LeBron James promised multiple championships (seven, in fact) when he arrived with the Miami Heat. Now he’s got one ring on his hand, are we about to see the start of a dynasty on South Beach?
The Heat start as 3.00 favourites to retain their title next June, having brought back the Big Three and adding Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, two outside shooters who can complement the threat of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and James in a revised system which should help them put even more points on the board this year.
In the Eastern Conference, they’re 1.68 favourites - with a hobbled Chicago Bulls unlikely to stampede until Derrick Rose returns from injury in 2013, leaving fast-improving Indiana (12.00) as their most likely foes. Expect ageing Boston to fade away and the Knicks and Nets once again fail to light up New York after a lacklustre off-season.
However the Heat can expect a rigorous two-pronged challenge from the best of the West. After losing 4-1 in last year’s Finals, Oklahoma City return the bulk of their roster with one more year’s experience and only the contract uncertainty over James Harden clouding their bright long-term future.
That continuity is the reason that the Thunder are 4.40 second favourites for the title, just ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers at 4.55 with little separating the would-be rivals in the Western Conference stakes.
The arrival of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard has given the Lakers a new feel and a legitimate shot at the Championship, even though it may take a few months for them to hit top gear. On evidence so far, they’re a work in progress which is why it’s worth a look at the LA Clippers to steal a march for the Pacific Division title at 2.80, even if their chances of making a title run (at 28.00) seem remote.
In the Most Valuable Player race, James is 2.50 to claim the honour for a fourth time with OKC’s Kevin Durant at 3.00. Expect another titanic battle for individual supremacy between the Team USA team-mates once again. But take a peek at Dwight Howard at 15.00, who could contend if the star-studded Lakers can sparkle in unison.
New Orleans Hornets’ forward Anthony Davis, fresh from winning Olympic gold with the United States in London, is 2.50 to fulfil his billing as the number one Draft pick and earn the Rookie of the Year prize. He is every inch a class act but have a close look at Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas as a dark horse candidate at 15.00 as the Lithuanian lands in the NBA with ample seasoning from club and international basketball across the Atlantic.
- Atlantic Division: Philadelphia at 5.50
- Central Division: Indiana at 2.00
- Southeast Division: Miami at 1.01
- Northwest Division: Oklahoma City at 1.07
- Pacific Division: Los Angeles Clippers at 2.80
Southwest Division: San Antonio at 1.75
Eastern Conference: Miami at 1.68
Western Conference: Los Angeles Lakers at 2.40
Bet of the Pre-season:
In what will be a fascinating three-way battle between the Heat, Thunder and the Lakers, there’s good value in backing the big guns from Los Angeles for the NBA title at 4.55.