LeBron James is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers, changing the entire landscape of the NBA. Months after missing the playoffs, the Cavs have become favorites to win the 2015 NBA Finals.
Immediately after James announced in Sports Illustrated his intention to sign with Cleveland, the Cavaliers were given the best betting odds to win next year’s title. Bovada.lv lists the team’s odds at 4/1, ahead of the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, who are right behind them at 5/1.
The oddsmakers are predicting that James will improve a team that won just 33 games in the 2013-2014 season. Cleveland finished the year ranking 10th in the Eastern Conference, and five games out of the final playoff spot.
Since James left the organization and signed with the Miami Heat in 2010, the Cavaliers have been one of the worst teams in the NBA. In the season after James departure, Cleveland won just 19 games, following a 61-win season. In the next three years, the Cavaliers totaled just 78 wins and no playoff appearances.
The Cavaliers are one of the youngest teams in the NBA, but they do have a lot of promising talent. The team just signed point guard Kyrie Irving to a five-year contract, after he averaged 20.8 points and 6.1 assists last year. Cleveland drafted Andrew Wiggins with the first overall pick in June’s draft, as well as Anthony Bennett with the top selection in the 2013 draft.
The loss of James effectively ends any chance of the Heat making a return to the finals. With James gone, Chris Bosh is likely to accept a max contract offer from the Houston Rockets. Miami’s odds are listed at 50/1, behind 15 other teams.
The Oklahoma City Thunder rank third with 6/1 odds. The Chicago Bulls have the second-best odds of any team in the Eastern Conference at 8/1.