NBA East And West Favorites: Will the Cavs Meet the Spurs in the Finals?
- Updated: October 30, 2015
Eastern Conference: the Cavs or the Bulls?
- Cleveland Cavaliers
Last year, the Cavs won the Central Division and were only bested by Atlanta Hawks in the East – and promptly beat them in the conference finals. However, the success didn’t last long as Golden State Warriors triumphed in the NBA final.
Can Cavaliers do better than 53-29 that they managed last year? It looks like a lot will depend on the phenomenal James LeBron and whether his back will allow him to give his all to the game. LeBron’s performance will be especially important as the squad is facing a lot of injuries, both keeping players off the court and having them in recovery mode.
It’s still not clear when Kyrie Irving will come back after his knee surgery. In Iman Shumpert’s case it’s certain that he isn’t going to be fit for play until at least late December, so the team’s out of two solid guards with the newly-signed Mo Williams and young Jared Cunningham to fill in.
Kevin Love seems to be getting back to his previous form after the shoulder dislocation and he already played in two pre-season games. Timofey Mozgov and Anderson Varejao are still impacted by their right knee and Achilles tendon surgeries respectively, but they should be back at 100% reasonably soon.
Another player that should definitely be noted is Tristan Thompson, who’s been re-signed for five years and 82 million USD. The price-tag really solidifies how important he is to the team, and he can definitely grow to become a key element in a successful season.
The UK-licensed bookie TonyBet gives Cleveland Cavaliers the odds of 1.50 at becoming their conference winners – and that’s including the playoffs! Fingers crossed – currently, the injuries may seem like a pretty big obstacle, but it’s a strong team with a solid leader and they can definitely hold their own and go very far this year, too.
- Chicago Bulls
Last year, Chicago Bulls went as far as the Conference Semifinals where their dreams of making it any further were crushed by Cleveland Cavaliers. The latter team is going to present a challenge this year, too, although as the Cavs are weakened by injuries, the Bulls could go on to have a head-start.
Pau Gasol comes to mind as a natural leader, and he was definitely outstanding in Europe where he took his national team to EuroBasket victory. However, he is also 35 years old and the NBA season is long and grueling, so it would be a bit naïve to rely on him being at his top form the entire time.
Derrick Rose gave everyone a good scare with his eye socket injury that happened weeks before the season start, however, he’s good to go with a mask on his face. It’s arguably a lucky injury, seeing as he is fit to play, but it may give a further strain to his endurance.
Another player that will be very important is Nikola Mirotic, who finished off his rookie year with an impressive average of 10.2 points and 4.9 rebounds. If he can show similar results this year, he will be a very valuable addition to the team.
What the team’s not lacking is talent – and Jimmy Butler is a living proof of that. If the Bulls will be able to see Joakim Noah bouncing back from his injury, the squad will be a tough nut to crack for any of the opposing teams.
The only question is whether the Bulls could power through potential injuries to key players and whether they would have solid replacements. In any case, their chances at winning the East are at 7.50 and that seems like a fair shot!
- Washington Wizards
This is the team that could either do really well, or really badly in the Eastern Conference. They do have a few very promising players aboard, and if their veterans can hold their own and not get injured too much or too quickly, they have a solid chance at a good season.
One of these talents is John Wall, whose knee injury is a thing of a past now. Not only is he good at offense, he’s also developed a strong defense, and it seems like he’s going to be a very important factor at the potential Wizards’ success.
Another young player, Bradley Beal, had a brilliant season last year and he’s undoubtedly very good at offense. Two strong guards is a good start – however, they cannot carry the whole team through, and will need considerable support.
Talking about veterans Marcin Gortat comes to mind. He’s a very strong center and can be relied upon as long as his age doesn’t start impacting his play – and it’s hard to tell, really, as Gortat’s 31 and some players are able to perform fully while others deteriorate.
Last season, the Wizards came out with a 46-36 record, and that was with Paul Pierce, whose departure is a weighty loss to the team. Admittedly, this team winning in its conference would take a lot of people by surprise – and it makes the odds of 13.00 that the TonyBet sportsbook is giving for the Wizards’ triumph seem rather generous.
Western Conference: Tough Fight for the Top Spot
- San Antonio Spurs
Last year, the Spurs were the defending champions, which ended in them finishing third in their division, sixth in the conference, and losing in the first playoff round. Their win-loss record looks good enough at 55-27, but it wasn’t anywhere near enough to come out victorious.
Can they bounce back to their previous glory this season? It may be a bit hard with the Big Three getting older – Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili were a proper force together, and even though they can still hold their own, the season’s very long and grueling.
The three veterans do provide a solid starting point, and as long as they don’t get severely injured and the newcomers do well, the Spurs can go far. LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard could grow to be key players in the squad and they have just enough experience to keep up the performance throughout the entire season.
The squad in general is fairly seasoned, with the youngest player being the 22-year-old Kyle Anderson. The Spurs are not looking to grow promising talents as much as they’re looking to do way, way better than they did last year – and save for unexpected injuries, there aren’t any good reasons why they shouldn’t be able to.
They will see some tough contenders in their conference, but currently, they’re the favorites at the odds of 3.10. As the season goes on, that may change – however, this is a very experienced team with talented players who know how to win and how to come out of losing.
- Golden State Warriors
Now last year, the Warriors were an ultimate dream team: nobody expected them to do so incredibly, and yet they stormed through the season, achieving a 67-15 record and consequently returning as the defending champions this year.
Can they be just as successful again? They’ve definitely lost the element of surprise now, and not just that: normally, it’s the players that succumb to health issues, but this time it’s their coach Steve Kerr who’s still recovering from his multiple back surgeries.
His absence has undoubtedly been noticeable, as the pre-season performance really left something to be desired and didn’t feel like the return of the champions. It’s still not clear when Kerr is going to be back, and that could really have a negative effect on the gameplay. In any case, the win-loss record is definitely not going to be just as spectacular.
However, the team’s strong enough to dominate in their division, and if luck has it, in their conference, too. Stephen Curry led the team last year, and he can do it again, as not only is he a great shooter, he’s also more than apt at decision making on court – he wasn’t named MVP for nothing.
He’s not the only brilliant Warrior though. Draymond Green comes to mind, as he improved leaps and bounds last season, and, of course, Klay Thompson, who is also an amazing shooter and was definitely growing as a player, too.
Andrew Bogut finally had a relatively healthy season, and if he doesn’t get severely injured he’ll be a great help on the court, as will Andre Iguodala, whose defense is a valuable addition as is his experience – although he is 32, which could take its toll.
To sum up, the Warriors’ 4.00 odds at winning the West seems like a fairly safe bet, and they’re definitely up for the task – save some unpredictable mishaps. However, it is largely unlikely their season is going to be just as outstanding as it was last year.
- Oklahoma City Thunder
Last season was positively miserable for the Thunder, as they were half an inch away from making it to the playoffs and missed them for the first time since 08/09. While their 45-37 record wasn’t too bad, the conference had very dominant teams and with the three most important players injured, the outcome couldn’t have been any different.
This time it seems like Kevin Durant, Russel Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka are all healthy and ready to go – and the team’s success relies directly on whether they will keep on being that, as they are the force that could have the Thunder coming back from the ashes.
The 13/14 MVP Durant was already back during the pre-season games, and he’s looking as brilliant as ever, as are Russel Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. The new coach Billy Donovan seems to be gathering only good reviews so far, and although his strategies will be put to tough tests, it could be that extra push needed to make it to the top.
On their best day, this is the team that could take out anyone – but if their star trio suffers severe injuries, it could mean another bad season. The brand-new coach isn’t an experienced NBA veteran, either, so that could prove to be either revolutionary, or just a bad and rash decision.
In any case, the Thunder does have a good chance at dominating in their conference – the TonyBet sportsbook has valued it at the odds of 5.55. However, it’s tough to predict how the season is going to play out and whether this team does have a fair shot at becoming triumphant. One thing is clear – they should make it to the playoffs without any problems.