It may be the off-season, but it's going to be a busy week in the NBA. As the league gets ready for Thursday's Draft, LeBron James' free agency looms.
The 2018 NBA Draft is Thursday night from Brooklyn, but it’s almost being overshadowed by where LeBron James will be playing in the 2018-19 season. Oddsmakers have set NBA betting props on both.
LeBron James Predictions and Odds
Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James might not win a fifth career regular-season NBA Award when that’s announced Monday – LeBron is a finalist, but Houston’s James Harden is expected to win – but James left no doubt in leading his undermanned Cavaliers to the NBA Finals that he remains the best player on the planet.
The entire NBA now waits for LeBron’s newest “Decision” on his next team, which likely won’t come until early next month. Of course, in the summer of 2010 he left Cleveland and took his talents to South Beach. James won two titles in four years in Miami and returned to has native northeast Ohio in the summer of 2014. The Cavs made the NBA Finals each of the past four seasons against the Golden State Warriors but only won it in 2016. Cleveland was swept earlier this month.
James essentially has three options this summer: He can opt-out of his contract and become a free agent; stay in the final year of his deal and stick with the Cavaliers; stay in the final year of his deal and force a sign-and-trade. LeBron himself says he still doesn’t know where he’s headed, at least publicly.
His home is in the Cleveland area, but that team might not be winning any championships again soon. That LeBron plays for the Cavs next year is +480 at Sports Interaction. James recently bought two mansions in Los Angeles, and him playing for the Lakers in 2018-19 is a -220 favourite. The only other team considered with a realistic shot is Philadelphia, which is +330. The 76ers are a rising power and would be scary by adding James, who might prefer to stay out of the Western Conference (i.e. away from the Warriors).
2018 NBA Draft Props
As for the Thursday’s NBA Draft, there’s no drama at the top. The Phoenix Suns, barring a shocking trade, will pick No. 1 overall for the first time in franchise history and are expected to take University of Arizona freshman centre Deandre Ayton at No. 1. How sure are oddsmakers? You would have to put down $3175 to win $100 on Ayton, the 2017-18 Pac-12 Player and Freshman of the Year, being the No. 1 overall pick.
Thus, the draft really starts at No. 2 with the Sacramento Kings, who are likely to choose between European teenage sensation Luka Doncic or Duke freshman forward Marvin Bagley, the 2017-18 ACC Player of the Year. Doncic is given an over/under draft position of 2.5 (over a -300 favourite) with Bagley at 3.5 (under a -625 favourite). Most reports are that the Kings are now focused on Bagley, but pre-draft news is often a smokescreen.
Toronto Raptors Busy at the Draft?
The Toronto Raptors don’t own a first-round pick (or second), trading it last offseason to Brooklyn to dump DeMarre Carroll’s salary, but multiple media reports have them interested in trading almost anyone on the roster to move into the lottery. The team could have eyes for Kentucky freshman point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a native of Hamilton. His stock is skyrocketing, and Gilgeous-Alexander is all but a lock to become the eighth Canadian lottery pick (1-14) this decade. Another Canadian, Mississauga’s R.J. Barrett, is an early leader to go No. 1 next year even though Barrett has yet to play a game for Duke.
LeBron and NBA Draft Predictions
James takes his talents to La La Land. Bagley goes No. 2, Doncic either 3 or 4 (depending on potential trade). One other notable prop: Oklahoma’s Trae Young under a draft spot of 6.5, which is priced at +140. The Orlando Magic will snag Young at No. 6.