Although I wouldn’t consider myself to be a serious bettor, I do enjoy an occasional trip to Las Vegas, where the betting is legal and sometimes expensive. Vegas is the ultimate venue for those who believe they are blessed with the power of clairvoyance. Think you’re smart enough to predict the outcome of a game, or games? Sports books provide unlimited opportunity for you to prove it.
On an ideal day, I would wish for the ability to make three correct predictions. In Vegas, that is called a parlay and it pays 6-1. Hit a couple of those and you’ve got a lot of room for future error.
As our esteemed colleague Chris Sheridan has and will discover in Vegas, however, predictions – aka bets – come with a price. Hit them, and your bankroll increases. Miss them and, well, the bucks pass to the house. That makes them far more serious than predictions on this web site.
So, with that as a disclaimer, here are a few with some serious; others not so much. You can decide which is which.
1. The Heat will easily win a third consecutive championship. Take this one to the bank. I may have been the last person in the NBA universe to pass the torch of Best Player in the Game from Kobe Bryant to LeBron James, but it has been passed, and LeBron will not be giving it up for a while. The Heat are so loaded that anyone looking for flaws will have to make a big deal out of the loss of Mike Miller, who played all of 900 minutes and averaged 4.8 points a game last season. Yes, he can make some shots at crucial times, but Ray Allen seems to have a knack for that, too – and then there’s LeBron and Dwyane Wade.
2. Of all the teams that have absolutely no chance of beating the Heat, the Spurs have the best chance. Here’s the thing about so many clever writers writing for the last four or so years that the Spurs were too old to compete for a championship: They have been wrong. The Spurs should have won the title last season, folding badly in Game 6 when they lost a five-point lead in the last 28 seconds and ultimately lost the game to the Heat. They will never get over that. But don’t think for a second think they are finished.
Yes, Tim Duncan is 37 and Manu Ginobili is 36, but Tony Parker is still only 31 and the Spurs have this young guy – 22-year-old Kawhi Leonard, who is the future of the franchise. “I think Kawhi is the new Parker-Ginobili-Duncan kind of guy,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s going to take over as the star of the show as time goes on.”
3. LeBron James will not win the Most Valuable Player award. LeBron is entering what was once known as “Julius Erving” territory. At the All-Star Game in Denver in 1984, Erving had 34 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Isiah Thomas had 21 points, five rebounds and 15 assists. Thomas was clearly good, but Erving was great. I was sitting next to a fellow writer and asked who was getting his MVP vote. “Isiah,” he said. “I’m sick of Julius Erving.”
LeBron has won the MVP award four of the last five years. In 2011, when Derrick Rose won it, a strong case could be made that LeBron should have won it that season, too. Watch what happens. LeBron is going to be great, but people are bored with voting for him and will be looking for any excuse to vote for someone else.
4. The Denver Nuggets will miss the playoffs. Seems like a foolish prediction for a team that won 57 games last season, but it seems foolish for a team that won 57 games to fire their coach after he was selected Coach of the Year, to lose the Executive of the Year along with him, plus two starters. In seven full seasons as coach, George Karl produced teams that won 50 or more games five times. Karl also coached the lockout season and the last 40 games of the 2004-05 seasons. The Nuggets went to the playoffs nine consecutive years but lost in the first round eight times. Was that bad? Yes. But Karl at least gave them a chance. Brian Shaw has all the potential in the world, but he lost Andre Iguodala to free agency and there is no way he can get a team to overachieve the way Karl did. This season, the Nuggets are going to find out just how good Karl is/was.
5. The Los Angeles Lakers will start the season 0-4 and fire coach Mike D’Antoni. Just kidding.
6. Shortly after being named commissioner, Adam Silver will announce the NBA is putting an expansion team in Seattle. Silver is quite aware of the legacy that he is following, and you can bet he will want to be seen as a decisive and creative commissioner. Seattle has always been a great NBA city and certainly did not deserve to lose its team to Oklahoma City.