their point average shot up to 2nd in the NBA, is nice for the franchise. But they’re still not in the top half of the league in rebounds or assists as of 2/19. Hot shooting always levels-out eventually. We’re excited about the Rockets, but not enough to make sense of the odds.

Prognosis: Let the dust and the betting lines settle before putting any cash on the cagers from Crescent City.

Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder have somewhat remedied the “Russell Westbrook vs. The World” syndrome that knocked them out of last season’s playoffs. But whether or not you believe a run to the 2018 NBA Finals is in the cards should be based on how the stars of OKC can recover from injuries. Andre Roberson ruptured a tendon January 27th, leaving the team without a bona-fide shooting guard. Westbrook and Carmello Anthony have been ailing.

Prognosis: 12/1 odds are sexy. But let’s see how they do when everyone is healthy…if that ever happens.

San Antonio Spurs

Things have been looking bleak in Alamo City. The club is struggling through an extended road trip. Kawhi Leonard is out with a quad injury. LaMarcus Aldridge and Manu Ginobili are limping in and out of the lineup, and some pundits are saying this could be the Spurs’ worst season since before Tim Duncan was drafted.

But as hype drives the action, consider that the Spurs’ 33/1 futures line presents value for a team with so much playoff experience on the roster. Regular season results ebb and flow, but consider it in terms of the stock market. San Antonio may not be a “cheaper buy” in spring. A $50 wager made now offers a 4-figure payout on a winner later on.

Prognosis: Not a confirmed contender yet, but the odds are too long.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Click here to wager on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers (+600) to win the 2018 NBA Finals and get a sign-up reward from Bovada.

The perennial class of the East, the Cavaliers have an easier road to the NBA Finals than anyone in the Warrior-dominated Western Conference.

Vegas is convinced that if LeBron reaches another showdown with Curry and Durant, Cleveland won’t have what it takes.

But the Cavs are nearly .500 and have won a title in 2 such recent July clashes. The franchise made 6 roster moves at the trade deadline, and since then the Cavaliers are 3-0 with a 15+ point margin-of-victory average. Role-players like Jordan Clarkson, George Hill, and Rodney Hood – who helped the squad hammer the Celtics in his debut appearance – are flourishing.

Players often flourish when lining up next to James. But most importantly, his team is farther along than it often is by late winter.

Prognosis: An excellent futures wager at (+600) for the 2016 champs.

Boston Celtics

The “Celts” are a tale of two buckets. They’re the finest team in the league at defending their own, a top-ranked defense with a criminally low points-against total. But offensively, the Green have had the blues. The squad has been scoring at a rate among the lowest-producing offenses in the NBA, and there’s simply no evidence that a dominant weapon is in development to replace Isaiah Thomas.

Yes, the Warriors have proven that team cohesion and consistency are the keys to a championship. But Curry and James have proven that a top-end superstar comes in handy too.

Prognosis: Too quiet on offense for even (+1200) title odds to offer value.

Toronto Raptors

Finally, a hot team from cold Canada sits at 16/1 odds to win the NBA title in 2018. Bettors are skeptical despite a 41-16 record at the break.

But in a world of “puppet” NBA coaches who dance on the strings of celebrity ballers, we’re liking the leadership shown by Toronto head coach Dwane Casey.

After the club nearly blew a game against Miami, the skipper told reporters, “Like you’re going down a dark alley, here comes a group of guys with a baseball bat and you say, ‘oh, hey, where’s the baseball game?’ It’s 12 o’clock at night, you know what’s coming around the corner.”

Except that what’s actually coming around the corner is an easy 2nd-half schedule, and terrific players like DeMar DeRozan are buying in to what Casey’s preaching.

Prognosis: At a 16/1 payout there are few better teams on which to place a futures bet than the birds from north of the border.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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