NBA: Buy, Sell or Hold

Examining teams by Championship Odds

The NBA season is less than a month away. The offseason chaos is settling into player rankings and other prognostication. Ranking the players is a fun exercise, but the game is ultimately a team sport and championships are won by teams. Star players matter more in the NBA than just about anywhere else, but the team context is still critical. However, picking NBA title favorites is not the most exciting topic as the Warriors seem to have a stranglehold on the league with only Cleveland and Boston lingering (maybe Houston, if you reach). Yet, I want to take stock of the teams as we get ready to launch into the season. Imagine their title odds as stock prices. If the odds will get better during the season: Buy. If they will get worse: Sell. Otherwise: Hold. I’ll look at over-unders in the days ahead, but this will be an early indication of which teams I feel are under or over rated.

Sacramento Kings +100000
I  am cautiously optimistic about the Kings. I believe in De’Aaron Fox think Harry Giles could be interesting value and Bogdan Bogdonavic is an intriguing player. This team will flounder out West, but I’m not sure they are the worst in the conference. If Buddy Hield progresses they have some potential to move up. Buy

Orlando Magic +100000
This team is going to be a rough watch and I’m not sure where they are headed. Aaron Gordon is a promising piece and Jonathan Simmons will get a chance at a bigger role than the Spurs provided, but other there’s not much more. Best case: Mario Hezonja takes a leap forward and gives the future a bit more hope. Sell

Brooklyn Nets +100000
I like Kenny Atkinson at coach and this team has no incentive to tank. Wins will still be hard to come by, but I think this team has a chance to be better than a couple teams in the East. Jeremy Lin was good for them last year when he was healthy so if he can stay on the court they could be a mild surprise. Buy

Phoenix Suns +50000
The pieces are starting to come together. Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker in the back court with Josh Jackson on the wing gives them a lot of talent. They will need Bender or Chriss to step up in the front court to make real progress. Its a team laden with assets that is still a year or two away. Hold

Atlanta Hawks +50000
This is a full-on rebuilding job as most familiar faces are gone. Taurean Prince and Kent Bazemore are interesting wing players, but are not meant to be leading men on a quality team. John Collins could be an interesting rookie, but if this team were not in the East it would be pretty bleak. As is, Budenholzer will probably keep them competitive for stretches of the season. Hold

Indiana Pacers +50000
Paul George put them in a tough spot, but Indiana made it worse with a head-scratching trade. Myles Turner has star potential, but unless Oladipo turns into something he was not in OKC it looks like a tough season. They have talent, but seem lost as an organization and it will be interesting to see the approach they take without Larry Bird at the helm. Sell

New York Knicks +50000
The Knicks continue to be a hot mess–as evidenced by the constant Carmelo Anthony rumors. However, parting ways with Phil Jackson and having Porzingis on the roster give some hope. This team won’t be god, but they may be better than expected if Kristaps’ development is no longer hindered by Jackson. Hold

Chicago Bulls +50000
Dwyane Wade is one of the Bulls better players, but many would be shocked to see him end the season in the Windy City. His skill set does not fit this young, rebuilding team. Bobby Portis has a lot of potential and Denzel Valentine or Lauri Markanen may bloom into something. Yet, this year will likely be a long road for the Bulls. A repeat playoff visit seems highly unlikely. Sell

Charlotte Hornets +50000
I like the pieces here as a playoff team in the East. Kemba, Kidd-Gilchrist and Zeller/Kaminsky/Dwight Howard give them some talent to work with. If Malik Monk has an immediate impact this team might could upset someone in the first round. Steve Clifford is a quality coach and this team will be feisty all season. Buy

Detroit Pistons +50000
This team is stuck. They built around Andre Drummond, but struggle to play him in crunch time. They haven’t really hit on free agents (Reggie Jackson) or draft picks (Stanley Johnson). Steve Van Gundy will likely have them hovering on the brink of the playoffs, but nothing more. Hold

Dallas Mavericks +30000
Dirk Nowitzki and Rick Carlisle will keep this team competitive. I like their first round pick, Dennis Smith and he could be a good pair with Nerlens Noel. This team has dueling interests of development and being competitive. They are a good enough organization to get into the playoffs even in a loaded conference, which may surprise some. Buy

Memphis Grizzlies +25000
The only real change for this team is losing Zach Randolph. Fizzdale is a good coach, but this team is not built for a run in this NBA. If they can stay healthy maybe they can grind out one more year with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, but health is a concern and the ceiling is already pretty low. Sell

Portland Trail Blazers +20000
If this Blazers team has a healthy Nurkic and plays like they did at the end of last season they have potential to surprise. Yet, this team feels like a known commodity: electric back offensive back court, but  struggles to defend. I like Lillard and McCollum, but not sure how much further they can go together. Hold

Utah Jazz +20000
This team won’t go away just because they lost Gordon Hayward. But…they probably won’t go much higher either. Rubio, Gobert and the Joes (Johnson and Ingles) give the Jazz a well-rounded team, but I struggle to see how they challenge the top of the conference. If Dante Exum has a breakout season maybe their ceiling rises, but that does not look promising. Hold

Denver Nuggets +15000
This team is loaded with assets. Kenneth Faried may get trade at some point, but is still a great contributor. They have young talent in Jamaal Murray and especially Nikola Jokic. They signed a veteran leader in Paul Millsap. This team has its eyes on the playoffs and could be a scary team as its always tough to win in Denver. Buy

Miami Heat +15000
They were one of the best teams in the league down the stretch this season. Its unlikely Dion Waiters will reach the heights of last year, but this team has the pieces–Whiteside, Winslow, Dragic–to make a run in the East. Spoelstra will have this team looking like a second-round threat. Buy

New Orleans Pelicans +15000
I am not buying Anthony Davis and Cousins together. Even if they do put up big numbers, this team does not have the pieces around them to be a threat out West. This team will be a major disappointment and the story lines will be more focused on Cousins’ and Davis’ next moves rather than anything New Orleans achieves. Sell

Los Angeles Clippers +10000
They lose Chris Paul, but that may free up Blake Griffin more. There is definitely some Ewing Theory potential with this team. They won’t be a real threat in the West, but won’t drop off as much as people think. Hold

Los Angeles Lakers +10000
The Lakers are moving in the right direction, but there still a couple years (or a LeBron acquisition) away from being a scary team in the West. It will be a more exciting year for Lakers fans, but the wins will still be slow to come. This could be the last year of a struggling Lakers squad for a while. Sell

Philadelphia 76ers +7500
This is an exciting team, but they will not be a top-5 squad in the East. If healthy, they will have to figure out how to merge a lot of assets together and health is a lot to expect from a team with this history. They may get to the second round sometime in the next two years, but Philly will be happy to see the first round this season. Sell

Toronto Raptors +7500
People are bored of this team, but the talent is still there. It’s rough to watch this team run into the same wall every year, but that wall is still farther than most teams reach. If DeRozan can add the three-point shot to his game, maybe they can improve. Even if they stay the same, not many teams out East should pass them. Hold

Milwaukee Bucks +6600
One team that could pass them is the Bucks. Giannis has received his MVP misssion from Kobe and may have the skills to be in the conversation. I’m not sure the team can stay healthy around him to make a run at the Celtics and Cavs, but Giannis gives them something no one else has. I want to see how Giannis looks early and how healthy the team is before going all-in here, but I am intrigued. Hold

Washington Wizards +5000
Washington took Boston to seven games last year, but is counting on Wall and Beal to majorly develop if they are going to keep up. If the Celtics and Cavs wobble at all, the Wizards have conference finals ability, but they need continued progression from Oubre Jr. and Porter Jr. to give DC fans real hope. Hold

Minnesota Timberwolves +2500
Can Thibodeau put all the pieces together. He got his guy in Jimmy Butler and now must pair him alongside Wiggins and Towns. Plus, they will be reliant on Jeff Teague at the point. I’m nervous results won’t match they hype, but am very excited to see this team take the court. Hold

Oklahoma City Thunder +2500
What will Russ do for an encore? For the Thunder to be a threat in the West he may have to change how he plays–his high usage style is hard to win with. Paul George gives him a new wing man, but I question his fit with Westbrook. I think the duos talent alone can get them to the second round, but I would not be surprised to see them self-com-bust either. Hold

San Antonio Spurs +1200
This is a lot of faith in Pop and Leonard. Pop is one of the best coaches ever and Leonard is a superstar, but this team is old. They will win games in the regular season on the back of their organization’s culture and experience, but it is hard for me to see this team putting any kind of run together unless Leonard goes up to a whole different level. Sell

Houston Rockets +900
Chris Paul and James Harden are both trying to use each other to get where they want to go. This team has a chance to earn Paul’s first trip to the conference finals. I am concerned about their fit and players Paul’s size don’t tend to age well. Yet, Harden and Paul’s ability to create points are up there with anybody. They are in the right spot as the fourth most likely to win the title. Hold

Boston Celtics +750
The Celtics had a helluva an off season and are hoping they’ve cashed in their assets the right way. If Irving can be an explosive offensive player, while Hayward leads a solid, deep supporting cast, the Celtics could be frightening. They could easily repeat as the one-seen in the East. However, the season will be defined by one question: Can they get past LeBron?  Hold

Cleveland Cavaliers +450
It is not looking great. Irving is gone. Isaiah Thomas could be out until February and much of the roster is old. What does Kevin Love have left? Is LeBron leaving? The Cavs have a bit of a mess on their hands. Still, LeBron is playing for them this year and you have to expect an eight straight finals for James. This team was closer to the Warriors than the 4-1 Finals suggested and if one Warrior star goes down they have the best chance to dethrone the champs. The Cavs are king in the East until someone proves they can beat the King. Buy

Golden State Warriors -160
The Warriors are far and away the best team in the league and should cruise to another title if they stay healthy–maybe even if they don’t. However, I am selling for now because I think the media will drive a narrative of turmoil on the team. The seeds are sown with the Curry-Durant Nike v. Under Armour snafu and whatever is going on with Kevin Durant’s social media. I think there will be bumps for this team in the early season so I am selling for now because the odds will get to a better value for a team that seems like a near lock for a championship. Sell

Author: Josh Dulany

Founder/Editor of Scoring Plays. Providing articles, podcasts, picks and more on the world of sports.

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