Cleveland Cavaliers: nba FUTURES & BETTING ODDS
The Cleveland Cavaliers began play in the NBA in 1970, as an expansion team a few years after the ABA/NBA merger. As expected, the new franchise struggled during its infancy, failing to make the playoffs in its first five years of existence.
However, in 1975-76, HOF Coach Bill Fitch helped the Cavaliers win their first playoff series, and then some. The team got all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, before bowing to the Boston Celtics in six games. Those Cavaliers teams were led by HOF C Nate Thurmond, who was in the tail end of his career and F Jim Brewer.
Fitch helped the Cavaliers get to the playoffs in each of the next two years, although they never got out of the first round. He resigned in 1979, ushering in a period when it was not a good idea to place a bet on the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cleveland Cavaliers odds changed when they brought in HOF coach Lenny Wilkens to lead the team in 1986 and drafted C Brad Daugherty and PG Mark Price. A bet on the Cleveland Cavaliers to make the playoffs would pay often during Wilkens’s tenure, as Cleveland would be a fixture in the playoff picture for years to come. The farthest the Cavaliers ever got during that time was a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 1991, when they were dispatched by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. In fact, it was the Bulls who knocked the Cavaliers out in four out of Wilkens’s five playoff trips. Despite playing long and hard-fought series, Cleveland could just not get past Michael Jordan.
Wilkens stepped down in 1993 to coach the Atlanta Hawks, and the Cavs hired Mike Fratello to replace him. The Cleveland Cavaliers odds during this time didn’t really change - Fratello had limited success, leading the team to the playoffs in four out of his six years at the helm, but losing in the first round each time. Fratello was fired after the lockout-shortened ’98-’99 season, and the Cavs endured half a decade of futility.
However, not all was lost, as the Cavaliers’ 17-65 record in the 2002-03 season helped them land the first overall pick in the NBA Draft and the right to select high school phenom LeBron James. Immediately, the Cleveland Cavaliers odds went through the roof, and people lined up to place a futures bet on the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In 2005, the team was sold to Dan Gilbert, who hired Pacers assistant coach Mike Brown to lead the team. James and Brown helped the Cavaliers make their first NBA Finals appearance in 2007, but a bet on the Cleveland Cavaliers to win their first NBA title would not pay, as they were swept by Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs.
That sent the Cleveland Cavaliers odds sky-high, but it also set them up for disappointment. When the team was bounced out of the playoffs in each of the next three seasons, Brown was fired, and James left for Miami in a highly-controversial, TV-produced special called “The Decision.” Cleveland fans were crushed, and the Cleveland Cavaliers odds plummeted back to pre-LeBron levels.
However, in 2011, lightning struck again, and the Cavs once again were granted the #1 pick in the NBA Draft. This time, they selected Duke G Kyrie Irving, who would star for the team but would be unable to lead them back to the playoffs.
In 2014, the team hired EuroLeague coaching legend David Blatt to lead the team, even before free agency hit. James, who was a free agent again, was assumed to be resigning with the Miami Heat. However, James shocked the NBA – and the Cavs themselves – by returning to Cleveland. A month later, the team traded for Timberwolves star Kevin Love to further bolster the roster. The Cleveland Cavaliers odds to capture their elusive first title were, once again, through the roof.
But while James and Irving meshed, James and Blatt did not. The team made it back to the NBA Finals in 2014-15, plowing through the Eastern Conference and losing only two games total in the three series. However, a bet on the Cleveland Cavaliers would not pay, as they lost a tough series to the up-and-coming Golden State Warriors. That series would prove to be just the first round of what would turn out to be a legendary rivalry.
In 2015-16, a bet on the Cleveland Cavaliers was popular, and the team jumped out to a 30-11 record. However, James’s friction with Blatt came to a head, and the coach was relieved of his duties midseason, in favor of assistant coach Tyronn Lue. Cleveland would again advance to the NBA Finals, and this time, they would be victorious, defeating the Warriors in an epic seven-game series to capture their first-ever NBA title.
Lue, James, and Irving would win two more Eastern Conference titles in 2016-17 & 2017-18, where they again would be matched up with Steph Curry and the Warriors. This time around, neither series was close – the Cavs won a single game in those two Finals appearances. James, seemingly tiring of the challenge, would leave for the Los Angeles Lakers the year after.
With only Love remaining from the championship roster (Irving was traded to Boston in 2017), Cleveland has struggled the past two years. But with the memories of a dream title run with their homegrown talent still sharp in fans’ memories, it may be a while before the Cavaliers faithful start clamoring for anything more.
Championships: 1 (2016)
7: Bingo Smith
11: Zydrunas Ilgauskas
22: Larry Nance
25: Mark Price
34: Austin Carr
42: Nate Thurmond
43: Brad Daugherty