The 2018-19 NBA season kicks off in about 100 days and Westgate Superbook has released updated odds on the teams most likely to be hoisting the championship trophy next June. Not surprisingly, the Los Angeles Lakers have skyrocketed from 20/1 hopefuls in June to 5/1 in July after signing LeBron James to a four-year, $154 million deal. Where Kawhi Leonard plays next season will undoubtedly affect the odds once again, but here's a list of the top contenders -- only four of which (not named the Warriors) have odds of 14/1 or shorter:
Odds on June 2 Odds on July 3
Golden State Warriors 5/4 4/7
Boston Celtics 8/1 9/2
Los Angeles Lakers 20/1 5/1
Houston Rockets 7/2 13/2
Philadelphia 76ers 7/2 14/1
Toronto Raptors 40/1 60/1
Oklahoma City Thunder 60/1 60/1
Utah Jazz 60/1 80/1
San Antonio Spurs 25/1 80/1
Westgate still has the Warriors as the team to beat in 2019, improving their odds to 4/7 after acquiring DeMarcus Cousins. The Warriors swept the Cleveland Cavaliers -- who have plummeted to 500/1 after LeBron's exodus -- despite regular-season injuries suffered by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. With all its key players still in the prime of the careers, Golden State is well-positioned to claim a fourth title in five years.
UP-TO-THE-MINUTE NBA SIGNINGS
The Celtics saw their title hopes tick up as they're still in the mix for Leonard. Boston appears primed to be a beast in the East for years to come already with a starting lineup of Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Jaylen Brown. Boston's lack of depth could be cause for grave concern if Hayward or Irving suffer severe injures again, but 9/2 seems about right.
The Lakers, who won 35 games last season to finish 12 games out of playoff contention, leapfrog the Rockets as the team most likely to fell the Warriors in the West. With its mix of young stars (Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, JaVale McGee) and old (James, Rajon Rondo), L.A. could become one of the league's most dynamic offensive squads, but with new players having to be integrated, just how long will it to take to jell?
The Rockets, despite an NBA-best 65-17 record in 2018, are penciled in at 13/2 to win the championship. Within hours of free agency, Houston suffered a blow to the gut when the Phoenix Suns signed small forward Trevor Ariza. While Houston can build around superstars James Harden and Chris Paul, it can't afford to lose any more supporting players; that includes power forward Luc Mbah a Moute, who provided defensive relief off the bench.
Despite losing to the Lakers in the LeBron sweepstakes, the 76ers are one of the finalists for the Leonard lotto. While the Sixers saw their title odds tumble 75 percent from 7/2 to 14/1, there's still plenty of optimism in Philly after re-signing spark plug J.J. Redick to a one-year deal and a fully healthy Markelle Fultz dishing the rock to superstars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The 76ers also have plenty of cap room after inking deals with longtime Denver Nugget Wilson Chandler and ex-Minnesota Timberwolves forward Nemanja Bjelica. The Sixers should give the Celtics a run for No. 1 in the Eastern Conference, and there's lots of value here at 14/1.
Firing Dwane Casey after a 59-23 campaign, the Raptors turn to new coach Nick Nurse to helm a talent-laden squad that tanked to the Cavs in the conference semifinals. Despite a roster that includes DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas, Vegas is showing no love for Toronto. But the Raptors are very much a powerhouse in the East; 60/1 seems negligently low.
Oklahoma City remains steady at 60/1 as well, but it feels like the championship window has closed on this Thunder squad. Paul George is 28, Russell Westbrook turns 30 in November and Carmelo Anthony is 34. The Thunder are aging and have too much competition in the West to keep up with the big boys.
Donovan Mitchell was a pleasant surprise leading the Jazz into the second round of the playoffs, and Utah has lots of other young talent in the form of Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. But much like OKC, the Jazz don't have the horses to keep up with the Rockets, Warriors and Lakers.
Gregg Popovich willed the Spurs to a 21st consecutive postseason berth last season, but Pops will need better sleight of hand than Harry Houdini to make it 22 without Leonard.