- LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are the reigning champions, but the Golden State Warriors enter the NBA Finals as the Vegas favorites.
For the seventh year in a row, LeBron James will be appearing in the NBA Finals. But James and his Cleveland Cavaliers are listed as NBA Finals underdogs for the third straight year at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com thanks to the Warriors starting the NBA playoffs 12–0.
A return on the Cavaliers to win the NBA Finals again is worth +200 (bet $100 to win $200) while the price on the favored Warriors is -240 (bet $240 to win $100).
Cleveland upset Golden State a year ago, rallying from a 3-1 series deficit to win its first-ever league championship. The Warriors had set an NBA record by going 73-9 during the regular season, and they signed Kevin Durant as a free agent in the offseason in an effort to make sure they have enough offense to overcome James and his teammates.
Game 1 has Golden State as a 7-point home betting favorite, and Cleveland has failed to win the series opener or cover the spread in Oakland each of the previous two years. However, the Cavaliers did win Game 2 at Oracle Arena two years ago without point guard Kyrie Irving, who suffered a season-ending knee injury toward the end of Game 1.
Irving was one of the difference makers last season for Cleveland in support of James, who will be trying to win his fourth NBA title this year and second back-to-back title.
The Warriors are 12-0 straight up and 8-4 against the spread so far in the 2017 postseason, according to the OddsShark NBA Database, and most of their current run has come without head coach Steve Kerr. Assistant Mike Brown—who coached James early on with the Cavaliers—has taken over for Kerr, who has been unable to coach due to a continuing back ailment.
But Cleveland has been nearly equally as good, going 12-1 SU and 7-4-2 ATS, with the lone loss coming against the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. The Cavaliers were 16-point favorites in that game.
The key to this series figures to be whether or not James can will his team to another championship with more help from other Cleveland players. Durant’s addition makes Golden State extremely difficult to match up with offensively, but James was able to contain him when they last met in the 2012 NBA Finals.
Durant had Russell Westbrook and James Harden as teammates with the Oklahoma City Thunder back then, and they lost to James and the Miami Heat in five games for the title. This year's NBA Finals opens on Thursday night in Oakland.