This NBA decade can be vined together by three super teams: the Miami Heat, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Golden State Warriors.
Since the 2010-11 season, every NBA Finals matchup has featured at least one of those three teams.
And, every time it’s happened, it has surprised nobody, least of all the oddsmakers. Here was the betting favorite to win the NBA Finals in every year since 2010-11:
‘11: Miami +175
‘12: Miami +225
‘13: Miami +250
‘14: Miami +200
‘15: Cleveland +275
‘16: Cleveland +280
‘17: Golden State -128
‘18: Golden State -187
‘19 Golden State -168 (Toronto was +1850)
(Quick primer: +175 = a $100 bet pays out $175. -168 = a $168 bet wins $100.)
In all nine of those years, the favorite at least made the NBA Finals. In five of those years, the favorite ended up winning, and, if Kevin Durant didn’t tear his Achilles and Klay Thompson his ACL last Finals, it likely would have been six.
In short: The NBA has been insanely top-heavy. It’s the one legit gripe all your annoying football-only friends can bring up about the league. In general, the same few teams are in it every year with a chance to win.
That, mercifully, won’t be the case this year, because:
Kawhi Leonard left the defending champ Raptors, who won’t be very good without him
Golden State will play most of the season without two of its four superstars from last year
In Year No. 2 without LeBron in the Eastern Conference, a hierarchy is yet to be settled
Here are the 10 best odds to win the 2019-20 NBA title, as of Sept. 22:
Golden State +1000
Brooklyn +2200 (which seems like a hedge against a Durant return)
(FYI: Phoenix is last, at +30000)
The favorite this year will play Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo in big minutes, and just lost Kyle Kuzma indefinitely.
From top to bottom, it’s the most socialistic top-10 we’ve had in a long time.
In 2014-15, for example, the 10th-best odds were the post-LeBron Heat, who entered the season at +4500 to win. In 2017-18, the Raptors, who actually ended up winning 59 games, entered the season with the 10th-best title odds, at +15000.
In other words, a $100 bet on the 10th-most likely team to win the title this year would pay out only $2,500. A $100 bet on the 10th-most likely team to win the title in 2017-18 would've paid out $15,000. The Celtics this year would be a viable underdog. The Raptors that year would be like betting on David Spade to win an Oscar.
The best part: Sans, perhaps, Brooklyn, you can make a case that every team in this year’s top-10 has an authentic case to at least make the Finals. A 76ers-Jazz Finals? A Bucks-Nuggets Finals? Why not?
That’s why this season, which starts in 26 freaking days, is going to be so much fun.
[READ: A reintroduction to the title race]
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