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Super Early 2018 NBA Championship Betting Predictions & Picks

Written by on June 12, 2017

I expect the 2016-17 NBA season to end Monday night with Golden State an 8.5-point favorite over the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Hard to see the Cavs pulling another upset to force a Game 6 after they were dominated in Games 1-2 in Oakland. Thus it’s never too early to look ahead to next season – and it’s quite possible if not likely that the Cavs and Warriors will play in a fourth straight Finals. Here are the early 2018 title favorites.

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Super Early 2018 NBA Championship Betting Predictions & Picks

Golden State Warriors (-180)

The Dubs have two key guys heading for free agency in Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. The key would be re-signing Iguodala and if Kevin Durant is really willing to take a bit less money than the maximum on his contract, then the Dubs should be able to bring Iggy back. Durant, a 10-year veteran, is eligible to re-sign for around $35 million for next season. Along with Steph Curry, who is in line to get a much-deserved max deal, that would mean that the Warriors wouldn’t be able to fit Iguodala and Livingston into their cap. But Durant’s team-first gesture will give the team the ability to go forward without missing a beat, while also resulting in a $31 million contract for Durant for next season. So the Warriors will not need to create room under the cap to re-sign Durant and would not need to renounce their rights to Iguodala and Livingston. By taking about $4 million less than his max next year and waiting to get his long-term extension for at least another season, Durant would allow the Warriors a chance to use their Bird rights to re-sign their own free agents (notably Iguodala and Livingston) to deals far more comparable to what they’d likely see on the open market. The Warriors have $39 million in guaranteed salaries committed for next season. That’s because when the time came, everyone took less for themselves to put the team first. In 2014, a max contract for Klay Thompson would have come in at 25 percent of the $70 million salary cap with 7.5 percent annual raises, or around four years at $78 million. Thompson left some money on the table. So did Draymond Green, who signed a five-year, $82 million extension beginning in the 2015-16 season. His max contract would have come in at more than $100 million.

Cleveland Cavaliers (+350)

Really, who is going to beat the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference while LeBron James is still playing at a high level? He, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love all are under contract, although you do hear some rumors that James could go play for the Lakers when he hits free agency again after next season. James turns 33 on Dec. 30. He has put himself in position to sign for five years and approximately $200 million in the summer of 2018 if he stays with the Cavaliers. The longest contract he could sign for with a different team would be four years for about $160 million, according to terms of the CBA. However, the Cavs are going to be hamstrung in adding any players for next year. The NBA’s salary cap for the 2017-18 season is projected to be around $110 million. The Cavs are going to be way over that (at around $125M) with their commitments to just eight players: LeBron ($33.3 million salary next year), Kevin Love ($22.6M), Kyrie Irving ($18.9M), Tristan Thompson ($16.4M), JR Smith ($13.7M), Iman Shumpert ($11M), Channing Frye ($7.4M) and Richard Jefferson ($2.6M). The two biggest free agents would be reserve guards Kyle Korver and Deron Williams. Neither would be a huge loss, with Korver likely to re-sign. Super Early 2018 NBA Championship Betting Predictions & Picks

San Antonio Spurs (+1500)

NBA free agency begins on July 1 and really the only way the Spurs have a shot of dethroning the Warriors out West is by adding All-Star Chris Paul – and even that might not be enough. Paul reportedly will consider signing with the Spurs, but he would be leaving a ton of money on the table if he doesn’t re-sign with the Clippers. Apparently Paul is intrigued by the idea of teaming up with the likes of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and MVP top-three finalist Kawhi Leonard in his quest to achieve the deep playoff success that has eluded Paul to this point in his career. San Antonio would almost certainly have to sacrifice considerable roster depth to make him a representative contract offer. If anything, the Spurs have proven over time to be a team that can win championships, even beating the last super team that formed in the Miami Heat. Paul could make in excess of $200 million over five years with the Clippers. In San Antonio, he would make around $150 million over four years and would have no shot of making up the money he would lose by opting for a shorter contract. So I doubt he’s going there.