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The Favourites for The 2019 NBA Title

Everyone’s favourites in the NBA is almost back, with teams just now having their media days and early practices as we head toward the preseason. And once again, it almost feels like we’re about to see a whole new league. The offseason was full of excitement, with players like LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard changing teams and an exciting group of rookies joining the professional ranks. All of this means that once again it’s time to reassess the league, and the teams that can realistically contend for a title.

Once the season begins, it can be best to track this sort of thing through official betting odds. Though the U.S., where the NBA actually takes place, largely forbids sports betting (and therefore doesn’t have much to offer in the way of bookmaker opinions). However, the UK platforms tend to have a pretty good grasp on American sports, and provide readers with the best possible value and updated odds. So, if you’re interested in tracking the favourites from that sort of perspective, you may want to keep tabs once the season begins.

At this stage however, since play hasn’t even started yet, we’re looking more at rosters, improvement, and potential. And considering these factors, these are the teams we’d identify as 2019 title favourites.

Golden State Warriors

Winners of three titles in four years and possibly better than ever, the Golden State Warriors will be runaway favourites to win yet another NBA championship. Without losing key contributors, the Warriors added DeMarcus Cousins, a somewhat volatile player coming off a serious Achilles injury who is nonetheless an All-Star talent when healthy. Now they’re in an enviable position. Without Cousins, they’re every bit as good as they were when they swept the 2018 Finals. With him – if he integrates well – they could have the best starting line-up in the history of basketball.

Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics were minutes from a Finals appearance last season while missing two All-Stars in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Both are healthy, and will join last season’s core of Al Horford and young standouts Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum – with a bench that still includes Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. It’s a loaded roster, and one that even Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson sees as a threat. The only conceivable issue (besides injury) for this Boston team is that there are too many good players to mix together. It’s not a bad problem to have, and it’s why Boston is the favourite to come out of the East.

Houston Rockets

People are likely to forget in short order just how close the Rockets came to stopping the Warriors in the Western Conference finals last season. Had Chris Paul not missed the final two games with a leg injury, in fact, the feeling is that Houston would have won the series. The team has lost key wing defenders in Trevor Ariza and Luc Richard Mbah-a-Moute, and added another scorer in Carmelo Anthony. That’s actually quite a bit of disruption, and we’ll have to wait and see how it affects them. Based on last season though, the core of Chris Paul, James Harden, and Clint Capela, plus super role player PJ Tucker, is enough to make the Rockets the second best team out West and the likeliest to beat Golden State.

Toronto Raptors

Toronto finally shook up its core this offseason, trading DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. There’s a certain irony to the move in that Leonard is just about the only guy in the league who can stop LeBron James – something the Raptors have failed to do to an embarrassing degree – and yet James is no longer in the Eastern Conference. Regardless, a team led by Kyle Lowry and Leonard should be better than the one led by Lowry and DeRozan, which could put Toronto in contention for a finals berth.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City had a busy summer as well, most notably in finding a way to offload Carmelo Anthony, who was expensive and simply not working out with this roster. This should actually free up Russell Westbrook and Paul George (who re-signed for the long haul) to get comfortable as a “big two” rather than a false “big three” with Anthony. The Thunder also addressed a key weakness at the backup point guard position by bringing in a starting calibre player in Atlanta’s Dennis Schroder. This team is always tough to project, but it’ll be no surprise if Oklahoma City is a top-three seed out West and a long shot finals contender.

Los Angeles Lakers

There’s also the LA Lakers, who look to be a year or two away from contention, but also just added LeBron James. James has never had to contend with the ultra-talented Western Conference for an entire season, and it remains to be seen if this will slow him down. But the roster around him, while young (and a bit strangely constructed), is not definitively worse than the team he played with in Cleveland last season. Given that he hauled that team to the finals, it seems foolish to count out the Lakers.

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