When all was said and done, Kevin Durant ultimately decided his best chance to win an NBA title would come with the Golden State Warriors, the two-time defending Western Conference champions that fell short of repeating this year despite winning more games than any team in league history with a 73-9 record.
Blowing a 3-1 series lead to the champion Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals motivated the Warriors, now listed as 2/3 favorites at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook after opening at 3/2 betting odds.
Durant’s decision was made on Monday and shifted the future odds of some of the top teams in the process, although none of them were impacted more than the franchise that drafted him – the Oklahoma City Thunder.
After spending his entire career in Oklahoma City, Durant saw his window of opportunity closing there with teammate Russell Westbrook also set to become a free agent next summer. Together, they formed the second-highest scoring duo in the NBA behind only Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, with Durant likely to supplant Thompson in that equation this season.
The Thunder have fallen to 30/1 to win the 2017 NBA championship from 8/1 following Durant’s departure, and Westbrook’s future is now very much in doubt as well. Westbrook could be traded in a major overhaul so that the team does not get nothing for him in return like Durant, who also entertained offers from the Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics among others interested in signing the most coveted free agent this offseason. Westbrook may be in that same position in 2017.
The Clippers could be Golden State’s top competition in the Western Conference and Pacific Division again next season, and they dropped from 16/1 to 20/1 to win the NBA title at the SuperBook. The Spurs may see future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan retire before their first game tips off, but they already have a viable replacement after signing Pau Gasol. Still, San Antonio was 6/1 and is now 8/1 while the Celtics were viewed as longshots to ink Durant and ended up staying the same at 20/1.
Other teams in the Eastern Conference were not so lucky regardless of the Durant news. The Chicago Bulls opened at 40/1 and fell dramatically to 100/1 after trading Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks and seeing Joakim Noah follow him there as a free agent. Losing Rose, Noah and Gasol while adding just Rajon Rondo has put the once-proud franchise that won its sixth championship nearly 20 years ago in a state of flux.
Those moves did not improve the odds of the Knicks, who remain at 100/1. The Miami Heat have also dropped from 25/1 to 80/1, with all-time leading scorer Dwyane Wade possibly signing elsewhere following three title runs in South Beach.
There has been some speculation that Wade could join former teammate LeBron James in Cleveland, but the odds of that happening seem remote. James would have to take a serious pay cut to make that rumor into a reality, something he has stated he will not do at this stage of his career. The Cavs are still 5/2 to defend their championship.