2018 NBA Playoffs Futures

durant-vs-blazersThe Golden State Warriors have been favored to win the 2018 NBA championship for the entire season. And this is little surprise, given that they dominated the league last year by going 16-1 in the playoffs.

But the Warriors haven’t played up to par down the stretch, especially with star point guard Steph Curry sidelined with an MCL sprain. The good news for the Warriors is that Curry should be back by the second round, provided they win their series against the No. 8 Minnesota Timberwolves. But the bad news for Golden State is that they now have a tougher road to defending their title.

This has allowed other teams like the Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Philadelphia 76ers to creep closer into the title picture. Find out where the NBA Playoffs futures currently sit as I discuss them in this post.

I’ll also cover the odds on each team winning their conference championship. And keep in mind that you can bet on playoffs futures at GTBets.

2018 NBA Championship Playoffs Futures

  • Boston +7500
  • Cleveland +700
  • Golden State +120
  • Houston +160
  • Indiana +15000
  • Miami +20000
  • Milwaukee +17500
  • Minnesota +15000
  • New Orleans +15000
  • Oklahoma City +4000
  • Philadelphia +1600
  • Portland +5000
  • San Antonio +6000
  • Toronto +1000
  • Utah +5000
  • Washington +12500

james-harden-vs-spursThe Golden State Warriors still have the best odds to win the NBA title at +120. But it’s important to realize that they’ve been favored by much more throughout the season.

We at GTBets have had their odds at -200 or better at various points of the year. Of course, few expected anybody to truly compete with Golden State after the way they tore through the 2017 postseason.

But the Houston Rockets (+160) have proven to be a worthy challenger so far. In fact, they might even be the best team considering that they finished with the top record at 65-17.

Pairing Chris Paul with James Harden has worked magnificently. The Rockets play a fast pace styled that allows them to keep up with the Warriors offensively. And they’re no slouches on defense either, ranking sixth in the league in this category.

And then there’s the rest…

iguodala-lebron-jamesThe Cleveland Cavaliers currently have the third-best odds at +700. This gives them a slight edge on paper over the Toronto Raptors (+1000), who secured the East’s number-one seed with a The59-23 record.

Many expect Lebron James to be in his eighth-straight NBA Finals. But Cleveland is no lock to do so, considering all of the roster changes and turmoil that they’ve gone through this year. Toronto, meanwhile, won a franchise-record 59 games and has their best all-around team yet.

The Philadelphia 76ers are a surprising inclusion among the top teams at +1600. This is a very young team that’s led by Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, and Joel Embiid. The latter is currently out with an injury and isn’t expected back until the second round of the playoffs.

westbrook-vs-rocketsThe Oklahoma City Thunder are next up with +4000 odds. The Thunder have serious star power with Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, and Paul George. But they also have off nights where they seem like a team that’s note quite sure what it wants to do.

The Portland Trail Blazers are a decent dark-horse bet at +5000. Damian Lillard is playing the best of his career, and he’s also getting great support from C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic.

The Boston Celtics (+5000) were one of the top teams in terms of odds. However, they’re no longer being taken seriously as a title contender after losing Kyrie Irving to season-ending knee surgery (bacterial infection & tension wire removal).

2018 NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs Futures

Boston +2000
Cleveland +120
Indiana +3500
Miami +4000
Milwaukee +5000
Philadelphia +500
Toronto +150
Washington +3500

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Dallas MavericksThe Cavaliers made a huge trade in February and sent Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose, and a late first-round pick to various teams in exchange for Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr, George Hill, and Jordan Clarkson.

The results of this trade have yet to be determined. But what’s clear is that Cleveland believes these young players give them a better shot than the older veterans they traded.

They still have a slight edge in terms of odds (+120), but they’re trailed closely by the Raptors. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are playing their usual All-Star level basketball. They’ve also got the best supporting cast ever had with Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas, and C.J. Miles.

joel-embiid-sixers-starThe Philadelphia 76ers (+500) have the talent to make a run at the Eastern Conference title. But they could be overvalued in terms of odds when considering that this is their core’s first postseason run together.

No other team seems to have a serious chance at the East crown. Boston has the fourth-best odds at +2000. However, they’ve had too many injury problems and are a long shot to make it to the postseason with a core featuring Al Horford, Terry Rozier, Jayson Tatum, Jalen Brown, and Marcus Morris.

2018 NBA Western Conference Playoffs Futures

  • Golden State -110
  • Houston +115
  • Minnesota +7500
  • New Orleans +7500
  • Oklahoma City +2000
  • Portland +2500
  • San Antonio +3500
  • Utah +2500

curry-warriors-spurs-oddsThe Western Conference also currently looks like a two-team race between the Warriors and Rockets. Golden State is still favored on our sportsbook at -110. But Houston isn’t far off at +115.

The Warriors could pick up speed when Curry is scheduled to return from injury in the second round. But they’ll need to get past the San Antonio Spurs in the first round. This is doable when considering that they still have Kevin Durant, Klay Thomson, and Draymond Green leading the way.

Oklahoma City has the third-best odds at +2000. Consistency has been a problem for the Thunder throughout the season. But they also have the talent with George Westbrook, Anthony, and Steven Adams to make a serious run at the West title.

damian-lillard-portland-trailblazersOther teams that are in the mix in terms of odds include the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz (both +2500). Many wondered if the Jazz would even be in the playoffs after they lost both George Hill and Gordon Hayward in free agency. But rookie Donovan Mitchell has stepped up big time, and Rudy Gobert is playing his best basketball yet.

As I mentioned earlier, Lillard is on fire in 2018. And Portland as a team is also hot, boasting one of the best records since the All-Star break.

Right now, the teams with the most-serious chance to win the title include Golden State, Houston, Cleveland, and Toronto. It would be nice to see another team or two step up and make things even more interesting.

2018 NBA Playoffs Betting Preview – Western Conference

rockets-twolves-playoffs-oddsMany expected the Golden State Warriors to continue their dominance in the 2017-18 NBA regular season, after sweeping through the playoffs last season with a 16-1 record. While the Warriors have had a good season, they haven’t been as dominant as the Houston Rockets.

Houston has easily out-shined any other team up to this point. They come into the 2018 NBA playoffs with a 65-17 record, guaranteeing them home-court advantage throughout the postseason.

Will they dethrone Golden State and face the Eastern Conference champion? Find out as we discuss all the Western Conference first-round postseason series.

You can bet on every 2018 NBA playoff contest at GTBets. You can also check out the Eastern Conference playoffs preview here.

2018 NBA Western Conference Playoffs Betting & Matchups

No. 1 Houston Rockets (65-17) vs. No. 8 Minnesota Timberwolves (47-35)

houston-minnesota-2018-nba-playoffs-oddsThe Rockets had a disappointing end to last season, when they lost to San Antonio in the second round. But they added 9-time All-Star Chris Paul in the offseason and look like the league’s top team.

Paul has been the perfect complement to start shooting guard James Harden throughout the season. And Harden looks like the favorite to win the 2018 MVP award.

Mike D’Antoni’s offense is the best in the NBA. And they also have the sixth-ranked defense, led by shot-blocking center Clint Capela. The only chink in Houston’s armor heading is the playoffs is that they lost Luc Mbah a Moute for an indefinite amount of time.

The Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t coming to the postseason with the same steam as Houston. Jimmy Butler hurt his knee (right meniscus) a few weeks ago, and the team struggled in his absence. They tumbled down the standings and had to win an overtime game against the Denver Nuggets to secure the eighth seed.

Butler opted for a questionable surgery to put him on the court quicker. But Minnesota is certainly glad to have him back, because he led the win over the Nuggets with 31 points.

The Twolves also have other talent in All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns and guard Andrew Wiggins. With Butler, Towns, and Wiggins, this team has no trouble putting the ball in the basket. Their only problem is defense, because they rank in the bottom 10.

Minnesota doesn’t have any chance to stop Houston on a consistent basis. Therefore, they’ll have to trade baskets back and forth. But this team was fourth in the West before Butler’s injury.

That said, Houston draws a little tougher matchup than they normally would in the first round. But I still see the Rockets moving on in five games.

2018 Timberwolves vs. Rockets Playoffs Odds

  • Houston -11.5 (-108); moneyline -830
  • Minnesota +11.5 (-110); moneyline +600
  • Over 216.5 (-109)
  • Under 216.5 (-109)

Rockets Twolves Game Schedule

  • Game 1 @HOU: 9 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 15 (TNT)
  • Game 2 @HOU: 9:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday, April 18 (TNT)
  • Game 3 @MIN: 7:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 21 (ESPN)
  • Game 4 @MIN: 8 p.m. ET, Monday, April 23 (TNT)
  • Game 5 @HOU: TBD, Wednesday, April 25 (TBD)*
  • Game 6 @MIN: TBD, Friday, April 27 (TBD)*
  • Game 7 @HOU: TBD, Sunday, April 29 (TBD)*

* If necessary

No. 2 Golden State Warriors (58-24) vs. No. 7 San Antonio Spurs (47-35)

spurs-warriors-2018-playoffs-oddsFew predicted that Golden State would end this season so badly. Although they won 58 games and feature a roster with four All-Stars, they’ve also lost six of their last 10 games, including a 40-point blasting in Utah to end the regular season.

The biggest reason why they’re struggling so much is because Steph Curry is nursing a sprained MCL. He likely won’t play in the first round series against the Spurs.

Nevertheless, this team is still expected to defend their crown, especially if Curry gets back on the court and playing at full speed for a possible Western Conference Finals showdown with the Rockets. Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green will have to be enough until then to survive San Antonio.

Speaking of which, the Spurs aren’t exactly entering the series at full strength either. San Antonio has been missing two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard for weeks (right quadriceps). There’s no word on when the perennial MVP candidate will be back on the court.

Gregg Popovich will try to work his coaching magic by using what the team does have. This includes All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Rudy Gay.

San Antonio always plays a great team game that gets the most out of their roster. But they’re not getting much of an advantage by drawing Golden State in the first round. And the subtractions of Leonard and Curry offset each other. I look for the Durant-led Warriors to still take this game in five or six contests.

2018 Spurs vs. Warriors Playoffs Odds

  • Golden State Warriors -8 (-109); moneyline -370
  • San Antonio Spurs +8 (-109); moneyline +312
  • Over 211 (-108)
  • Under 211 (-111)

Warriors Spurs Game Schedule

  • Game 1 @GS: 3 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 14 (ABC)
  • Game 2 @GS: 10:30 p.m. ET, Monday, April 16 (TNT)
  • Game 3 @SA: 10:30 p.m. ET, Thursday, April 19 (TNT)
  • Game 4 @SA: 3:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 22 (ABC)
  • Game 5 @GS: TBD, Tuesday, April 24 (TBD)*
  • Game 6 @SA: TBD, Thursday, April 26 (TBD)*
  • Game 7 @GS: TBD, Saturday, April 28 (TBD)*

No. 3 Portland Trail Blazers (49-33) vs. No. 6 New Orleans Pelicans (48-34)

2018-blazers-pelicans-playoffs-oddsDamian Lillard has always been a high-scoring guard that the Trail Blazers can count on. But he’s taken his game to an even higher level this season by nailing three pointers left and right and notching plenty of nice assists.

He doesn’t have to do it alone either, because Portland also features strong play from guard C.J. McCollum and center Jusuf Nurkic. The Blazers have played especially well in the second half of the season, and they’ll try to carry this momentum into the matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans.

Many wondered if New Orleans’ playoff chances were officially done when center DeMarcus Cousins went down with a midseason injury. But forward Anthony Davis has put the team on his back and carried them into the playoffs.

Case in point, The Brow is averaging 31 points and 12 rebounds over the past 30 games of the season. If the MVP award was strictly based on the most dominant player, Davis would be the winner.

He’s also received help from point guard Rajon Rondo, forward Nikola Mirotic, and guard Jrue Holiday. The latter is finally healthy after years of exiting seasons with various injuries.

New Orleans has made a strong push to land the sixth seed. It’ll be interesting to see if Davis can continue carrying his squad to victory.

But I see them having difficulty with a Blazers squad that’s stepped their game up to a new level this year. Look for Portland to win this series in four or five games.

2018 Pelicans vs. Blazers Playoffs Odds

  • Portland -5.5 (-109); moneyline -238
  • Pelicans +5.5 (-109); moneyline +198
  • Over 217 (-109)
  • Under 217 (-109)

Blazers Pelicans Game Schedule

  • Game 1 @POR: 10:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 14 (ESPN)
  • Game 2 @POR: 10:30 p.m. ET, Tuesday, April 17 (TNT)
  • Game 3 @NO: 9 p.m. ET, Thursday, April 19 (NBA)
  • Game 4 @NO: 5 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 21 (TNT)
  • Game 5 @POR: TBD, Tuesday, April 24 (TBD)*
  • Game 6 @NO: TBD, Thursday, April 26 (TBD)*
  • Game 7 @POR: TBD, Saturday, April 28 (TBD)*

No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder (48-34) vs. No. 5 Utah Jazz (48-34)

2018-thunder-jazz-playoffs-oddsNobody expected the Utah jazz to be in this position after they lost starting point guard George Hill and All-Star forward Gordon Hayward to free agency. This is, after all, the same spot that the Jazz finished in last year with Hayward and Hill.

But the Jazz have maintained strong play thanks to the rise of rookie Donovan Mitchell, excellent play from Defensive Player of Year candidate Rudy Gobert, and great coaching from Quin Snyder.

Gobert was out for some time with an injury. But the team has been on a tear ever since he returned to the court a few months ago.

Oklahoma City has headlining stars in Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony. They also have one of the league’s most-underrated centers in Steven Adams. Westbrook is especially notable here, because he closed out the season by becoming the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double for two years in a row.

That said, it’s no wonder why this team can look like a championship contender on many nights. But other nights, they looked like a collection of All-Stars who don’t know how to play together.

This is easily the toughest series to call in the 2018 playoffs. On one hand, you have the feel-good Utah jazz, who give a strong effort every night. On the other hand, you have a team of bonafide stars that can come together to devastate opponents.

This series comes down to team defense versus a squad that can light it up. I really like how the Jazz shut down opponents, thanks to Gobert patrolling the middle. But I think that they’ll struggle to get much offense outside of the rookie Mitchell.

The Thunder are an inconsistent team that sometimes lacks an identity. And Melo has struggled in a third-option role. But they still have the collective experience and talent to win a close series in seven games. The defining factor comes down to how they have home court for Game 7.

2018 Jazz vs. Thunder Playoffs Odds

  • Oklahoma City -3.5 (-106); moneyline -286
  • Utah +3.5 (-109); moneyline +242
  • Over 213.5 (-113)
  • Under 213.5 (-106)

Thunder Jazz Game Schedule

  • Game 1 @OKC: 6:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 15 (TNT)
  • Game 2 @OKC: 8 p.m. ET, Wednesday, April 18 (NBA)
  • Game 3 @UTH: 10 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 21 (ESPN)
  • Game 4 @UTH: 10:30 p.m. ET, Monday, April 23 (TNT)
  • Game 5 @OKC: TBD, Wednesday, April 25 (TBD)*
  • Game 6 @UTH: TBD, Friday, April 27 (TBD)*
  • Game 7 @OKC: TBD, Sunday, April 29 (TBD)*

2018 NBA Playoffs Betting Preview – Eastern Conference

cavs-pacers-playoffsThe 2017-18 NBA season is finished, and the playoffs are set. The Eastern Conference features some playoff teams that were expected, such as the Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, and Boston Celtics. But it also includes surprises like the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat.

Like any other edition of the NBA playoffs, the East features some exciting first-round matchups. It also presents some good betting opportunities.

That said, let’s discuss each of the Eastern Conference’s first-round matchups and cover the odds on the first game of every series.

Also keep in mind that you can bet on every NBA playoff game at GTBets.eu. And you can see the Western Conference playoffs preview here.

2018 NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs Matchups & Betting

No. 1 Toronto Raptors (59-23) vs. No. 8 Washington Wizards (43-39)

toronto-washington-2018-oddsThe Toronto Raptors have a talented team that’s been to the playoffs for several seasons in a row. But they still have yet to get over the hump and make it to the Eastern Conference Finals.

They can change that this year, though. The team has won a franchise-record 59 games and earned the East’s first seed. Toronto has one of the best offenses in the league with guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan leading the way. They also have their best supporting cast in years, which explains the improvement.

The Washington Wizards, on the other hand, have had a disappointing season after stumbling to the eighth seed. But what the Wizards do have is a recent playoff victory over the Raptors, beating them in 2015 despite being the lower seed.

Washington is a youngish team, led by John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr, Kelly Oubre Jr, and Markieff Morris. They expected more from themselves this year and a higher playoff seed.

I don’t see Toronto as a clear favorite in this matchup, despite their lofty position. But with improved role players, I think that they can beat the Wizards in six games.

2018 Wizards vs. Raptors Odds (Game 1)

  • Toronto -8 (-109); moneyline +370
  • Washington +8 (-109); moneyline +312
  • Over 211 (-108)
  • Under 211 (-111)

Raptors Wizards Playoffs Schedule

  • Game 1 @TOR: 5:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 14 (ESPN)
  • Game 2 @TOR: 7 p.m. ET, Tuesday, April 17 (NBA)
  • Game 3 @WAS: 8 p.m. ET, Friday, April 20 (ESPN2)
  • Game 4 @WAS: 6 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 22 (TNT)
  • Game 5 @TOR: TBD, Wednesday, April 25 (TBD)*
  • Game 6 @WAS: TBD, Friday, April 27 (TBD)*
  • Game 7 @TOR: TBD, Sunday, April 29 (TBD)*

*If necessary

No. 2 Boston Celtics (55-27) vs. No. 7 Milwaukee Bucks (44-38)

celtics-bucks-2018It’s interesting to think how Boston would be a heavy favorite in the East right now if they had a healthy Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. Neither player will see the court again until next season. Making matters worse is that starting guard Marcus Smart may not play until the end of this series (hand).

Irving and Smart did play long enough, though, to help their team land the second-overall seed. The cupboard isn’t totally bare either, because they still have All-Star center Al Horford, talented forwards Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, reserve point guard Terry Rozier, and veteran forward Marcus Morris.

Milwaukee comes into this juicy matchup as the higher seed with a chance of winning. They’re led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who’s taken his game to incredible heights this season. They also have other good scorers in Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, and Eric Bledsoe.

It’s no lock that the Bucks will take advantage of an injury riddled Celtics team. They’ve under-performed throughout 2018, despite having considerable talent. This is the main reason why coach Jason Kidd was canned halfway through the season.

This is a tough series to call. Boston has home court and a great coach in Brad Stevens. But they’ve also had tremendous difficulty scoring without Kyrie on the floor.

Milwaukee doesn’t have the appearance of a giant slayer. But they at least have enough healthy starters to take this series in seven games.

2018 Bucks vs. Celtics Odds (Game 1)

  • Boston -4 (-110); moneyline -180
  • Milwaukee +4 (-108); moneyline +158
  • Over 201.5 (-111)
  • Under 201.5 (-108)

Celtics Bucks Playoffs Schedule

  • Game 1 @BOS: 1 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 15 (TNT)
  • Game 2 @BOS: 8 p.m. ET, Tuesday, April 17 (TNT)
  • Game 3 @MIL: 9:30 p.m. ET, Friday, April 20 (ESPN)
  • Game 4 @MIL: 1 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 22 (ABC)
  • Game 5 @BOS: TBD, Tuesday, April 24 (TBD)*
  • Game 6 @MIL: TBD, Thursday, April 26 (TBD)*
  • Game 7 @BOS: TBD, Saturday, April 28 (TBD)*

No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers (52-30) vs. No. 6 Miami Heat (44-38)

Philadelphia tanked for a long time to accumulate young talent within the past few years. And it appears that former GM Sam Hinkie’s self-described “Process” has finally paid off this season.

Rookie Ben Simmons has looked like the second-coming of Magic Johnson, averaging a triple double during Philly’s 15-game winning streak. The Sixers’ big streak has vaulted them into the playoffs and into the third seed, just ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

This team also has other strong young players in Dario Saric and Markelle Fultz, the latter of whom became the youngest player to record a triple double in NBA history. What’s impressive is that Philly has done all this without All-Star center Joel Embid.

The Miami Heat don’t come into this matchup with the same pedigree as the 76ers. They have an old Dywane Wade and a collection of late first-rounders, second-rounders, and average free agents. But somehow, Pat Riley has still crafted a lineup that’s in the playoffs.

This squad is led by point guard Goran Dragic, forward James Johnson, and center Hassan Whiteside. They also have a championship coach in Erik Spoelstra.

As tough as the Celtics-Bucks series is to call, this is even more difficult. Philadelphia’s extremely young core is on this stage for the first time. Meanwhile, the Heat don’t have the same talent level as the Sixers.

I pick Philly to survive their first postseason test in seven games and move on to the second round, where they should have the services of Embid again.

2018 Heat vs. Sixers Odds (Game 1)

  • Boston -4 (-110); moneyline -180
  • Milwaukee +4 (-108); moneyline +158
  • Over 201.5 (-111)
  • Under 201.5 (-108)

Sixers Heat Playoffs Schedule

  • Game 1 @PHI: 8 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 14 (ESPN)
  • Game 2 @PHI: 8 p.m. ET, Monday, April 16 (TNT)
  • Game 3 @MIA: 7 p.m. ET, Thursday, April 19 (TNT)
  • Game 4 @MIA: 2:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 21 (TNT)
  • Game 5 @PHI: TBD, Tuesday, April 24 (TBD)*
  • Game 6 @MIA: TBD, Thursday, April 26 (TBD)*
  • Game 7 @PHI: TBD, Saturday, April 28 (TBD)*

No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers (50-32) vs. No. 5 Indiana Pacers (48-34)

cavs-pacers-odds-2018-playoffsIt’s tough to say that the Cleveland Cavaliers are still favorites in a crowded East. This is especially the case when considering that they did a roster overhaul just a couple of months ago.

It’s hard to count out LeBron James, given that he’s been to the NBA Finals for seven straight years. He also has good veteran help in Kevin Love and J.R. Smith, along with strong role players like Larry Nance Jr., Rodney Hood, and Geoge Hill.

The Indiana Pacers are perhaps the NBA’s biggest surprise this year. They traded longtime star Paul George in free agency, and “only” got guard Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis return. Oladipo has suddenly become a legitimate star and possible All-NBA selection.

Forward-center Myles Turner is another strong player who leads this team. Beyond Turner and Oladipo, Indiana has a collection of little-known role players who somehow serve as the perfect pieces.

I want the feel-good story of the Pacers to continue. But then again, LeBron always wakes up around this time of year. I expect Cleveland to sweep this series, just like they did last year.

2018 Pacers vs. Cavs Playoffs Odds (Game 1)

  • Cleveland -6.5 (-109); moneyline -286
  • Indiana +6.5 (-109); moneyline +242
  • Over 206 (-113)
  • Under 206 (-106)

Cavs Pacers Playoffs Schedule

Game 1 @CLE: 3:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 15 (ABC)
Game 2 @CLE: 7 p.m. ET, Wednesday, April 18 (TNT)
Game 3 @IND: 7 p.m. ET, Friday, April 20 (ESPN)
Game 4 @IND: 8:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 22 (TNT)
Game 5 @CLE: TBD, Wednesday, April 25 (TBD)*
Game 6 @IND: TBD, Friday, April 27 (TBD)*
Game 7 @CLE: TBD, Sunday, April 29 (TBD)*

Celtics Futures After Losing Kyrie Irving for Rest of 2018 Season

The Boston Celtics have already dealt with plenty of injury turmoil, including losing Gordon Hayward (broken ankle) in the first game of the season and Daniel Theis (knee surgery) last month. Now they can add star point guard Kyrie Irving to the mix.

The All-NBA player will miss the remainder of the 2017-18 NBA season and playoffs after having surgery to remove two screws from his patella and a tension wire. These are the same screws that were inserted into Irving’s knee after he fractured it in the 2015 NBA Finals.

Celtics officials said that a bacterial infection developed at the site of the screws after Irving had minor knee surgery on March 24. This was performed to take out a tension wire in his knee. He underwent a more-recent surgery to remove any remaining bacteria from the site.

The only good news is that Irving’s patella is completed healed following the surgery. But he won’t be at full strength for another 4-5 months.

Tension Wire Was Likely the Cause of Irving’s Season Long Pain

kyrie-irving-celticsIrving had felt pain in his knee throughout most of the season. But he reportedly felt total relief after the tension wire was removed in the latest surgery.

The team didn’t expect a bacterial infection to develop following the March knee surgery. But it’s also not totally unfounded for this to happen with knee-tension-wire procedures. The bacteria was a staph infection that’s resistant to antibiotic treatments, rather than the MRSA variety.

Coach Stevens Didn’t Know Irving’s Knee Injury would be So Severe

Celtics coach Brad Stevens spoke with ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan about losing Irving for the season. And he was hoping to have his guard back within three weeks after the March 24 procedure.

“We thought [his return] would be closer to three weeks than six the way he was initially progressing.”

He added, “But it’s just one of those things that is out of his control. He’s as bummed as you can imagine.”

Irving originally thought about undergoing “minimally invasive surgery” earlier this year, rather than waiting until last month. But Stevens noted that nobody had any idea this is how things would turn out.

“There was no reason to think it was going to be an issue,” the coach said. “He had played with it for 2 and ahalf years. It’s the bacterial infection that’s the issue. My guess would be [the infection] was in there before and that’s how they found it.”

It appears that Irving will make a full recovery by next season. Stevens made it a point to say that the kneecap is “structurally sound” and shouldn’t be a problem next year.

“Everything around the knee is good,” Stevens said. “Everybody has told us from the get-go it was going to be a full recovery.”

What do the Celtics Have Left?

Boston has been hit by the injury bug throughout the entire season. Aside from losing Hayward, Irving, and Theis for the season, Marcus Smart is also recovering from a broken right thumb and “won’t be back for the foreseeable future.”

Terry Rozier, who’s averaging 11.3 points per game, will resume starting point guard duties without Irving. But he’s not happy about the reason why he’s taking over.

“I feel pretty bad for him,” said Rozier. “That’s my brother. I don’t wish that on nobody.”

al-horford-vs-cavsCenter Al Horford and forward Jayson Tatum also recently sat out games to rest their ailing bodies. And Rozier’s backup, point guard Shane Larkin, has been playing restricted minutes due to an illness.

This is definitely not how Boston wanted to enter their first postseason with a new-look roster. Many predicted big things for a team that featured Irving, Hayward, Horford, Tatum, Rozier, Smart, and Markieff Morris to open the season. Now it’s questionable how far they can make it with a patch-work squad that’s now missing multiple key players.

Nevertheless, Stevens stresses that he’s confident in the remaining roster’s ability to handle the challenge ahead.

“I believe in the guys in our locker room,” he said. “I think they believe in themselves. That’s the most important thing. We’ve got a tough group of guys in there.”

2018 Celtics Futures

The Celtics’ odds of winning both the Eastern Conference and NBA Championship have dropped dramatically following Irving’s surgery. This team is locked in as the East’s No. 2 seed at 54-25—five games ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers with just three contests left.

Boston is guaranteed home-court advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs if they make it this far. The word “if” is emphasized, because it’s hard telling how they’ll do without their 5-time All-Star point guard. They would play the No. 7 seed Milwaukee Bucks (42-37) if the playoffs started today.

Here’s a look at Celtics futures for both the conference and NBA Championship. Note that you can bet on these at GTBets.

2018 Eastern Conference Futures

  • Cleveland +100
  • Toronto +140
  • Philadelphia +900
  • Boston +1800
  • Washington +3000
  • Indiana +5000
  • Miami +5000
  • Milwaukee +5000

2018 NBA Championship Futures

  • Golden State +100
  • Houston +150
  • Cleveland +850
  • Toronto +1000
  • Oklahoma City +3000
  • Portland +3500
  • Philadelphia +4000
  • Boston +5000
  • San Antonio +5000
  • Indiana +15000
  • Miami +15000
  • Milwaukee +17500
  • Minnesota +20000
  • New Orleans +20000
  • Utah +20000

Spurs Odds: Will Kawhi Leonard be Back for the Playoffs?

kawhi-leonard-rockets-game-6San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard hasn’t played a game since January 13. And it’s unclear if he’ll be back any time soon, because he’s headed to New York for rehabilitation for the second time this season.

Leonard has a lingering right quad injury that’s persisted throughout most of the year. The Spurs only have 6 games left in the regular season for him to return and get in shape before the playoffs.

San Antonio is currently fourth in the Western Conference with a 45-32 record. The Spurs medical staff is anxious to see if he can get back on the court, and they’ve traveled to New York to meet with him. He was also doing rehab in the Big Apple before the February All-Star break.

Leonard has received criticism for seeking medical treatment away from the team’s staff. Most notably, Spurs point guard Tony Parker made a thinly veiled reference about his team having the best medical staff in the game. Parker also made comments that indirectly question Leonard’s willingness to get back on the court.

“I’ve been through it,” said Parker. “It was a rehab for me for eight months. Same kind of injury, but mine was 100 times worse. But the same kind of injury. You just try to stay positive.”

Spurs Planning Like Leonard Won’t Play

kawhi-leonard-spursSan Antonio has undoubtedly done a good job of staying in the thick of things, despite having their two-time All-NBA Defensive Player of the Year out.

The 26-year-old has been in the MVP conversation the past three seasons and is one of the league’s top two-way players. He also won the 2014 NBA Finals MVP during San Antonio’s title run.

Many are questioning Leonard’s future with the team. He’s also eligible for a 5-year, $217-million supermax contract extension in the summer. And he’ll be a free agent in the 2019 offseason.

Things have not gone well between Leonard and his team this year. He’s been disconnected from the squad ever since his injury. And he’s had multiple times where he almost returned to the team, only to continue sitting out.

According to ESPN, Leonard was even the subject of a team meeting on March 17. Spurs forward Manu Ginobili told reporters afterward that the team would plan as if Kawhi won’t take the court again.

“He is not coming back,” said Ginobili. “For me, he’s not coming back, because it’s not helping [to think Leonard is returning]. We fell for it a week ago again. I guess you guys made us fall for it.

“But we have to think that he’s not coming back, that we are who we are, and that we got to fight without him. That shouldn’t be changing, at least until he is ready for the jump ball.”

Leonard Hasn’t Trusted San Antonio During Injury Process

leonard-injury-warriorsLeonard stepped away from the team in mid-January, following a 9-game return from the injury. He’s only played limited minutes, averaging 16.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.

He has now sought outside opinions on his injury twice now. And the organization is perfectly fine with this, because they’re mostly concerned with players’ long-term health.

But it doesn’t look good when Parker, who had a more-severe ruptured left quadriceps tendon, stuck with the San Antonio doctors. He’s now making his return after 208 days away from the court.

“Tony exhibited great trust in our whole process from the very beginning because of the lack of historical knowledge of this,” said Spurs general manager R.C. Buford.

“I was anxious to make sure that we got the world’s best experts engaged before the surgery started. And Tony made a comment to me as we were analyzing resources: ‘I’ve trusted Dr. [David] Schmidt my entire career, and why would I want to trust anybody else?'”

Leonard initially consulted the Spurs medical staff about his injury. But he began seeking outside consultation when his quad wasn’t healing as quickly as he’d hoped. He’s since continued workouts in an effort to get back on the court. But he backed off a heavy workload recently, citing that his leg wasn’t responding well.

“You’ve Got to Make an Effort”

ginobili-blocks-hardenGinobili would like to see Leonard more involved with the team culture, even if he can’t play and is uncertain about his return.

“Sometimes you feel like an alien to the core group, and you’ve got to fight through it,” said Ginobili. “You’ve got to make an effort to still be around and be part of the everyday topics, the good things and the bad things. You’ve got to make an effort.”

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was also asked about if he thinks Leonard still feels part of the team.

“It’s the same as a player who is the 13th man sitting on the end of the bench,” said Popovich. “The more you’re participating, the more you feel like you’re a part of the deal.

“But anybody who’s injured, sitting on the bench or not playing, feels a little bit different, of course. That’s just human nature.

“He’s a nice guy. I love the kid. What am I gonna do? Sometimes he wants to rehab in the room, getting stronger; use the time wisely instead of watching us out there.”

Spurs Still Doing Well without Leonard

lamarcus-aldridge-spursSan Antonio isn’t as feared without Leonard. But they’ve still done pretty well down the stretch, winning 9 of their past 11 games.

Forward LaMarcus Aldridge has put up outstanding numbers during this stretch. He’s averaging 28.8 points, 9.0 rebounds, and shooting 57% from the floor. His play has San Antonio in position to make the playoffs for the 21st consecutive year.

The Spurs have had a number of role players help what appears to be another playoff team. Rudy Gay (11.3 PPG), Pau Gasol (10.3 PPG), Patty Mills (9.9 PPG), Danny Green (8.9 PPG), Ginobili (8.7 PPG), and Parker (8.0 PPG) are all making important contributions.

2018 San Antonio Spurs Futures (from GTBets)

San Antonio doesn’t look like the same powerhouse team they’ve been in the past. But they still have a solid chance to compete in the West. You can see their futures for both winning the West and the NBA Championship below.

2018 Western Conference Champion Odds

  • Golden State -115
  • Houston +110
  • Oklahoma City +2000
  • Portland +2000
  • San Antonio +2500
  • Utah +7500
  • Minnesota +15000
  • New Orleans +20000

2018 NBA Championship Futures

  • Golden State +110
  • Houston +150
  • Cleveland +800
  • Toronto +1000
  • Boston +2200
  • Oklahoma City +3000
  • Portland +3500
  • Philadelphia +5000
  • San Antonio +5000
  • Indiana +15000
  • Miami +15000
  • Milwaukee +17500

Michigan vs. Villanova Odds – 2018 College Basketball Championship

michigan-villanova-odds-1The 2018 NCAA Tournament Championship is set, with the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines (33-7) taking on the No. 1 Villanova Wildcats (35-4).

This is an interesting matchup between two teams that didn’t win their respective conferences, but got hot at the right time. Michigan is especially riding high, because they’re on a 14-game winning streak. The Wildcats are also playing really well and are on a 10-game winning streak.

Villanova looks downright intimidating, having crushed their 2018 March Madness opponents by an average margin of 18 points. The Wildcats made fellow No. 1 seed Kansas look like a second-rate team in their Final Four matchup.

They raced out to a 22-4 lead and cruised to victory from here. That said, it’s no wonder why they open as a 6.5-point favorite at GTBets.

Michigan had to scrap to get to this point. They survived a near-upset against Houston in the second round. And they trailed Loyola Chicago by 10 points at two different junctures in their Final Four game.

But one thing that Michigan has done a great job of during their 14-game winning streak is finding ways to win. And their defense locked down Loyola as they eventually pulled out a 69-57 victory.

It’s not going to be easy for the Wolverines to win this contest against Villanova and cover their +6.5 spread. But I’m going to discuss both their’s and Villanova’s chances of covering the spread. You can also see the GTBets odds on this game below.

Michigan Villanova Odds – 2018 NCAA National Championship Game, April 2 (Monday) at 9:20pm

  • Michigan +6.5 (-110) / +260 moneyline
  • Villanova -6.5 (-110)/ -320 moneyline
  • Over/under 145 (-110)

Why Villanova Will Cover -6.5

michigan-villanova-odds-2I thought that Villanova and Kansas would be a closer contest. It turns out that I was wrong…

The Wildcats jumped out to a big lead in the first half on the strength of great three-point shooting. They had 13 triples in the first half and nailed 18 three-pointers overall – a Final Four record.

For good measure, they shot 55% overall from the field. I mentioned in my preview of Villanova and Kansas that it felt like a championship atmosphere. But the way that the Wildcats are shooting, passing, driving, and shot blocking, it doesn’t seem like any team in the country is on their level.

Basically, Villanova will cover if their star guards, Jalen Brunson (19.2 PPG) and Mikal Bridges (17.8 PPG), continue shooting like they are. These two account for 41% of the team’s offense.

These two not only score lots of points, but rather do it in a very efficient manner. They shoot 51% from the field, 41% from the three-pint line, and 80% of the free-throw line.

villanova-michigan-bettingThis isn’t just two players, though, because their offense as a whole is really clicking. They led the nation in offense during the regular season with 87 points per game. And a big reason why is because they have several scoring threats who can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim.

Brunson, who’s fresh off winning the National Player of the Year award, grabs most of the headlines. Bridges, who’s destined to be an NBA lottery pick, also grabs his fair share of press. But role players like Omari Spellman, Eric Paschall, Donte DiVincenzo, and Phil Booth are huge keys to success as well.

Michigan is known for lock-down defense. But they haven’t faced anybody who can score like Villanova. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Wildcats put on another scoring barrage, even against one of the nation’s toughest defenses.

Why Michigan Will Cover +6.5

xavier-simpson-mighican-defenseMost expect Villanova to win this game by a comfortable margin. But this is also a year that’s seen UMBC become the first No. 16 seed the topple a No. 1 seed, beating Virginia by 20 points. I certainly won’t count out the Wolverines in this contest.

This is especially the case when considering that they’ve played so well ever since the end of the Big Ten regular season. Michigan prides itself on defense, which is why they’ve held opponents to an average of 58 points per game on 38% shooting. If anybody is capable of containing the Wildcats, then it’s this team.

Again, even this defense will have a tough time stopping Villanova. But Michigan has also proven that they can light up the scoreboard on occasion. Case in point, they dropped 99 points against Texas A&M in their Sweet 16 contest.

John Beilein has shown a great ability to manage the game and make changes when necessary. And the Wolverines need every bit of strong coaching they can get, given that championship coach Jay Wright is on the opposing sidelines.

Another key for this team is the defensive play of Zavier Simpson. The Michigan Point guard had a terrible offensive game against Loyola, failing to score a point and recording more turnovers than assists.

michigan-villanova-oddsBut the defensive ace has hounded opposing point guards into 11 PPG and under 35% shooting during the tournament. He’s also forced opponents into more turnovers than assists. If you had to pick somebody to try and guard Brunson, this is the guy.

Brunson scored 27 points against West Virginia’s Jevon Carter, who’s one of the few players who may be better than Simpson at perimeter defense. However, Simpson could still succeed where Carter fell short and make Brunson uncomfortable.

Moritz Wagner (14.1 PPG) is also a huge piece on this Michigan team. The 6’11” big man scored 24 points and grabbed 15 rebounds against a Loyola team that had no answer for him.

Villanova’s interior defense is tough to score on, with Spellman and Paschall possessing good athleticism. But Wagner, who shoots 40% from beyond the arc, is very difficult to guard. He can score in the post with his height, and he can also get hot from outside.

Wagner also has a bit of good history on his side. He’s only the third player in the last 40 years to score 20+ points and grab 15 rebounds. The other two include Larry Bird and Hakeem Olajuwon, both NBA Hall of Famers.

The defense will be there for Michigan. And it’s possible that they could be one of the few teams to hold Villanova under 80 points. The key will be for them to get their offense going. Wagner and Charles Matthews (13.1 PPG) will be leading the offensive charge. If they get hot and the defense contains Villanova, then this game becomes an upset scenario.

Final Thoughts on Villanova Michigan Odds

Kansas didn’t come into their game against Villanova with as much defensive prowess as Michigan. And this was obvious, because the Wildcats dropped 95 in Saturday’s Final Four contest.

But you can bet that the Wolverines will bring more defensive intensity and possibly make this a good game. They play strong team defense, led by Simpson’s efforts against opposing point guards.

Michigan is facing an impossible task in trying to stop a talented Villanova team that’s playing at peak level. Even against a top defense, I don’t see Brunson and Bridges slowing down after their hot performances against Kansans.

But if Michigan can somehow manage to get in these players’ heads, they still have several other players who can score. And Villanova has such good fundamentals that they may not offer the Wolverines any chance to win.

Final Score Prediction: Villanova wins 81-64