There's no place like home? LeBron returns to Cleveland
In-Play US Sports Trader Keith Larkin examines the impact LeBron James' return to Cleveland has had on the NBA betting.
LeBron James confirmed Friday that he will return to Ohio to re-join the Cleveland Cavaliers. Although a contract is yet to be finalised, Cleveland will offer the maximum deal of 4 years and $88 million to sign their former number one draft pick of 2003. The odds have now tumbled on the Cavaliers to win the championship (Cleveland Cavaliers @ 4/1 - NBA Championship Winner), following several lumpy bets from clients punting on the return of King James.
The four-time MVP forward controversially left Cleveland in pursuit of championships. James had success by agreeing to a lower pay deal to form a trio of all-stars with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Together they played four championship series, winning two. Whilst Miami cantered to the finale this year, they were hardly as dominant as we have seen. San Antonio controlled this year's finals using squad depth and minutes management masterminded by Gregg Popovich. They won the series in five games.
Spurs' bench scoring was the best in the league, keeping the pressure firmly on Miami's stars throughout the series. Veteran Tim Duncan opted into another year with the titleholders despite turning 38 in April. After an illustrious career with the Spurs (5 titles, 3 times MVP), Tim could have stepped down on top. Playing under the current regime, Duncan can play limited minutes and still be effective. San Antonio will be a popular selection amongst purer basketball fans, as proven last year, as one of William Hill's losing selections. (San Antonio @ 9/2 - NBA Championship Winner).
Whilst LeBron is considered the best in the NBA, would the market favouritism have followed him wherever he signed? Or would he have been better off staying in the heat? The money soon followed the breaking news which suggests that Cleveland will be serious contenders. LeBron will be surrounded by prospects, as the Cavaliers have received first pick in the draft three of the last four seasons. Their latest selections, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, are both Canadian ballers but more will be asked of Bennett after he was slow to get going in his rookie season. Andrew Wiggins was a popular number one pick with pundits, considered as NBA ready during his collegian career with Kansas. Should he stay alongside LeBron, we would expect to see bets on him to be top rookie (Wiggins @ 6/1 - Rookie of the Year).
It is possible the Cavs could trade Wiggins to bring in another seasoned pro. Complications may arise as the salary cap enters consideration; Kevin Love has been touted as a candidate for this scenario which would no doubt suit LeBron as he seeks a third crown. Whilst James is no doubt going to end up in the hall of fame, he is several titles away from the NBA elite ranks.
In the modern era, Michael Jordan won 6 titles with the Chicago Bulls and whilst James would never admit it, everybody wants to be like Mike.