Featuring a promising draft class, exciting Olympic tournament and overdramatic front-office moves, this offseason has been nothing short of impressive.
Even with the season opener over a month away, sports books worldwide have released NBA Futures Odds for fans to choose who will win the NBA Finals in April of 2013:
|Golden State Warriors||+18100||181/1||$18,100|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+2250||45/2||$2,250|
|Los Angeles Lakers||+260||13/5||$260|
|New Orleans Hornets||+17600||176/1||$17,600|
|New York Knicks||+4050||81/2||$4,050|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+530||53/10||$530|
|Portland Trail Blazers||+11600||116/1||$11,600|
|San Antonio Spurs||+1550||31/2||$1,550|
As these odds clearly indicate, there are three outright favorites for the 2012-13 NBA Finals crown: Miami, Los Angeles (Lakers) and Oklahoma City.
The returning champion Miami Heat possess one of the most powerful starting lineups, highlighted by the reigning regular-season and NBA Finals MVP, LeBron James—all the reason backing up the minor payout of 37/20 odds.
On top of favoring a repeat champion, this book offers just 13/5 odds for the new faces in Hollywood—a modest $260 payout of a $100 bet.
The overrating of the Los Angeles Lakers seems reasonable for Vegas-based books as the heart of downtown Los Angeles is just five hours away, although it may seem a bit shorter if you take the Hunter S. Thompson route.
The Lakers boast an incredible team, on paper. What fans, and bettors especially, fail to understand is that this team has yet to prove anything after picking up a 38-year-old point guard and an All-Star center with major back problems.
However, if the Lakers can stay healthy, Los Angeles will have the league's absolute best starting five.
The only other hundred-dollar payout lands on the returning Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder, led by the league's best scorer, Kevin Durant.
After taking three straight NBA scoring titles, Duranchula set the all-time Olympic scoring record with his 156 points during the United States of America's 2012 gold-medal run.
Durant and the Thunder dominated Kobe's Lakers in the 2012 Western Conference semifinals in just five games, so it will be extremely interesting to see how Howard and Nash gel with the largely Kobe-driven Lakers.
According to the given odds, the only other teams to potentially dethrone the Heat, Thunder or Lakers are the San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls are led by the 2012-13 Comeback Player of the Year favorite in Derrick Rose, after tearing his ACL in the first game of the 2012 NBA Playoffs. If Rose can return to his MVP-winning form in 2012-13, look for the Bulls to play spoiler and make a legitimate NBA Finals run.
Out west, the preseason favorites will have to deal with the 31/2 odds on the San Antonio Spurs.
After last season's incredible 20-game win streak, it's extremely clear how Gregg Popovich's Spurs can dominate through fundamentals.
Unfortunately for Pop, the impressive streak last season fell just three wins short of an NBA Finals appearance.
While the Spurs and Bulls are pitted as a lower class than the best, keep a keen eye on Boston and the new looks of Philadelphia and Denver to play a dark-horse role.
Futures odds are primarily targeted towards sports book professionals and, of course, the marked diehard Charlotte fan that thinks his $100 will magically turn into a $30,000 payout come next May.
Unfortunately for NBA fans nationwide, the league is back to it's 1980s and '90s form where the playoffs are sure to be dominated by a select few.
Interesting strategy, Mr. Stern, seeing as how your previous policy on building a "dream team" would hurt the league's image.
@kevry88 on twitter
All 30 odds taken from SBG Global on 09/18/12.