LeBron James has taken more criticism than arguably any other athlete in pro sports history due to the rise of social media and his losing record in the NBA Finals. But barring a key injury or complete meltdown, LeBron haters will have to deal with him playing in his sixth straight championship series this June and seventh overall.
The Cavaliers are currently giant -7000 favorites (bet $7,000 to win $100) to get past the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook following a 115-84 rout at home in Game 1.
Cleveland opened as a -1100 favorite in the Eastern Conference Finals at the SuperBook and has not lost a game this postseason, going a perfect 9-0 straight up and 6-3 against the spread, including four covers in the last five games. Going back to last year, the team has won 16 in a row versus East opponents with a 10-6 mark ATS. The big question is, can the Cavaliers finally break through and win their first-ever NBA title?
With the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors already losing three times in the first three rounds after falling to the Oklahoma City Thunder at home in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, they are facing serious questions about their ability to repeat despite finishing the regular season with the best record of all-time at 73-9.
Is two-time league MVP Stephen Curry really healthy? What if James guards Curry in the NBA Finals like he did Derrick Rose in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals when Rose won MVP honors? What if the Thunder upset Golden State and meet James for the second time in the NBA Finals and first without James Harden?
No matter what the scenario, the Cavaliers have a great shot to win it all this year, and their odds reflect that after basically getting cut in half from the start of the playoffs.
The only thing really keeping Cleveland from taking home its first major pro sports team championship since 1964 is the supporting cast of James, who had to do it all versus the Warriors in last year’s NBA Finals due to injuries to Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.
James nearly pulled off the feat, but Golden State proved to be the better team even though Curry had a sub-par series as Andre Iguodala ended up winning NBA Finals MVP. A healthy Irving should be able to take advantage of Curry’s ailing knee this time around while Love is a very difficult matchup for Draymond Green inside and out.
With a long series likely happening in the Western Conference, the defending Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers could have to deal with another long layoff before getting to the championship round. That should work in their favor too, giving them plenty of rest before playing the survivor of the West.
Whether you love him or hate him, James looks to be a slam dunk to play for the NBA title yet again this year, and oddsmakers may be inclined to make his team the favorite regardless of past failures.