A Vegas look at the NBA: Five favorites to win the title


AP Photo/David J. Phillip

The Dallas Mavericks celebrate after Game 6 of the NBA Finals basketball game against the Miami Heat Sunday, June 12, 2011, in Miami. The Mavericks won 105-95 to win the series.

Tue, Apr 17, 2012 (7:15 p.m.)

Odds to win the NBA Championship

  • Miami — Even
  • Oklahoma City — 3-to-1
  • Chicago — 9-to-2
  • San Antonio — 6-to-1
  • Los Angeles Lakers — 8-to-1
  • Los Angeles Clippers — 10-to-1
  • Boston — 15-to-1
  • New York — 20-to-1
  • Memphis — 20-to-1
  • Dallas — 20-to-1
  • Orlando — 40-to-1
  • Philadelphia — 50-to-1
  • Atlanta — 75-to-1
  • Denver — 100-to-1
  • Houston — 100-to-1
  • Numbers from Cantor Gaming

Everyone has a friend or two who loves sports but “hates” the NBA.

You know the guy, the one who spends way too much energy complaining about professional hoops. The one who claims he would rather keep his television tuned to E! than TNT on Thursday nights. The one who, among his reasons why, will cite that NBA players “never” defend and the eventual champion is too obvious.

The defense argument is so asinine that it doesn’t even deserve any mention here. Watch the All Star Game for what really happens when players only care about offense.

As for the other point, well, it’s time to give the 2011 Dallas Mavericks some of their due credit. No one was picking the Mavericks to win the 2011 NBA finals at this time last year.

Not even their own fans, who would have seen simply challenging the Los Angeles Lakers in a second-round series as a cause for celebration.

Las Vegas sports books were as stunned to see Dirk Nowitzki and Co. hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy as everyone else. A week before the playoffs in 2011, exactly a year ago, the Mavericks were about 15-to-1 to win the title in local books.

Oddsmakers ranked six teams as more likely to win the championship.

It would be akin to the Boston Celtics, 15-to-1 at Cantor Gaming sports books, winning the championship this year. Unless a team like the Memphis Grizzlies — 20-to-1 — or the Indiana Pacers — 25-to-1 — gets unconsciously hot, there’s not going to be a longer shot than the Mavericks winning the title this year.

A six-year stretch that saw one of the foremost Vegas favorites winning the title preceded Dallas in 2011.

Five teams have differentiated themselves as true championship contenders this season with odds of less than 10-to-1 at Cantor. They are the Miami Heat, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Chicago Bulls, the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Click to enlarge photo

In this Dec. 12, 2011, photo, Miami Heat players Dwyane Wade, back, LeBron James and Chris Bosh pose for photos during the NBA basketball team's media day in Miami. It's Act Two for the Big Three, and the Heat are bringing back almost the exact same cast for what they hope is another title shot.

The Heat are, once again, the foremost favorite at even money. That could come as a surprise for someone who has listened to the panic in the mainstream media regarding Miami.

The Heat are only 15-10 since the All Star break, leading some to question if they’re ready for the postseason. Las Vegas sports books have not overreacted to the Heat’s second half of the season for a couple of reasons.

First, bettors have already put plenty of money on Miami. Sports books must caution against raising the Heat’s future odds and attracting even more public action.

Miami remains the most talented team. Oddsmakers still value a three-man nucleus of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh above any other competition.

Miami had no trouble reaching the finals last year and will finish this regular season with a better winning percentage. That’s not to say the road to the title is easy in 2012.

Chicago once again will hold home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs, possibly indicating value on its 9-to-2 price to win the championship. The health of Derrick Rose is integral, however, and bettors can’t like that he’s missed 24 games this year.

The Thunder spent long stretches of this season looking like the most complete team, going 33-28 against the spread in the process. At 3-to-1, Oklahoma City has seen its future odds to drop more than any other team. Sports books opened the Thunder at 7-to-1 before the season.

Like the Heat, the Lakers are always a popular bet in Las Vegas. Los Angeles got as high as 12-to-1 to win the title, but have settled down to 8-to-1 with a fantastic April.

Although they could still earn home-court advantage in the Western conference, the Spurs are attached to a relatively high 6-to-1 price. Bettors are shy with San Antonio in the futures market. The Spurs have lost in the first round of the playoffs in two of the last three years, becoming as synonymous with premature exits lately as they were for championship runs earlier in the decade.

But they’re not a team to throw out of the title conversation. The NBA is no longer “where predictable happens,” as the Mavericks proved last year.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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