The Brooklyn Nets are not going to win the NBA championship next season, guaranteed. Kevin Durant’s trade request moved their odds from 7-1 to 25-1, then 30-1. By the time Sunday arrives, the Knicks may have shorter odds.
And the Knicks ain’t winning, either. Take it from a New Yorker. The basketball season in Gotham will be a nuclear winter, a completely bleak landscape.
But there is a way to scheme this craziness in the sports gambling landscape. What we can ascertain following the first few hours of NBA free agency? The fact that the Eastern Conference is going to be terrible.
Yet somebody has to win it. The NBA mandates that the finals match someone from the East against someone from the West, which is why we all had to endure watching the Boston Celtics last month when they should have gone down in 5 games but made it to 6 because the Golden State Warriors are what they are.
So as July begins, do we have too much uncertainty to look all the way ahead to next June? Maybe, maybe not.
We know that the Milwaukee Bucks are bringing back Bobby Portis, and now all they have to do is convince coach Mike Budenholzer to let Portis play instead of using guys who do not score any points. Coach Bud is smart, and he will not make that same mistake twice.
We know that the Chicago Bulls have an unsigned superstar on their hands in Zach LaVine, who does not have enough around him to be a championship contender. If general manager Arturas Karnisovas can finagle a way to land Durant and keep LaVine, the Bulls are winning it all. But we do not see that happening. Durant is too expensive.
We know that the Boston Celtics are satisfied with winning the East, with the exception of head honcho Brad Stevens, who learned while coaching at Butler University that making the Final Four is nice, but failing to win the championship is not so nice. Would he part with Jaylen Brown in a deal to acquire Durant and put him alongside Team USA teammate and good buddy Jayson Tatum? Probably not.
We also know that the Washington Wizards have re-signed Bradley Beal and have very little around him, and we also know that they could be an enticing destination team for Durant because he is from Maryland. And we also know that Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard rose from media relations intern with the Nuggets to GM of Washington because he is MENSA-level smart.
Do we see him offering Kristaps Porzingis and just about anybody else on his roster that the Nets might want, including first-round pick Johnny Davis, the Big Ten Player of the Year from Wisconsin? And throwing in a couple of picks other than their 2023 first-round pick, which is already owed to the Knicks?
Well, actually, yes. We could see that.
And as July begins, the Wizards are listed at anywhere from +7000 (FanDuel) to +25000 (BetRivers) to win the East, ranked behind the Bucks, Celtics, Heat, Sixers, Nets, Bulls, Raptors, Hawks, Cavs, Knicks and Hornets.
This is what we in the business call an opportunity that is knocking, and we liked it so much while researching it that we went ahead and bet it.
Not that we are certain that Durant will end up with the Wizards. But Nets general manager Sean Marks and Durant’s agent, Rich Kleiman, are tight. And now only does Durant need to please Kleiman to a certain degree, he also is probably going to have to move Kyrie Irving, and so this is a point in time when he does not need any enemies.
NBA rules make it very difficult for the Nets to trade Durant for another superstar as long as Ben Simmons is on their roster. Marks may need to move Simmons, too, in order to maximize his return on both Durant and Irving, and he ain’t getting much for Simmons if that rusty bucket has any market value whatsoever.
So the Nets are a dumpster fire, and the only winner in a dumpster fire is the guy who bought insurance on whatever was in that dumpster.
What you need to do here, folks, is expect the unexpected. As we all know, every NBA season ends with one winner and 29 losers. It is a brutal business, it makes a ton of money, and everyone working in the NBA is so drunk on that money that they are doing everything within their power to ensure that the money never stops flowing.
And another thing: Longshots hit sometimes. Legend has it that the word “Upset” is derived from the story of a horse that won a race that nobody ever imagined he would win. But somebody bet on him, and the strategy of thinking out of the box and being incisive and logical and looking into the future with a crystal ball that ain’t all that foggy is what can make you a sharp bettor, as we have explained in this space before.
The NBA is crazy right now. You are not. But act a little crazy in this situation. The Suns, Pelicans and Wizards make a lot of sense as potential Durant destinations. The Pelicans and the Wizards have extra huge value, even if you only bet them to win their conferences. But because New Orleans is in the big, bad West, that may not be the wager you want to make.
This is a flyer, and if you have the funds to try to take a flight, spare yourself the airport madness that we are seeing worldwide and try to think like an NBA general manager who has a franchise-altering, legacy-altering player available on the trade market.
Durant is headed somewhere. Go with your gut.
Durant to the Wizards, and the Wizards winning the East, may not be the best bet ever made. But if it hits, it is among them. If it misses, it was money that provided hope from July 1 at least through late April. And spending money on hope is money well spent. So join me if you so choose. And if you do, good luck to the both of us.
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