The Winners and Whiners’ 2023-24 NBA Preview with Predictions and Picks
The Winners and Whiners’ 2023-24 NBA Preview, Predictions and Picks
The NBA is ready for the 2023-24 season, but are you? Ben Hayes is here to give you how each team did in the off-season and whether they have a chance to go far in the postseason. This will be a unique season that features the first-ever in-season tournament, which gives bettors another opportunity to make a nice scorer. Each winner will earn $500,000, while the runner-up players will earn $200,000 (according to NBA.com), so there is a strong motivation. Everything will count toward regular season records, except for the final. Teams will be divided into six intra-conference groups of five teams apiece, playing everyone in the group once for the first round – which will be part of the regular season schedule. The six group winners and two wild card teams will advance to an eight-team, single-elimination tournament. The final four will be played at a neutral location.
There’s also a new player participation policy that will hopefully ensure that most stars play in games when they are healthy.
NBA Off-season Additions and Subtractions
Let’s face it. The NBA season is nearly here (Oct. 24) and it’s time to talk about hoops. If you are betting on the games, you need to know where the key players are. For example, Boston just traded for Jrue Holiday from Portland in the most recent big trade and Damian Lillard joined Milwaukee in a three-team deal.
(odds from Draft Kings)
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Key Additions: G Patty Mills (BKN), G Wesley Matthew s(Mil).
Key Losses: F John Collins (UTA), G Aaron Holiday (HOU).
Analysis: Not a lot of movement as the Hawks finally got rid of John Collins, extended Dejounte Murray and added a nice veteran in Patty Mills. But that’s not going to shake up the East.
Key Additions: G Jrue Holiday (MIL), C/F Kristaps Porzingis (WAS), Lamar Stevens (CLE).
Key Losses: C Robert Williams (POR), G Marcus Smart (Mem), G Malcolm Brogdon (MEM).
Analysis: Now that’s a shake up. Boston fell in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals and traded two of their best defenders in Marcus Smart, Malcolm Brogdon. and Robert Williams and went for offense with the addition of Kristaps Porzingis. But Brad Stevens is a shrewd GM so he brought in Jrue Holiday to replace Smart.
Key Additions: G Dennis Smith Jr. (CHA).
Key Losses: G Seth Curry (DAL), F Joe Harris (DET), G Patty Mills (ATL), F Yuta Watanabe (PHX)
Analysis: What are the Nets trying to do? At one point, they had Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden. They are basically going with young and anonymous players. Tank you very much.
Key Additions: G Frank Ntilikina (DAL).
Key Losses: Kai Jones, F Kelly Oubre (PHI), Dennis Smith Jr. (BKN).
Analysis: This could be a pretty good team, but the status of Miles Bridges, who was suspended for 30 games by the NBA due to an arrest for domestic violence charges, continues to haunt the team. He was arrested on Friday, Oct. 13 and is accused of violation a protective order during a custody exchange on Oct. 6. They will need to build through the draft, which they did with the addition of talented forward Brandon Miller.
Key Additions: G Torrey Craig (PHX), G Jevon Carter (MIL).
Key Losses: G Patrick Beverley (FHI).
Analysis: This was a quiet offseason for the Bulls, who seem to be in flux right now. A big issue is the healthy of Lonzo Ball, who is out indefinitely with a knee injury. Alex Caruso can do some of the same things he does defensively, but he’s not a great facilitator or a consistent shooter. Jevon Carter should help some as the point guard in a rotation with Caruso.
Key Additions: F Georges Niang (PHI), G Max Strus (MIA)
Key Losses: C Robin Lopez (MILW), G Cedi Osman (SAS).
Analysis: The Cavs added a few rotation pieces including Strus, who is an underrated player who they added in a sign and trade deal with the Heat. Georges Niang and Strus can stretch the floor to help Donovan Mitchell attack the basket and Evan Mobley post up.
Key Additions: G Seth Curry (BKN), F Richaun Holmes (SAC), F Grant Williams (BOS).
Key Losses: G Reggie Bullock (HOU), G Justin Holiday (DEN), C JaVale McGee (SAC), G Frank Ntilikina (CHA), C Christian Wood (LAL).
Analysis: This is still Luka Doncic’s team, but if he isn’t healthy and or in shape, they won’t go anywhere. Having him and Kyrie Irving together doesn’t seem to be a recipe for success, especially on the defensive end. Adding Seth Curry won’t help that part, but Grant Williams should help out on the defensive end.
Key Additions: G Justin Holiday (DAL).
Key Losses: G Bruce Brown (IND), F Jeff Green (HOU).
Analysis: The Nuggets didn’t need much though the losses of Bruce Brown and Jeff Green could hurt their bench. They appear to have enough young talent waiting in the wings to overcome their losses.
Key Additions: F Joe Harris (BKN), G Monte Morris (WAH).
Key Losses: G Corey Joseph (GSW).
Analysis; The Pistons are still building but they should take another step this season. Joe Harris and Monte Morris are solid veterans who should help the youngsters out some and contribute as perimeter players off the bench.
Golden State Warriors
Key Additions: F Rudy Gay (UTA), G Chris Paul (PHX), F Dario Saric (OKC).
Key Losses: G Donte DiVincenzo (NYK), G Jordan Poole (WAS).
Analysis: The Warriors needed to get rid of Poole and they did. Adding Paul is a strange pickup considering he’s on the downside, but he can play with Steph Curry and will take pressure of him as a ballhandler. This is a team in win-now mode and Paul is running out of time to get a ring.
Key Additions: G Dillon Brooks (MEM), G Fred VanVleet (TOR), F Jeff Green (DEN), G Reggie Bullock (DAL), G Aaron Holiday (ATL).
Key Losses: G TyTy Washington (MIL).
Analysis: Houston wasn’t playing around in the offseason when they brough in new coach Ime Udoka and bunch of veterans to play with a very talented but young core. The addition of Dillon Brooks was a gamble as his reputation as a dirty player continues to haunt him even in preseason. VanVleet can shoot it and Green is a strong leader off the bench.
Key Additions: G Bruce Brown (DEN), F Obi Toppin (NYK).
Key Losses: G Chris Duarte (SAC).
Analysis: This a team trying to get younger so they didn’t really do much in the offseason other than draft another outstanding athlete in Jarace Walker to team with Benedict Mathurin and newly-acquired Obi Toppin. So right away, the Pacers become much more athletic. The addition of Bruce Brown was a solid move for the bench.
Key Additions: none.
Key Losses: G Eric Gordon (PHX).
Analysis: The Clippers are relying on Paul George and Kawhii Leonard, who can’t seem to stay healthy. They have a lot of veterans and not enough young talent to build around.
Key Additions: F Christian Wood (DAL), G Gave Vincent (MIA), F Jaxson Hayes (NOP), F Taurean Prince (MIN).
Key Losses: F Malik Beasley (MIL), G Dennis Schroder (TOR), F Mo Bamba (PHI).
Analysis: Like the Clippers, the Lakers need their stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis to stay healthy. Vincent was an underrated pickup to backup the point guard spot. Christian Wood can be a poor man’s Davis, but he and Jaxson Hayes are limited in terms of strength it the post.
Key Additions: G Marcus Smart (BOS), G Derrick Rose (NYK).
Key Losses: G Dillon Brooks (HOU), G Tyus Jones (WAS).
Analysis: Memphis needed to move Dillon Brooks and that was addition by subtraction. Marcus Smart comes over from Boston and you have to wonder how he will fit with Ja Morant. Derrick Rose will give them a much-needed veteran presence on the team and off the bench.
Key Additions: F Malik Beasley (LAL), G Damian Lillard (POR), C Robin Lopez (CLE). F Cameron Payne (PHX), G TyTy Washington (HOU).
Key Losses: G Grayson Allen (PHX), G Jevon Carter (CHI), G Jrue Holiday (BOS), G Wesley Matthews (ATL).
Analysis: The Bucks made a huge splash by adding Dame Lillard and that should keep Giannis Antetokounmpo around for his next contract. They add offense but lose a little defense with Jrue Holiday gone to Boston (from Portland). But they should be able to withstand his loss because of their overall defense.
Key Additions: G Shake Milton (PHI), G/F Troy Brown (LAL).
Key Losses: F Taurean Prince (LAL).
Analysis: Minnesota kept Karl-Anthony Towns for the moment, so they still will go with Rudy Gobert with Towns and have about 93 million tied into Towns, Gobert and Naz Reid. That’s not exactly moder-day basketball. They also have a 36-year old Mike Conley at point guard who is a smart player, but you have to wonder if they decide to blow things up, will he be part of a package.
New Orleans Pelicans
Key Additions: none
Key Losses: C Jaxson Hayes (LAL), G Josh Richardson (MIA).
Analysis: The Pelicans need a healthy and in-shape Zion Williamson. They didn’t need to make many changes as they kept Herb Jones, a gifted defender, but may play less with Williamson back playing power forward and Brandon Ingram and Trey Murphy all involved at the wing spot (though Murphy is now injured). Either way, this is a talented team that could surprise.
New York Knicks
Key Additions: G Donte DiVincenzo (GSW).
Key Losses: G Derrick Rose (MEM), F Obi Toppin (IND).
Analysis: The Knicks made just one key move with the addition of DiVincenzo, who can play both guard spots. The Knicks have a solid nucleus of Jalen Brunson, R.J. Barrett and Julius Randle. But they lack that dynamic star to take them to the next level.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Key Additions: G Victor Oladipo (MIA).
Key Losses: F Dario Saric (GSW).
Analysis: A team with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddy is going to be fun to watch. The question is whether they can take the next leap. But they didn’t need to make another move because of Chet Holmgren. The skinny 7-1 rookie will play after missing his first season due to injury. At worst, he’ll be a shotblocker and a stretch four or five. He’s probably too thin to play center and that’s a position the team may have to look into.
Key Additions: F Joe Ingles (MIL),
Key Losses: C/F Bol Bol (PHX).
Analysis: Is this the year? Probably not. It feels like the Magic have been rebuilding since the days of Penny Hardaway and Shaquile O’Neal. This team can build around Paolo Banchero, the 2022-23 Rookie of the Year. Franz Wagner could be an All-Star this season at small forward, but there are questions in the backcourt as Gary Harris is not the long-term answer and Jalen Suggs has yet to live up to being the fifth pick in the 2021 draft.
Key Additions: C Mo Bamba (LAL), G Patrick Beverley (CHI), G Danny Green (CLE), F Kelly Oubre (CHA).
Key Losses: G Shake Milton (MIN), F George Niang (CLE).
Analysis: The good news is that the Sixers did not lose much. The bad news is that James Harden is still on the team. That’s going to create a mess until that situation is resolved. Beverley will help the defense and Joel Embiid is one of the premier players in the NBA. But Philadelphia is missing a dynamic wing to take them back to the Finals for the first time since 2001.
Key Additions: G Grayson Allen (MIL), F Udoka Azubuike (UTA), Keita Bates-Diop (SAS), G Eric Gordon (LAC), F Nassir Little (POR), C Jusuf Nurkic (POR), F Yuta Watanabe (BKN).
Key Losses: C Deandre Ayton (POR), G Bradley Beal (WAS), F Torrey Craig (CHI), G Chris Paul (GSW), G Cam Payne (MIL).
Analysis: The Suns decided to get rid of Chris Paul and pick up Brad Beal from Washington. That means no point guard and that Beal and Devin Booker will share duties. Defensively, they will miss CP3, but offensively, a more motivated Beal should give the Suns the best scoring backcourt in the league. They still have Kevin Durant and the addition of Jusuf Nurkic doesn’t seem to fit this team but if he’s healthy, he can contribute as a big bodied center.
Key Additions: C Deandre Ayton (PHX), G Malcolm Brogdon (BOS).
Key Losses: G Damian Lillard (MIL), F Nassir Little (PHX), C Jusuf Nurkic (PHX).
Analysis: It’s the end of the Dame era in Portland. This is a team still with some talent and will be anchored by rookie Scoot Henderson at point guard, Anfernee Simons at shooting guard and Shaedon Sharpe at the wing spot. Jerami Grant is still on the team, but expect them to trade him at some point.
Key Additions: G Chris Duarte (IND), C JaVale McGee (DAL).
Key Losses: F Richaun Holmes (DAL).
Analysis: The Kings didn’t have to do a whole lot in the off-season, but they didn’t have to. This is a very talented team with talent everywhere except for shooting guard. They did go out and get Chris Duarte to push for minutes as Kevin Huerter struggled in the playoffs, but had a strong regular season.
San Antonio Spurs
Key Additions: G Cedi Osman (CLE), C Victor Wembanyama (rookie).
Key Losses: F Keita Bates-Diop (PHX).
Analysis: The Spurs tanked to get the first pick and they wound up with a franchise and game-changer in Wemby. They kept Devin Vassell and while they still need some pieces to go far, they have their centerpiece to win a title down the road.
Key Additions: G Dennis Schroder (LALA).
Key Losses: G Fred VanVleet (HOU).
Analysis: It’s still hard to figure out what this team is doing. They underachieved last season and got rid of Fred VanVleet. Dennis Schroder is not the permanent answer, but he should fit decently with Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes and OG Anunoby. New coach Darko Rajakovic will have to figure out the center spot.
Key Additions: F John Collins (ATL), C Omer Yurtseven (MIA).
Key Losses: F Udoka Azubuike (PHX), F Rudy Gay (GSW).
Analysis: They Jazz added more talent to the frontcourt with John Collins and Omer Yurtseven. They also have some young talent with Jordan Clarkson and Colin Sexton in the backcourt. Rookies Taylor Hendricks and Keyonte George could really make this team an intriguing one in the West.
Key Additions: G Tyus Jones (MEM), G Jordan Poole (GSW).
Key Losses: G Bradley Beal (PHX), G Monte Morris (DET), C Kristaps Porzingis (BOS).
The Wiz started the rebuild by getting rid of two centerpieces in Brad Beal and Kristaps Porzingis. Why? Because they finished in the lottery with them and could finish with a better draft choice without them. They added Jordan Poole, who is not Beal, but will shoot a ton and probably average close to 25 points per game on under 40% from the field. Tyus Jones is a solid point guard, but if he plays well, they might be able to get a future first for him. The future is wing Bilal Coulibaly and he’ll need some help as the Wiz continue to build with youngsters.
2023-24 NBA Preview
1)Milwaukee Bucks (2022-23 record: 58-24 SU, 44-36-2 ATS, 41-41 O/U). Eastern Conference Odds: +180
The Bucks shocked the NBA world with the addition of Dame Lillard from Portland, but is that enough along with new coach Adrian Griffin to get back to the Finals? Lillard is now 33, but he's still a great shooter. He takes over for the defensive-minded Jrue Holiday. The issue is at shooting guard with Grayson Allen gone. Another issue is at small forward where Khris Middleton is now 32 and played in just 33 games last season. Marjon Beauchamp is a second-year player who will need to make the leap. They also still have Pat Connaughton, who is solid role player, but isn't a starting-caliber player. They also have a guy named Giannis Antetokounmpo, who averaged 31.1 points11.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists last season. The Greek Freak, Brook Lopez and Robin Lopez make it very difficult to score in the paint against them to win the title.
Ben’s Outlook: The Lillard move will help, but they need to make at least one more move to get a wing. Fortunately, they are in a pretty weak Eastern Conference when it comes to contender.
2)Boston Celtics: (2022-23 record: 57-25 SU, 45-36-1 ATS, 43-38-1 O/U). Eastern Conference Odds: +180
The Celtics added Jrue Holiday, but gave up on Marcus Smart, Robert Williams and Malcolm Brogdon. Kristaps Porzingis is an offensive machine, but at center, he's mainly a 7-3 jump shooter. Then there's the health issue. There is no doubt that they can score points. Holiday can help with the defense but so did Smart. Grant Williams was another key rotation player gone, though watch out for Oshae Brissett to help fill his role as a wing defender off the bench. As long as they have Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, this is a team that will go far. It might take some time for them to jell with Porzingis and Holiday.
Ben’s Outlook: Would be surprising if they don’t make the ECF.
3)Miami Heat: (2022-23 record: 44-38 SU, 31-49-2 ATS, 41-41 O/U). Eastern Conference Odds: +1100
Miami always seems to be underrated for some reason. The losses of Max Strus and Gabe Vincent will hurt, but Pat Riley knows what he’s doing. He struck out on Dame Lillard, but they’ll be fine. Rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. is a more athletic Max Strus at the wing. Nikola Jovic is another young player who was blocked by older players in front of him, who will have a role. The key will be the health of Tyler Herro who was injured last season and was in rumored trade talks all off-season. He’s a walking bucket and is something they need to give Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo another option. Caleb Martin also had a great run in the playoffs with Herro out, but they added veteran Josh Richardson, who will also fit in the rotation.
Ben’s Outlook: As long as they have Butler and Adebayo with an elite coach in Erik Spoelstra, you can’t deny them. It was interesting that Riley didn’t get Lillard or Bradley Beal so you know he’s itching to make another deal.
4)Cleveland Cavaliers: (2022-23 record: 51-31 SU, 42-36-4 ATS, 40-42 O/U) Eastern Conference Odds: +1000
Are you ready for a Cleveland Cavs’ dynasty? Well, no but while this Cavs’ team is not as good (yet) as the LeBron James’ teams, but they are on the way towards an elite Eastern Conference team. Donovan Mitchell (28.3ppg) gave the Cavs that type of a star in the regular season, but now he has to do it in the playoffs. The Max Strus pickup from Miami was a very good one to help the three-point shooting. Evan Mobley is a talented 7-foot power forward who needs to get stronger and needs to add to his shooting range. Darius Garland is one of the most underrated guards in the East. The bench also adds Georges Niang, who is a big shooter. Jarrett Allen also needs to produce more against the bigger and more physical center.
Ben’s Outlook: I really like the Max Strus pick up. He’s not a first or second option, but he improves your spacing when Mitchell drives, because you can’t help off of him.
5)Philadelphia 76ers: (2022-23 record: 54-28 SU, 48-34 ATS, 43-38-1 O/U). Eastern Conference Odds: +750
This is a disaster waiting to happen. Nick Nurse was a good hire to take over for Doc Rivers, but that’s if they trade James Harden. This is the same player who wanted to leave the Nets, move to Philadelphia, and now wants out. He even exercised his player option but he may never step on the floor this season. That’s a shame for reigning MVP Joel Embiid, who may want out as well after this season. Tyrese Maxey is a solid guard, who is an undersized shooting guard, but fit in pretty well with the 6-5 Harden. They made a pretty good move by getting Kelly Oubre Jr. (20.3ppg), who can score and defend some, but is not a willing passer. It’s also a wonder why he continues to go from team to team.
Ben’s Outlook: They have the talent to make the playoffs, but who knows what this team will look like in February? They may just tear it apart, though that would take moving Embiid. At least surround him with some better players.
6)NY Knicks: (2022-23 record: 47-35 SU, 44-34-4 ATS, 44-37-1 O/U). Eastern Conference Odds: +1800
The addition of guard Jalen Brunson really changed the direction of the Knicks. But let’s not forget that Josh Hart is a quality player and Quentin Grimes is pushing to start due to his excellent shooting. The key will be Julius Randle, who struggled last season shooting the basketball as he took some questionable shots and isn’t a great shooter. He needs to become more of a team player. Donte DiVincenzo joins his former Villanova teammates Hart and Brunson in New York. He’s not a starter, but everyone needs a versatile guard who can score some and defense. Mitchell Robinson is the protector of the rim on defense and is one of the better players in the league in that aspect.
Ben’s Outlook: There are certainly some questions for this team, but Tom Thibodeau expects a defensive effort from everyone and that’s where it starts. With Mitchell Robinson protecting the paint, the Knicks will rebound and defend. They appear to be a player away to join the top 3-4 right now.
7)Atlanta Hawks: (2022-23 record: 41-41 SU, 36-46 ATS, 46-35-1 O/U). Eastern Conf. Odds: +2500
Last year, the Hawks picked up Dejounte Murray and you would have that the move would have elevated them to a top-notch team in the East. Yet, Murray and Trae Young never seemed to blend well together. Patty Mills was the only key addition to the team, and they drafted guard Kobe Bufkin out of Michigan. They’ll need Onyeka Okongwu to step up playing next to Clint Capela, now that John Collins has been dealt away. Bogdan Bogdanovic is a quality wing along with De’Andre Hunter. But neither is a difference-maker. This is a team that is good enough to make the playoffs, but they are a few more moves away from either starting over or moving up in the standings.
Ben’s Outlook: I keep thinking that Atlanta will blow things up and so far, that hasn’t quite happened aside from the Collins’ move. They just appear to be a team stuck in neutral.
8)Toronto Raptors (2022-23 record: 41-41 SU, 42-39-1 ATS, 46-36 O/U)). Eastern Conf. Odds: +6000
This is where it gets ugly, but also puzzling. Nick Nurse must have known that this team was in trouble. That’s despite having Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes and OG Anunoby. How was that team a .500 on squad? Enter Dennis Schroder, who replaces Fred VanVleet. That’s not really a fair trade, but VanVleet was slipping some as a shooter and a defensive liability at 5-11. So, speaking of defensive liabilities, Schroder has arrived and is not the answer. But he can’t start for some teams who might need a veteran point guard if Masai Ujiri wants to unload his roster. I know, we’re talking about rebuilding already, but this is the bottom of the East. . Watch out for rookie Gradey Dick, as another talented wing who can score from the perimeter and in transition. They could use a productive center as well.
Ben’s Outlook: Barnes is a potential star and what team doesn’t want an Anunoby? Yet, I don’t see much more than a .500 team again unless new coach Darko Rajakovic has a special touch.
9)Indiana Pacers (2022-23 record: 35- 47 SU, 42-40 ATS, 42-39-1 OU). Eastern Conf. Odds : +1300.
The Pacers have point guard Tyrese Haliburton and not a lot else. But at least he’s somebody to build around. They got rid of wing Chris Duarte, who as a bust while Buddy Hield has requested a trade. Enter Bruce Brown and Obi Toppin. Brown will provide Haliburton some relief at the point, while Toppin is a great athlete with an improved jumper. He’ll add some much-needed athleticism. Jarace Walker is a super athlete and a rookie who could see some early time. Center Myles Turner wasn’t dealt yet, but at some point, he needs to show that he’s more than just a shotblocker who occasionally goes off with big games.
Ben’s Outlook: I love Haliburton and I think he lifts this team to the playoffs or at least a play-in game. They still don’t seem to have an identity yet, but Haliburton will make Toppin a better player by getting him the ball in transition.
10)Chicago Bulls: (2022-23 record: 40-42 SU, 40-39-3 ATS, 36-44-2 O/U). Eastern Conf. Odds: +7500
The Bulls seem to be stuck in neutral and a lot of that is due to the loss of guard Lonzo Ball to a knee injury in January of 2022. With no Ball again, Jevon Carter and Alex Caruso are serviceable at the point, but they aren’t Ball in terms of size, passing and three-point shooting. Caruso, at least, is an elite defender. Carter will bring some improved shooting to the point guard spot. DeMar DeRozan is a fine player who never seems to age, but he also is a limited three-point shooter. Zach LaVine is not a point guard, but will likely man it, playing with Caruso and Patrick Williams. Nikola Vucevic is also a very productive big man and another player they could move down the line. He ranked in the top 10 among centers in points and rebounds last season.
Ben’s Outlook: There’s something wrong with this team. It’s just a bad mix of pretty good players. The Ball injury just crushed them and at some point, it’s time to deal LaVine.
11)Brooklyn Nets: (2022-23 record: 45-37 SU, 41-39-2 ATS, 37-44-1 O/U). Eastern Conf. Odds: +2500
Man, it’s going to be a long year in Brooklyn. They actually played decently after trading away Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but reality is about to strike. Miles Bridges and Cam Johnson and came from the Suns in the KD trade. Nic Claxton can protect the paint and Spencer Dinwiddie is back as a combo guard. But this is a pretty bad team overall. However, if Ben Simmons gets back to his old self…well, we’ve heard that before. Cam Thomas is also a big scorer off the bench, but there’s not much else to like about this team.
Ben’s Outlook: I liked the way the Nets played after the trades, but teams probably overlooked them every night and they played hard. But playing hard every night can only get you so far with limited talent.
12)Orlando Magic: (2022-23 record: 34-48 SU, 45-35-2 ATS, 40-42 O/U). Eastern Conf. Odds: +13000
Where is this team going? Not very far yet, but you have to look at a nucleus of Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner as potential stars. So that’s a good start. But they need help from guard Jalen Suggs, who hasn’t realized his potential. Marelle Fultz is a great story if he can stay healthy and Gary Harris is more of a sixth man-type than a starter. Now they add big rookie point guard Anthony Black, who could be the answer and give them continued progress towards being a playoff team.
Ben’s Outlook: Wagner and Panchero are going to be studs, while Black and rookie Jett Howard also may have a good future. What they really could use is a sharpshooting big wing.
13)Charlotte Hornets: (2022-23 record: 27-55 SU, 37-42-3 ATS, 34-47-1 O/U). Eastern Conf. Odds: +25000
The Hornets have LaMelo Ball at the point so when it came to the second pick, they chose 6-9 forward Brandon Miller instead of point guard Scoot Anderson. Miller is a really talented player who should put up big numbers at the jump and could be a Rookie of the Year candidate. This is a pretty talented team but they have a player in Miles Bridges, who can’t seem to stay out of legal trouble due to a domestic disturbance. He’s a 20-point per game player and they can’t count on Gordon Hayward anymore due to injuries. Guard Terry Rozier (21.1ppg) is a sturdy 6-1 guard who can carry a team when he gets hot.
Ben’s Outlook: This team could be pretty good if Bridges is on the floor with Mark Williams and Nick Richards manning the paint. Terry Rozier and Ball can be dynamic in the backcourt. But there’s something off about this team.
14)Detroit Pistons: (2022-23 record: 17-65 SU, 34-44-4 ATS, 41-40-1 O/U) Eastern Conf. Odds: +30000
This might be the year? Well, maybe not, but the Pistons can win 10 or even 15 more games and still be in the bottom. That’s how bad they were last season mainly because Cade Cunningham played in just 12 games last season. He averaged 19.9ppg and 6.0apg in limited action so the talent is there. When you add rookie Ausar Thompson’s athleticism and 20-year old Jalen Duran at center, the Pistons should be on the right track..Bojan Bogdanovich doesn’t seem to fit this young and athletic team, but if he can pour in 21.6 points per game again, he’ll be valuable to the Pistons or another team in a deal. New coach Monty Williams should get a few years to help mold this team.
Ben’s Outlook: This is all about Cunningham. If he can stay healthy, Detroit won’t be picking in the top five again.
15)Washington Wizards: (2022-23 record: 35-47 SU, 37-41-4 ATS, 40-39-3 O/U). Eastern Conf. Odds: +50000
Speaking of top five, Washington could use a top five or a top three pick in next year’s draft. After trading Brad Beal and Kristaps Porzingis, they have a shot. Jordan Poole is a volume shooter, who will put up big scoring numbers, but won’t be very efficient. Kyle Kuzma was re-signed probably due to the new CBA rules to try and keep a minimum salary number. He averaged 21.2 points per game last season and could average more this season with very little around him. The Wiz desperately need role players Deni Avdija, Corey Kispert, and last year’s top pick Johnny Davis to elevate their games. Tyus Jones was a solid pick up at the point and an improvement over Monte Morris.
Ben’s Outlook: Washington changed up their front office and they may not call it a tank. But with the new CBA rules, it’s tough to do what the Spurs did, but expect them to trade another player or two down the line.
1)Golden State Warriors: (2022-23 record: 44-38 SU, 39-41-2 ATS, 44-34-4 O/U). Western Conf. Odds: +650
This might be the last shot for the Warriors, who got rid of Jordan Poole, who didn’t get along with Draymond Green. So, there’s one problem solves and while Chris Paul isn’t the same player he once was, he can help this team get back to the Finals. But unlike past teams, this is Steph Curry’s squad. Once he realizes that (he may not), Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green can get to work, along with the underrated Andrew Wiggins. Dario Saric could be a key component who could be sneaky good as a backup big man. This is still a very dangerous team and getting Paul for one last ride to replace Poole, who was a bad fit, could be a stroke of genius for new GM Mike Dunleavy.
Ben’s Outlook: This could be the final straw for the Warriors, but they keep coming back. Paul will figure it out, but it’s more about Klay Thompson. In the regular season, he shot 41.2% from three-point range, but in the playoffs, he shot a career-low 38.8% from the field.
2)Denver Nuggets: (2022-23 record: 53-29 SU, 45-37 ATS, 37-44-1 O/U) Western Conf. Odds: +260
It’s tough to repeat. I’m not reinventing the wheel by saying that, but the West should be more competitive this season. The Nuggets also didn’t do a lot to improve themselves after losing guard Bruce Brown and Jeff Green off the bench. Reggie Jackson was giving a new contract and he played just 18 playoff minutes. He’ll have to replace Brown this season and while he’s certainly capable, the fact that he didn’t play much in the postseason is telling. Of course, they have superstar center Nikola Jokic and clutch guard Jamal Murray to lead a starting lineup that was plus-11.8 points per 100 possessions. Joker will be looking to get that MVP back from Joel Embiid.
Ben’s Outlook: Jokic is a phenomenal player, but the bench is not. They won despite having one of the league’s worst benches and lost two pretty good players. Christina Braun and Peyton Watson will need to take big jumps.
3)Phoenix Suns: (2022-23 record: 45-37 SU, 43-38-1 ATS, 42-39-1 O/U). Western Conf. Odds: +350
Enter Bradley Beal and say goodbye to veteran point guard Chris Paul. Beal was a top option for a bad Wizards team and has averaged 22.1 points per game for his career. He’s a scorer and should be motivated to play defense for a contender since he hasn’t really played for one. For the Suns, he will be the third option behind Kevin Durant and Devin Booker. They moved on from Deandre Ayton and brought in big, but injury-prone Jusuf Nurkic. That’s a situation they may want to improve toward the trade deadline, because scoring will be no issue as long as those three players are on the floor. New head coach Frank Vogel has a very talented team and will need to develop a better rotation with strong defenders.
Ben’s Outlook: For this team to go far, they need KD to stay healthy. But the bench will be key because they couldn’t spend 10’s of millions on that bench so they need Eric Gordon and Bol Bol to give them something. The addition of guard Grayson Allen was an underrated move due to his three-point shooting.
4)Los Angeles Lakers: (2022-23 record: 43-39 SU, 40-41-1 ATS, 43-38-1 O/U). Western Conf. Odds: +650
As long as Anthony Davis and LeBron James are on the court together, the Lakers can be a threat in the West. But staying healthy as James approaches 40 and Davis is in his thirties won’t be easy. James is still a remarkable player, who will need some rest at times. Davis is a DPOY candidate every season and he puts up around 25 points and 12.5 rebounds with 2.0 blocks. The addition of Jaxson Hayes was nice, but who is going to stop Nikola Jokic? Austin Reaves doesn’t have to worry about that, but he showed over the summer in the FIBA World Cup that he’s close to becoming an elite player. The addition of Christian Wood also gives them flexibility up front. Gabe Vincent could push D’Angelo Russell for time. That was another shrewd signing by the Lakers. Vincent really came on for Miami last season, though some of that might be flukish.
Ben’s Outlook: The Lakers are really talented and deep. Rui Hachimura is another player who can play either forward spot or they can go with a defender like Jared Vanderbilt. Darvin Ham appears to be the right coach for this team, but it’s still all about Davis and James. They are good, but I don’t think they don’t match up well against Denver. The Warriors are the better team overall, but the Lakers match up due to their size advantage.
5)Memphis Grizzlies: (2022-23 record: 51-31 SU, 37-43-2 ATS, 38-43-1 O/U). Western Conf. Odds +1300
Memphis was a mess last season, but they still won 51 games last season. That’s despite losing star guard Ja Morant for 25 games. Tyus Jones held things together and now he’s gone. Center/forward Jaren Jackson Jr. became a defensive monster and Steven Adams should return from a sprained PCL suffered in January (he's now out for the year). They wisely let Dillon Brooks go and traded for former Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart. The addition of Derrick Rose gives them another professional for Morant, who is just 23, to look up to. They'll be solid insurance when he misses the first 25 games. Desmond Bane averaged 21.5 points and shot 40.8% from three-point range last season. He’s as steady as they come.
Ben’s Outlook: I loved this team after the 2021-22 season and it’s a shame what happened to Morant (off the court) and then Brooks (on the court) last year. At least one player is gone and if Morant can turn things back around, they’ll be a contender with the additions of Smart and Rose.
6)Sacramento Kings: (2022-23 record: 48-34 SU, 45-36-1 ATS, 40-40-2 O/U). Western Conf. Odds: +2500
The Kings made a big jump last season and nobody is talking about them again. This is all about the defense, but the offense averaged 120.7 points per game and they led the league with 118.6 points per 100 possessions. Keegan Murray had a strong first year, shooting 41.1% from three-point range. Domantas Sabonis will get some help at center as JaVale McGee gives them some defense and boards behind Sabonis, who can also move to power forward at times. De’Aaron Fox (25ppg, 6.1apg, 32.4% 3pt) should take another jump at point guard. His speed can turn games around. Kevin Huerter (15.2ppg, 40.2% 3pt) had a strong regular season, but needs to be better in the postseason.
Ben’s Outlook: I don’t know if the Kings are quite ready to make that jump in the postseason, but I don’t see a downfall either. They seem to be one really good shooting guard or wing away from getting to the elite level.
7)New Orleans Pelicans: (2022-23 record: 42-40 SU, 39-42-1 ATS, 38-44 O/U). Western Conf. Odds: +2500
The Pels are one of those teams that you have to keep an eye on because of one player: Zion Williamson. He played in just 29 games last season and has missed over 60% of the team’s total games throughout his career. When in shape and healthy, he’s one of the best all-around players in the West. Brandon Ingram is a smooth scorer, who averages 24.7 points last season and is up for a huge contract. Herb Jones was re-signed and that was a big move for their perimeter defense. The other concern aside from Williamson’s health, is Trey Murphy III, who is coming off a knee injury suffered in early September. He’s expected to miss around two months.
Ben’s Outlook: I think with Williamson back and C.J. McCollum running thing, this team could be scary. Not saying first in the West, but they could move into the top five. However, we’ve heard this before about Williamson being in shape. Hopefully at 23, he’s realized that it’s time to get in shape so he can have a stellar career.
8)Los Angeles Clippers: (2022-23 record: 44-38 SU, 40-42 ATS, 40-42 O/U). Western Conf. Odds: +1000
It’s almost time to close the book on the Clippers. Paul George and Kawhii Leonard are not going to start playing 70+ games. Russell Westbrook did rejuvenate his career (15.8ppg, 7.6apg, 35.6% 3pt. 21 games) with the Clippers. That’s a nice story, but the key is the health of those aging stars. Leonard has missed 147 of a possible 308 games since joining the Clippers. When he and PG13 both play, the Clippers are 96-46. Ivica Zubac and Marcus Morris Sr. are decent players, but they don’t move the needles when the stars are out. The Clippers didn’t have much flexibility to make moves or draft players in the first round. It may be time to trade one of those stars to get some picks back.
Ben’s Outlook: This team is all about two players. When they are gone, they have no chance. They need to play most of the schedule this season or the eighth spot may be a reach.
9)Dallas Mavericks: (2022-23 record: 38-44 SU, 30-49-3 ATS, 43-38-1 O/U). Western Conf. Odds: +1200
I was not a fan of the Kyrie Irving trade. It appears that the Mavs will be fine offensively as they finished with a 116.1 offensive rating to rank sixth in the NBA last season. The addition of Grant Williams, Derrick Jones Jr and Dante Exum will help the bench and the defense. They also added two rookies in Olivier-Maxence Prosper and Derrick Lively II, who should help defensively in the present and certainly the future. Richaun Holmes was also a nice pickup for the post. But it’s all about Luka Doncic and Irving thriving together, moving the ball occasionally and defending some. If they can co-exist, the Mavs will be fun to watch, but they don’t have enough after them to compete for the elite in the West.
Ben’s Outlook: Dallas was bad against the spread last season, so that’s something to look at. I’d hate to be a wing player waiting on Irving and Doncic to finish dribbling every halfcourt possession.
10)Oklahoma City Thunder: (2022-23 record: 40-42 SU, 45-34-3 ATS, 46-35-1 O/U). Western Conf. Odds: +4500
Here is a team that will be fun to watch. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the team’s star and now they add 7-1 Chet Holmgren to the mix after he missed his rookie year due to injury. Last season’s top rookie was Jalen Williams, who averaged 14 points per game last season with 1.4 steals. Josh Giddey is scary good considering he’s just 20 years old and keeps getting better. The addition of Victor Oladipo should help as a rotation guard, though he’s rehabbing an injury for a change. They also added a young Kentucky guard in Cason Wallace with the 10th pick and signed former two-time EuroLeague MVP Vasilije Micic to a three-year deal. Micic is a 29-year old 6-5 guard who teams have been trying to sign for years. His passing ability will allow him to play some right away.
Ben's Outlook: I love the potential of this team, but realistically, they are another year or two away from contending. A lot depends on Holmgren’s growth and while he put on some weight, he still appears too thin to mix it up with the big boys. SGA, Giddey and Jalen Williams will be a strong trio for years to come along with Holmgren. In a betting sense, do not sleep on this team, especially if you can’t value.
11)Minnesota Timberwolves (2022-23 record: 42-40 SU, 40-42 ATS, 38-43-1 O/U). Western Conf. Odds: +3000
Who is this team? Are they Anthony Edwards’ squad? Probably. He’s a great talent and 6-9 Jaden McDaniels can guard just about everyone. But how many teams spend hundreds of millions on Naz Reid, Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns? KAT spent most of last season on the bench due to injury so we never really got to see enough of the two 7-footer approach on the floor together. Mike Conley is now 36 and manning the point, which means he could be dealt at some point. They didn’t do much to improve the club unless adding small forward Troy Brown Jr. and guard Shake Melton was the answer to their problems (nope).
Ben's Outlook: I don’t love the twin tower approach in today’s game even though KAT can shoot threes. Some players just need a change of scenery, and he could be one. At least they have Edwards.
12)Portland Trailblazers: (2022-23 record: 33-49 SU, 39-42-1 ATS, 40-41-1 O/U). Western Conf. Odds: +25000
The Dame era is over in Portland as Damian Lillard was dealt to Milwaukee just weeks ago. This probably should have happened as soon as the Blazers were fortunate that Charlotte passed up Scoot Henderson with the second pick to draft Brandon Miller. Portland picked Henderson at No. 3 and now he steps right in as the point guard. They also added F Keegan Murray’s brother Kris with the 23rd pick. For some reason, they re-signed F Jerami Grant for five years. Instead of rebuilding, the Blazers may actually be pretty decent with Deandre Ayton and Robert Williams II at center, and Malcolm Brogdon at guard. If Shaedon Sharpe starts progressing at 20 and Anfernee Simons (21.1ppg) keeps improving, the Blazers will be a tough out.
Ben’s Outlook: I figured Portland would just be terrible after losing Damian Lillard, but they added three first-round picks, Ayton, Williams, and Brogdon, which should immediately make this squad better defensively.
13)Utah Jazz: (2022-23 record: 37-45 SU, 47-33-2 ATS, 47-34-1 O/U). Western Conf. Odds: +20000
The Jazz fell apart late in the season, but at one point, it looked as though they were going to be a playoff or at worst a play-in team. The addition of John Collins should help the frontcourt, as he certainly regressed in Atlanta, In 2019-20, Collins averaged 21.6 points per game. The Jazz expect an impact from rookies Taylor Hendricks and Keyonte George. Jordan Clarkson is a pretty good fit for this team along with Collin Sexton, who was injured in the second half last season. Their star is Lauri Markkanen (25.6ppg, 8.6rpg), who showed he was more than just a stretch four or five. Their center is Walker Kessler, who is a 7-1 shotblocker, who averaged 9.2 points and 8.4 rebounds with 2.3 blocks.
Ben’s Outlook: If Sexton can stay healthy, this has a chance to be a pretty interesting team. Rookie Taylor Hendricks at 6-9 with a 7-0 wingspan has a chance to have the same impact as Kessler last season. Danny Ainge and GM Justin Zanik have a plan and it appears to be working out.
14)Houston Rockets (2022-23 record: 22-60 SU, 34-45-3 ATS, 40-4-1 O/U). Western Conf. Odds: +20000
Veteran coach Ime Udoka takes over a young team that became a lot older with the additions of Fred VanVleet, Dillon Brooks and Jeff Green. They also drafted combo guard Amen Thompson and athletic forward Cam Whitmore. There are a few ways this could go. VanVleet gives the team veteran leadership, Brooks adds a physical defender and Green is strong off the bench as usual. VanVleet replaces Kevin Porter Jr., who had all sorts of issues off the floor and that’s an upgrade, But VanVleet’s shooting numbers were way down in Toronto and he’s limited defensively at 5-11. At least he can pass the ball (7.2 assists) and he has a talented young wing in Jalen Green (17.3ppg) to feed. Brooks is a bigger question mark and then there’s rookie Jabari Smith Jr. He and Whitmore will battle it out for playing time at power forward.
Ben’s Outlook: I like where they are headed aside from picking up Brooks, who is more interested in picking up technical fouls than winning games. But at some point, adding all this young talent is going to work out.
15)San Antonio Spurs: (2022-23 record: 22-60 SU, 33-49 ATS, 48-33-1 O/U) Western Conf. Odds: +25000
Victor Wembanyama arrives in Texas to play for a 74-year-old coach in Greg Popovich. The 19-year-old will play on a roster with 14 players at 25 or younger. Pops has his work cut out for him, but he wouldn’t stay if not for the potential. As long and talented as Wemby is, he’s still on the thin side and they need to be careful over overplaying him just because fans want to see him. Forward Julian Champagnie is one of the great two-way contract stories, who turned that into a four-year deal. Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson and Jeremy Sochan are talents who should benefit from the young stars arrival. Zach Collins (11.6ppg, 6.4rpg) should be glad that Wemby is still on the thin side and will play power forward. He’s just 25 and played in 63 games compared to 29 in the previous three seasons combined.
Ben’s Outlook: Wembanyama is the Spurs and should really improve their defense with his incredible length. He’ll struggle at times on the offensive end, but they have scoring with Devin Vassell (18.5ppg) and Keldon Johnson (22ppg). It could take a year or two, but this squad will be special as long as the 19-year-old 7-4 athlete with an 8-foot wingspan stays healthy.
2023-24 NBA Predictions
(written by Mark Ruelle)
2022-23 Record in parenthesis Projected 2023-24 Win Total O/U
1. Milwaukee (58-24), 54.5 wins UNDER
2. Boston (57-25), 55.5 wins OVER
3. Philadelphia (54-28), 48.5 wins UNDER
4. Cleveland (51-31), 51.5 wins UNDER
5. New York (47-35), 45.5 wins UNDER
6. Brooklyn (45-37), 37.5 wins OVER
7. Miami (44-38), 45.5 wins UNDER
8. Atlanta (41-41), 42.5 wins OVER
9. Toronto (41-41), 36.5 wins OVER
10. Chicago (40-42), 37.5 wins UNDER
11. Indiana (35-47), 38.5 wins UNDER
12. Washington (35-47), 24.5 wins OVER
13. Orlando (34-48), 37.5 wins OVER
14. Charlotte (27-55), 31.5 wins OVER
15. Detroit (17-65( 27.5 wins OVER
The Celtics look like the beasts of the East this season and I think they’ll approach 60 wins with a great starting five including the additions of two more high-level offense players in Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingas. The Celtics bench looks strong as well with Oshae Brissett and eventually rookie Jordan Walsh. Al Horford gets to slip into a reserve role to keep him fresh for the postseason. The Bucks will be very good, but they are getting older in several key spots and resting Brook Lopez at times along with Dame Lillard could certainly hamper their chances of winning close to 60 games. The Bucks are built for the playoffs, but not necessarily regular season dominance.
I expect a bit of a slide from the Sixers as the James Harden situation sorts itself out. I think Brooklyn will be slightly better than people think this season with what they hope will be a healthy Ben Simmons. Another team that may be better than people think is the Wizards. They are not a playoff team, but they can surpass their meager win total. Expect their offense to look more like the Rockets with James Harden in his prime with Jordan Poole running the show.
2022-23 record in parenthesis
1. Denver (53-29), 52.5 wins OVER
2. Memphis (51-31), 45.5 wins UNDER
3. Sacramento (48-34), 44.5 wins UNDER
4. Phoenix (45-37), 51.5 wins UNDER
5. LA Clippers (44-38), 46.5 wins OVER
6. Golden State (44-38), 47.5 wins UNDER
7. LA Lakers (43-39), 47.5 wins OVER
8. Minnesota (42-40), 44.5 wins OVER
9. New Orleans (42-40), 44.5 wins OVER
10. Oklahoma City (40-42), 44.5 wins UNDER
11. Dallas (38-44), 43.5 wins OVER
12. Utah (37-45), 35.5 wins UNDER
13. Portland (33-49), 28.5 wins UNDER
14. Houston (22-60), 31.5 wins OVER
15. San Antonio (22-60), 29.5 wins UNDER
*2023-24 Win Totals courtesy of Draftkings.com
I fully expect the Nuggets to improve upon last year’s 53 wins and be the class of the Western Conference. The defending champs will have a full season of health for Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray. They also should have the appropriate swagger and confidence after mowing through the NBA in the playoffs last season. Phoenix should win the Pacific Division this season, but they’ll have their hands full with the Kings and Lakers. Of the three, only the Lakers look like they’ll go over their projected win total.
Three other teams that should go over if they stay healthy are the Mavericks, Pelicans and Rockets. The Mavs and Pelicans are playoff teams while the young Rockets should thrive in Ime Udoka’s defensive system. A full season of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving will improve the Mavs from last year’s 38-win team and the Pelicans will cross their fingers that Williamson stays healthy. If he does, they can compete for a division title.
Memphis could be a mess this season with all the turmoil surrounding the team and the bullseye on the team’s back despite not even making it out of the first round last season. This is what comes when a team’s brash behavior supersedes their results.
Now let’s take a look at the odds to win the Conference title and NBA title in 2023-24:
EC Title Odds NBA Title Odds
Boston +180 +400
Milwaukee +180 +400
Philadelphia +750 +1800
Miami +1100 +2800
Cleveland +1000 +3000
New York +1000 +5000
Atlanta +2500 +7500
Brooklyn +5000 +13,000
Toronto +6000 +15,000
Chicago +7500 +25,000
Indiana +13,000 +30,000
Orlando +13,000, +40,000
Charlotte +25,000 +50,000
Detroit +30,000 +60,000
Washington +50,000 +100,000
WC Title Odds NBA Title Odds
Denver +260 +550
Phoenix +350 +650
LA Lakers +650 +1200
Golden State +650 +1300
LA Clippers +1000 +1800
Dallas +1200 +2200
Memphis +1300 +3000
New Orleans +2500 +5000
Sacramento +2500 +5500
Minnesota +3000 +7000
OKC +4500 +8000
Houston +20,000 +40,000
Utah +20,000 +50,000
San Antonio +25,000 +50,000
Portland +25,000 +50,000
Eastern Conference Finals:
Boston (+180) over Milwaukee (+180) in six games.
Western Conference Finals:
Phoenix (+350) over Denver (+550) in seven games.
Boston (+400) over Phoenix (+650) in six games.
The final four teams in the NBA seem like easy choices but they are the best ones. Boston and Milwaukee have the most star power, tons of individual players that can break down a defense and highly-skilled bigs that can do multiple things. If you are looking for sleepers out of the Eastern Conference, the Cavaliers could be a team that makes noise in this year’s playoffs. In fact, if the Cavs are able to make a key move near the trade deadline for the right veteran, particularly a wing shooter, they could become very dangers.
In the Western Conference, the Nuggets have too much going for them not to get to at least the Conference Finals. The team’s pick and roll usage with Nikola Jokic is nearly unstoppable and they have the experience of last year’s run in their favor. The Nuggets will likely be on the hunt for a defensive wing at the trade deadline. The Suns added more scoring punch with the trade for Bradley Beal. Can the experiment work with an offense that doesn’t have a true point guard? If you are looking for sleepers to the top two teams in the Western Conference, the Pelicans and Mavs spring to mind. While the Lakers might be the popular pick to get back to the Western Conference Finals, I just don’t think LeBron can manage his way through another season without setbacks. Doncic remains the seminal taken in the NBA and if the Mavs front office can keep tinkering with the supporting cast, they’ll be a tough out in the playoffs. And, again, if Williamson stays healthy, the Pelicans will not be a fun playoff matchup for anyone!
Please be sure to check out my weekly NBA Perfect Ten when I rank the top ten teams in the NBA each week and give you my top five NBA MVP candidates.
*Conference winner and NBA Finals odds courtesy of draftkings.com