Cleveland Cavaliers Attracting Most Las Vegas Futures Bets to Win the 2015 NBA Title
As the second Lebron James Sweepstakes enters its second week, the Cleveland Cavaliers have become the favorites to win the 2015 NBA Finals at the Las Vegas Superbook. The odds are a testament to the faith that the Cavs have a real chance to lure the NBA’s best basketball player, four years after his dramatic departure from his hometown.
The MGM Grand sportsbook has the Cavaliers at 10-1 odds. Las Vegas Superbook assistant manager Jeff Sherman says the odds have halved at his sportsbook, down from 60-1 to 30-1. The Superbook oddsmaker says only the San Antonio Spurs (9-2) and the Chicago Bulls (7-1) have received more money, but the Cavs have received the most bets. The Heat, listed as a 5-2 favorite, have received only one bet since June 9th.
Lebron James’ Free Agency
When Lebron James entered free agency for the first time in 2010, the writing was on the wall. King James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh had been in discussions as early as 2006 to enter free agency together in 2010. The three logically would have done so for one of two reasons: the maximize profits or to set up the best situation for joining forces and winning NBA titles. The structure of NBA contracts assure the max contract is only possible with ones original team, or through a sign-and-trade. This gave Cleveland fans hope Lebron would choose them.
It might have gave them hope Lebron would lure other players to Cleveland. When the option was between South Beach and Cleveland, the choice was obvious. While Lebron James gave up money to play in Miami, he also assured he would enter free agency a year earlier. Also, he stood to gain a huge windfall in commercial endorsements, if he won a title with the Miami Heat (or another franchise). That was more likely to happen with Wade and Bosh, so ironically, Lebron was better situated to take less NBA money and receive more endorcement dollars than any other player. He could afford to join the Miami Heat.
The Decision: Part 2
Thus, Lebron James set up “The Decision” broadcast on ESPN. He assured the money from commercial broadcasts would go to a chidrens’ charity, while he could sit down and build suspense for his choice.
The move backfired on him, with fandom seeing his decision broadcast as egotistical and self-serving. An irate Cleveland Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert sent an open letter to Lebron James insulting him, claiming the Cavs would win an NBA title before Lebron would. Former NBA greats like Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley scoffed at the notion of players conspiring to join forces to win a title, suggesting they wanted to beat the best (not join the best) in their day and age. Lebron James became a villain to many NBA fans–certain in Cleveland. Yet now, Dan Gilbert and the Cavs hope to lure the prodigal son back home.
Miami Heat Look Old and Tired
A lot has changed in four years. The Miami Heat have won the Eastern Conference four times and played in four straight NBA Finals. The Heat won in 2012 and 2013, but bookended those titles with finals losses in 2011 and 2014. Now Dwyane Wade is four years older and hobbled by injuries. In the glow of James and Wade, Chris Bosh is seen as (by far) the least of the Big Three. The Miami Heat have a ton of bandwagon fans, but they may not have the future they once did.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Young Talent
The Cleveland Cavaliers, on the other hand, have a lot to recommend them. Due to the vagaries of the NBA Draft Lottery, the Cavs have had the #1 pick in the NBA Draft three out of the last four years. They’ve used those picks to draft Kyrie Irving, Anthony Bennett, and Andrew Wiggins.
The Cavaliers suddenly have a talent pool which looks younger and more promising than the Heat. They have a fanbase which remains expectant. Cleveland hasn’t won a major sports title since 1964–an era referred to as “The Drought”. Lebron James was steeped in that sports legend for his first 7 seasons with the Cavs…he has a lot of unfinished business there. To return to Cleveland and win the elusive title would heal all the old wounds.
Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins
How good the supporting cast might be is still up for discussion. Point guard Kyrie Irving is a 2-time All-Star and he’s entering his prime years. Forward Anthony Bennett had a rough rookie season and many wonder if he’s not already a bust. Andrew Wiggins, who might play either shooting guard or small forward in the pros, is considered a top-flight talent, but he’s a rookie and could require years of seasoning to reach his potential. The rest of the roster is pedestrian. Anderson Varajao is the only holdover from the first Lebron James stint in Cleveland, and he is seen a role player. Even the coach is untested in the NBA. David Blatt has a sparkling record in the European leagues, but has never coached in the National Basketball Association.
The biggest obstacle could be Cavs’ ownership, though. When Lebron James left, Dan Gilbert was anything but gracious or complimentary. Gilbert made his fortune with Quicken Loans, but he clearly had no idea he was alienating his franchise star in the seven years Lebron was on the team. He also owns private equity investment firms, while maintaining a partnership with Caesars Entertainment to operate urban casinos in Cleveland and Cincinnati. But his chief job as Cavs owner was to keep Lebron happy–something he did not do.
Dan Gilbert’s Management Style
Many believe Gilbert’s general managers mismanaged the Cleveland roster in the years leading up to James’s departure. Since he left, the team has underwhelmed in some of its personnel moves–certain in its public relations. Besides luck in the NBA Draft, it’s hard to say what Dan Gilbert has done right. Yet he had a face-to-face meeting with Lebron James yesterday, which is enough to give betters the idea Lebron is seriously considering a return to Cleveland.
Predictions on the 2015 NBA Champion
Personally, I see a futures wager on the Cleveland Cavaliers as 2015 NBA Champs as a longshot. Even if Lebron joins Irving and Wiggins, he’ll need some veteran help to beat the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder in 2015.
With that in mind, it seems far-fetched Lebron James will return back to Cleveland. While that is a good storyline, Lebron James is chasing a different kind of history. To take his proper place in NBA history, Lebron needs to win 3 or 4 more titles. That would equal the feats of Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and Tim Duncan. James simply cannot give away years in this, the prime of his career, if he is to reach that level of success.
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