It might surprise you to know that never in the history of the NBA have the same two teams played in the NBA Finals three straight years. But all signs point to a Cavaliers-Warriors trilogy showdown. Here are free NBA picks from SBR Forum’s best sportsbooks with the 2016-17 season tipping off.
Eastern Conference Champion
The champion Cleveland Cavaliers are the heavy -300 favorites to three peat in the East and why shouldn’t they be? They have a guy named LeBron James and his teams, be it in Cleveland or Miami, have won the East six straight years. Last year, LeBron became the ninth player in league history to reach six straight NBA Finals. One of them was his teammate, James Jones, who has basically been following LeBron wherever he goes this decade. The other seven guys are all Celtics from those dominant 1960s teams: Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Sam Jones, Satch Sanders, K.C. Jones, Tom Heinsohn and Frank Ramsey. All those Boston guys are in the Hall of Fame, with Satch Sanders as a contributor and the other six as players.
Assuming James and fellow star Kyrie Irving are healthy entering the playoffs, the only team with a realistic chance of winning the East is Boston, which is +800 to do so. The Celtics were able to sign the No. 2 free agent on the market this summer in Al Horford. They also have some terrific assets to potentially trade and get a superstar. That’s probably what it would take to beat out the Cavs.
Western Conference Champion
The Warriors are also heavy -300 favorites to three peat. All they did was win an NBA-record 73 regular-season games last year. The only thing that likely stopped them from winning a second straight NBA title was an injury to Steph Curry that lingered and a suspension to Draymond Green in Game 5 of the Finals. And the Warriors are even better after adding four-time scoring champion and one-time NBA MVP Kevin Durant this offseason. There’s no reason to delve into any other teams in the West. Barring injury to Curry or Durant, the Warriors will win the West for a third straight year and then beat the Cavaliers in the rubber match.
Coach Of The Year
San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and Golden State’s Steve Kerr are the +600 favorites on free NBA picks. Kerr won it last year, becoming the first Warriors winner since Don Nelson in the 1991-92 season. Hard to argue with Kerr doing so since the Warriors won those 73 games and set NBA records for single-season road victories (34) and consecutive home regular-season wins (54). Golden State also became the first team to go through a season without losing two games in a row or losing to the same team twice.
My only qualm with that is Kerr missed the season’s first 43 games due to health reasons. But NBA rules gave him all the wins accrued under interim coach Luke Walton. Popovich has won this award three times, last in 2013-14. His Spurs were second in the NBA last season with 67 wins and were 40-1 at home. He was third in the voting.
What you want to do when projecting the winner of this award most times is a coach who takes a team either to a huge jump in wins from last season or who takes a projected lottery team to the playoffs. Thus my free NBA pick is Utah’s Quin Snyder at +1200. Due in part to injuries, the Jazz were 40-42 last year and just missed the playoffs. But they have some of the most promising young talent in the NBA in Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert, Dante Exum and Derrick Favors. And the Jazz added solid veterans like Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw to that mix this offseason. I expect Utah to approach 50 wins this year and potentially be as high as the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. That would be plenty to make Snyder the Coach of the Year.