Top Three Long Shots on NBA Futures Market
If you want to bet on the Golden State Warriors to defend their title, get in line. The Warriors are –140 favorites at press time to win the 2016 NBA Championship, well ahead of the San Antonio Spurs (+325) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (+375). Virtually no one else is considered a real threat to win the title this year, but there are three long shots who could conceivably shake things up during the NBA playoffs.
Portland Trail Blazers (+25000)
This was supposed to be a down year for the Trail Blazers after losing nearly their entire starting rotation to free agency and trades. But the lone holdover, point guard Damian Lillard (23.1 PER), has blossomed into one of the most potent offensive players in the league. Lillard’s new backcourt partner, CJ McCollum (17.5 PER), has made the most of this opportunity with 21.5 points per 36 minutes, hitting 41.4% of his 3-pointers.
If only either of them could play defense. The Blazers do balance things out with centers Mason Plumlee (16.7 PER) and Ed Davis (18.8 PER) making life difficult for opponents in the paint. But Portland’s title hopes rest squarely on Lillard and McCollum getting super-hot during the playoffs.
Detroit Pistons (+20000)
Four straight wins have the Pistons back in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, and given the questions surrounding the mental makeup of the Cavaliers, this might be the right year for someone in the East to pull off the upset. Detroit’s rebuilding project is in good hands with Stan Van Gundy, who did well to pry forward Tobias Harris (16.0 PER) from the Orlando Magic at the trade deadline.
But does Van Gundy have enough horses to get there? Backcourt depth became a serious issue after point guard Brandon Jennings (13.3 PER) was sent to Orlando in the Harris trade. That leaves Steve Blake (8.7 PER) to soak up 17 minutes per game behind starter Reggie Jackson (20.0 PER). Maybe that will be less of an issue when the rotations tighten during the playoffs.
Utah Jazz (+50000)
This might be the best team no one is talking about. The Jazz are likely to become first-round fodder in the West for either the Warriors or the Spurs, but nothing should be taken for granted against a lineup that features a legitimate Big Three frontcourt in small forward Gordon Hayward (18.5 PER), power forward Derrick Favors (22.1 PER) and center Rudy Gobert (17.4 PER).
It would help Utah’s cause to get an upgrade at point guard during the offseason. For now, the Jazz have a solid stop-gap measure in Shelvin Mack (14.6 PER), who arrived from the Atlanta Hawks at the trade deadline and has played close to league-average ball at a position of great need. Utah is 6-1 SU and ATS in its last seven games with Mack running the offense. It’s the longest shot on the board, but anything can happen in the playoffs.