After LeBron James decided that he’d be taking his talents back to Cleveland, the rest of the dominos began to fall in NBA free agency. Many players, and teams, were waiting on James to make his decision, which he did four years and two days after he first announced he’d be leaving the Cavs for South Beach. Once talks began that James could return to Cleveland, the Cavs started creeping their way up the odds lists to win the 2015 NBA Championship. But after the dust settled and the trade was finalized, the Cavs are now the top team in the league at 4/1 odds. James hopes that with the help of Kyrie Irving and a host of other young talent, as well as a new coach, the Cavaliers can bring their first title to Cleveland.
After James announced that he would be leaving the Heat, attention shifted to Chris Bosh to see what he would do. Bosh, who left the Raptors at the same time that James left the Cavs, was being courted by Houston, but he eventually decided to stay with Miami after being offered $118 million for five years. Now that James has left, Bosh and Dwyane Wade will have more weight to carry individually. The Heat also brought in Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts. The Heat, who found themselves among the favorites in the East just a few days ago, fell to 65/1 odds to win the NBA Championship next year. They still have a few perennial players, but they certainly won’t be the same team without James on the court.
Carmelo Anthony was the second-most prized possession this offseason after James. But after visiting with Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas, Melo has decided to stay put and return to New York. While some of the other teams that courted Melo showed him why he should leave New York to come play elsewhere, it was the Knicks that could offer him the most money. Along with the huge contract, Melo must believe that Phil Jackson can help with this rebuilding project as he takes over operations during his first full season. The Knicks also have Derrick Fisher as their new coach, which we’ll have to see how that works with Melo’s style of play. The Knicks are at 60/1 to win the NBA Championship, but now that they have Anthony you’d think they’d start trying to bring in talent to line up next to him.
Pau Gasol received quite a bit of slack this year as Kobe Bryant was injured and the Lakers quickly became one of the worst teams in the league. Despite Bryant coming back, Gasol must believe that the window is closed in LA; because he signed with Chicago as he heads to what could be one of the toughest divisions in basketball next year. The Central Division will have a tough Indiana team, James’ Cavs, and a Chicago team that should have Derrick Rose healthy to pair with Gasol. The Bulls now sit at 8/1 odds to win the 2015 NBA Championship, as Gasol brings championship and veteran experience to a team on the cusp.
The Washington Wizards surprised a lot of people during the playoffs last season, as Marcin Gortat, John Wall and Bradley Beal all helped the team advance out of the first round of the playoffs in nearly a decade. Hoping to keep some of their core together, the Wizards were able to resign Gortat, who was highly coveted by other teams during the last few weeks. But what may be an even more surprising addition is that the Wiz picked up Paul Pierce, who could be on the last leg of his career. The Wizards find themselves ahead of a whole bunch of other teams in the East at 30/1 odds to win the NBA Championship. They are going to have one of the best squads they’ve had in recent memory and they’ll hope to ride the momentum that they gained during the playoffs last season.
The Phoenix Suns spent so much time trying to convince a few big name players to come play for them, that they failed to realized that Channing Frye was slipping out from their grips. Frye, who had one of his best seasons while playing for a surprise Phoenix squad last year, has instead decided to sign with Orlando to join young talented players in Victor Oladipo and, 4th overall pick in this years draft, Aaron Gordon. The Magic also picked up Ben Gordon, the former 3rd overall pick who will be joining the fourth team of his career. Orlando still finds themselves at 200/1 odds to win the NBA Championship next year, but that is an improvement from where they were before the signing of Frye and Gordon.
With the hopes of clearing space for LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, the Rockets also let a few key pieces from their squad slip away this offseason. It was first announced that Chandler Parsons is eaving Houston to join the Mavericks. The Rockets lost Jeremy Lin. During his time in New York, Lin-sanity became a phenomenon on Broadway. Without the same type of success in the Lone Star State, Lin hopes that Hollywood can be a place where he can shine. The Lakers are at 75/1 to win it all next season, as they’ll hope to have Kobe Bryant back. But there is no denying that Lakers are still in a state of flux that will require some changes in the near future.
Some of the other key transactions that have taken place since free agency started includes: Vince Carter to the Grizzlies, Marvin Williams to the Hornets, Trevor Ariza with the Rockets, Anthony Morrow with the Thunder and Thabo Sefolosha with the Hawks. There are still a few key free agents available, so be sure to check in with sportspicks.com handicappers in the coming weeks to see how things shake out before the season starts later this year.