For some, the middle of May signifies the weather getting warmer and the days getting longer. However, for basketball fans all over the world, it means the beginning of the NBA’s Conference Finals. While 26 teams are heading home for an early Summer, the country’s best four teams will be battling it out in first-to-four-game series, with the hopes of lifting the Larry O’Brien Championship come June. Here at The Eye, we use the betting odds in Las Vegas to look at the top four team’s strengths, weaknesses and potential matchups in order to make predictions of who’ll be paving their path into the Hall of Fame, and who will be identifying as unemployed by the start of next season.
Note: All odds are via vegasodds.com and The Eye takes no responsibility for any money that may be lost through betting on your favorite team.
Golden State Warriors (Vegas Odds -150)
When former MVP, Kevin Durant, switched the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 73-win Warriors to make himself enemy #1 among the public, fans were talking about handing the Warriors every championship in the foreseeable future. Significantly aided by key injuries to opposition players, they were able to steamroll through the Western Conference before taking down a Lebron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers team by a score of 4-1.
This season has been a highy turbulent ride for Kevin Durant and co. Point guard and two-time MVP, Stephen Curry, has had to deal with a total of four ankle sprains and an MCL sprain, restricting him to playing 51 out of the 82 games in the regular season. NBA insider, Adrian Wojnarowski, reports that Curry’s current MCL sprain is projected to keep him out of for at least the first round of the playoffs. The Houston Rockets have already clinched the best seed in the Western conference and are definitely looking to challenge the Warriors for a spot in the finals.
My Prediction: NBA Champions
Houston Rockets (Vegas Odds +210)
To say the Rockets’ roster had an offseason revamp would be a blatant understatement. Chris Paul left Los Angeles for Houston in a sign-and-trade deal that sent a long list of assets including Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Darrun Hilliard, DeAndre Liggins, Kyle Wiltjer, a protected first-round pick next year and cash considerations back to the Clippers. Despite having two all-star guards in Paul and Harden, there were still question marks as to how two ball-dominant guards would work together. It didn’t take coach Mike D’Antoni long before getting his offense to work like magic. The combination of Harden’s MVP season, Chris Paul’s ability to adapt to the system, and the rise of young center, Clint Capela, Houston clinched the Western conference with ease and will be hoping to take down the heavily-injured Warriors.
Prediction: The Rockets will Lose in The Western Conference Finals
Cleveland Cavaliers (Vegas Odds: +600)
The 2017 NBA offseason was amongst the most dramatic of all time, and the Cavaliers were not spared of any such drama. When news broke of Kyrie Irving’s wanting out of Cleveland to escape the shadow of LeBron James, the Cavs made it clear that they would accept nothing short of a star in return. In one of the biggest trades in the history of the Eastern Conference, number one seed, Boston, sent their all-star point guard Isaiah Thomas, Ante Zizic, Jae Crowder and the rights to Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 pick to acquire Irving. Thomas, injured for the forty games of the season through a hip injury, came back for a mere fifteen games before the Cavs traded half their team on the day of the trade deadline. Sending Thomas along with Channing Frye to the Lakers in return for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr signified the Cavs’ recognition that they had in fact lost the Kyrie Irving trade. Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, and Jae Crowder also said their goodbyes to their turbulent few months in Cleveland.
Despite all of this, LeBron James is likely going to finish second in the MVP race and the fact that Vegas bookmakers have identified the Cavaliers as the most likely team to come out of the Eastern Conference is a testament to LeBron’s inability to age.
My Prediction: NBA Finalists, ultimately losing the Championship Title
Boston Celtics (Vegas Odds: +2000)
Despite being some of the hardest-working, most dedicated people on the team, very rarely (in sport) are the general manager and head coach given so much credit for a team’s success. Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens have proven to be exceptions to this rule. Having had a stellar regular-season that finished with the second seed in the East, few would bet on the Celtics to get to the Conference Finals due to the injury of star point-guard, Kyrie Irving coupled with all-star, Gordon Hayward’s horrific leg break on the first day of the season. With two forwards no older than 21 and an overlooked point-guard (Terry Rozier), the Celtics team looked too thin and inexperienced. However, Tatum and Brown, coupled with the efforts of “Scary Terry” and veteran Al Horford, have played out of their skins to not only take down Milwaukee in seven, but also Joel Embiid and his Philadelphia 76ers. However, with “King James” playing some of the best basketball in his fifteen-year career, it seems like his might may prove to be too much for a Celtics team that will definitely be contenders for years to come.
My Prediction: The Celtics will lose in the Eastern Conference Finals