Lebron's return to Cleveland has made the Cavaliers favourites for the 2014/15 NBA Championship but Nick Shiambouros prefers a settled San Antonio Spurs in his antepost look at the coming season in the world's biggest league...
"San Antonio are an outstanding veteran team sprinkled with youth and have a solid bench."
Cleveland Cavaliers - odds to win the NBA Championship 4.1
A few weeks after the Miami Heat lost to the San Antonio Spurs in last season's NBA finals, LeBron James left the bright lights of South Beach to return to Cleveland, where his glittering career began in 2003. Shortly after James's arrival, the Cavs signed forward Kevin Love from Minnesota and re-signed guard Kyrie Irving to a five-year extension worth $90 million. James has promised to deliver a title to his hometown, and on paper it is difficult to argue with him. The question is, can the new-look Cavs win the NBA title on the first attempt? Prior to James's arrival, Irving had been the face of the franchise. This talented guard averaged more than 20 points per game last season and displayed outstanding leadership qualities for a 22-year-old. I think Cleveland can win the title this season, but I am not prepared to take the price on offer. It will take time for the players to get on the same page, and other more experienced teams represent better value.
San Antonio Spurs 5.24/1
The Spurs won their fifth title last season, beating Miami in five games. Tim Duncan and company return for another crack at the title with what is fundamentally the same unit. Along with Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard help make up this stellar rotation. San Antonio has been written off as being too old for the past few years, but the team has proven the critics wrong. Coach Gregg Popovich is one of the best in the business and controls his veteran players' minutes like a nuclear clock. He is one of the main reasons San Antonio has been so successful the past 16 seasons. The Spurs are my pick to win the title. They are an outstanding veteran team sprinkled with youth and have a solid bench. The price on offer is more than fair.
Chicago Bulls 8.27/1
After three long years of multiple injuries, superstar guard Derrick Rose appears fit and healthy for the start of the season. Rose is one of the most gifted guards in the NBA, and I sincerely hope he remains injury free this season. The Bulls added Pau Gasol from Los Angeles and the NCAA's 2013-14 scoring leader, Doug McDermott. The inspirational Joakim Noah helps make this new line-up interesting, to say the least. It's still hard to fancy Chicago because of all the team variables. Rose's form is impossible to predict because of the many health issues he has had to overcome. I recommend a wait-and-see approach here.
Oklahoma City Thunder 8.415/2
The Thunder will start the regular season without Kevin Durant, who is side-lined with a broken foot. Durant could be out for as long as two months, so guard Russell Westbrook will have to pick up the slack until Durant returns. The Thunder should have won a championship by now. They have become perennial contenders but lack the killer instincts of champions. Ability has never been an issue with this team, but leadership has. Coach Scottie Brooks, who will be starting his seventh season with Oklahoma City, needs to instil more self-confidence in his players, especially when the chips are down. Price is just about right.
Los Angeles Clippers 10.519/2
Coach Doc Rivers returns after a season full of controversy surrounding the Clippers. The departure of disgraced owner, Donald Sterling, in favour of new owner and former Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, clears the decks for a new season. The Big Three -- Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan -- return for another title challenge. There is no doubting this team's talent, but if they are going to win the title, they have to tighten up defensively. This is one of the most gifted teams in the NBA. They are exciting to watch and have the ability to win it all. They are fairly priced.
Led by Dwight Howard and James Harden, the Houston Rockets 24.023/1 should easily make it to postseason, but they must improve on defence. The Golden State Warriors 27.026/1 are fun to watch, and Stephen Curry alone is worth the price of admission. The Warriors are playoff bound for sure. The Washington Wizards 38.037/1 are improving steadily and should make the playoffs. Veteran Paul Pierce is a welcome addition to this talented rotation. The Miami Heat 48.047/1 were stunned by LeBron's departure during the summer. Morale appears to be at an all-time low. A long, hard season awaits the Heat.
2pts Back San Antonio Spurs to win NBA Championship at 5.24/1