The 2012-13 NBA season is upon us, which means that it's time to look at the favorites to take home the coveted Larry O'Brien Trophy.
There are plenty of contenders in the league this year, although the James Harden trade certainly mixes things up a bit. Then again, so do the incoming rookies and other players who have shifted locations.
Of course, I'm not advocating gambling. But let's say you do decide to place some friendly wagers, say for poker chips or something.
What kind of odds could you get?
Heading into the opening slate of games, these are the official B/R NBA title odds for all 30 teams.
The Charlotte Bobcats set the all-time record for the NBA's worst winning percentage thanks to their complete and utter futility during the 2011-12 season.
That's not something that you quickly come back from. The process of going from worst to first is one that takes at least a few seasons, particularly when your big offseason additions don't involve any current superstars.
As a result, I'm being totally serious with these odds.
If you're dumb enough to bet on the Charlotte Bobcats, you deserve to lose all the money you wagered. And if you somehow buck the odds and need to collect your winnings, then you would absolutely deserve all the money in the world.
The Orlando Magic's odds to win a championship plummeted as soon as Dwight Howard boarded the plane that would take him from Orlando to Los Angeles. That's assuming, of course, that he wasn't traveling to the L.A. Lakers from some exotic vacation spot.
Emerging rap superstar Kendrick Lamar might have been jealous of Arron Afflalo in the past, but he's going to be in for a reality check once he learns that the new leader of the Magic isn't exactly capable of spearheading a playoff run.
Afflalo, Glen Davis and Jameer Nelson are all solid players, but none of them give Orlando much hope in the title chase.
I'm expecting big things from the combination of Nikola Vucevic and Gustavo Ayon down low, but that will be nowhere near enough to push this squad into playoff contention, much less championship contention.
The Detroit Pistons aren't going to be too much better than the Orlando Magic, but they at least have a bona fide superstar on the roster. Arron Afflalo might get there at some point, but Greg Monroe already has after just two seasons in the NBA.
As long as Monroe is healthy and on the court for the Pistons, there will at least be some semblance of hope.
Brandon Knight is also going to take a major step forward after struggling through his rookie season. The former Kentucky Wildcat has the potential to make a positive impact in the Detroit backcourt, but he's still not joined by too much talent.
Andre Drummond looked great during preseason action, but he's still an undeniably raw rookie. Once he's had time to mature as a player and joins Monroe as a frontcourt stud, then we can start talking playoffs.
Until then, I'm going into Jim Mora mode whenever Detroit and "playoffs" are mentioned in the same sentence.
John Wall won't be healthy to start the season, but there's a solid chance he makes the next step in his development during the 2012-13 season now that he's surrounded by actual talent.
The point guard needs to continue developing (I would say "start developing," but I don't want to be too mean) his outside shot as a complement to his ridiculous ability to penetrate into the interior of a defensive scheme.
Bradley Beal should make a significant impact during his rookie season, but the talk of a potential playoff bid at the conclusion of the regular season is pure folly at this stage of the team's ascent in the Eastern Conference.
There's enough mid-level talent on the roster to rank them above the Detroit Pistons, but that's about it.
There's a strong possibility that the New Orleans Hornets could have two legitimate stars during the 2012-13 season, as well as for future campaigns.
However, that depends on too many variables for them to have a realistic shot at winning a title.
Anthony Davis is still a rookie, after all. Talented as he may be—and the notion that he doesn't have a good offensive game is quickly proving to be false—he's still a rookie. He'll have an immensely positive impact on the Hornets, but not enough of one to push them into the playoffs quite yet.
The other big variable deals with the knees of Eric Gordon. If he can stay healthy, a big if at this point, he'll be one of the top shooting guards in basketball. But can he really remain in the lineup for the majority of an 82-game season?
With The Unibrow and Gordon, plus new acquisition Ryan Anderson, there's plenty of talent on the New Orleans depth chart. There are just plenty of questions as well.
The Sacramento Kings have a lot of talent on their roster, but the chemistry is severely lacking.
DeMarcus Cousins has the talent not only to become the second-best center in the league, but also to prove that he's a franchise centerpiece that a championship team could be built around.
However, for that to become a reality, the Kings must figure out what's going on in their backcourt. Isaiah Thomas, Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton and Aaron Brooks are all talented guards, but there's just not enough room for all of them.
Cousins' presence pushes this team over the rest of the NBA's cellar-dwellers, but there are still too many uncertainties surrounding this franchise.
It's all about Kyrie Irving for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and that's both a good and bad thing at the same time.
The good news is that the former Duke Blue Devil is a bona fide star, even though he's only 20 years old and has just one year of experience. Already a top-20 player in the league, Irving still hasn't reached his potential and appears to be The Association's next dominant superstar.
He's absolutely a player that a championship can be won around.
However, it's also all about Kyrie in Cleveland because there isn't too much talent surrounding him. Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters are all either solid players or intriguing talents, but Irving needs a more refined supporting cast to lead the Cavs to the playoffs.
Don't sleep on the Toronto Raptors during the 2012-13 season. They'd be a postseason candidate in the Eastern Conference if they didn't play in an absolutely brutal division filled with the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers.
And that's exactly why they have almost no shot at winning a title.
As talented as this team may be—full disclosure: I love Terrence Ross—now that Kyle Lowry is running the show, which includes rookie center Jonas Valanciunas, there isn't a chance that it makes the playoffs.
Last I checked, you have to make the playoffs to win a title.
At this stage of the title odds, we're getting to the teams who have a realistic chance at making the playoffs or have a star player capable of shouldering the burden for large portions of time.
For the Portland Trail Blazers, it's more of the latter than the former. LaMarcus Aldridge is an absolute stud at this stage of his career.
Between his incredible offensive game and underrated defense, Aldridge is now a two-way player who can single handedly win games. Surrounded by Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, a maybe great, maybe not so great J.J. Hickson and potential Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard, there's some potential in Portland.
However, the Western Conference is going to be quite difficult to maneuver during the 2012-13 season, as it's brimming over with great teams.
The Phoenix Suns might now be made up of cast-offs and overlooked players, but that doesn't stop them from being a team that should contend for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference all season long.
Goran Dragic isn't Steve Nash, but it's not like he's an inept point guard. He should be fully capable of leading the Suns to a lot of wins during his return to the desert, which this time is accompanied by a starting role.
However, there isn't a star player on the Suns, and it's really hard to win in this league without a star. Michael Beasley, Luis Scola, Jared Dudley and Marcin Gortat are all solid players, but they aren't stars.
Expect a lot of wins in the desert, but don't expect anything more than a first-round exit from the playoffs at best.
The Houston Rockets are the en vogue team right now—at least among these low-middle-range squads—after James Harden was acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and some draft picks.
That gives Daryl Morey's franchise a three-headed monster of Harden, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, a core that certainly has long-term potential. However, I wouldn't expect much from them in their first year together, especially since most of the complementary pieces are young and inexperienced.
The Rockets have one of the more intriguing teams in the league, but intrigue doesn't exactly manifest itself in wins most of the time.
They'll be a League Pass favorite because of Lin, The Beard and the bevy of young parts, but League Pass won't let you watch them in the postseason.
If the Milwaukee Bucks ran things my way, they'd place a strict ban on shooting for their frontcourt. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis would take all of the shots.
Literally, they'd take every single one when they're on the court until Ekpe Udoh and the rest of the big men on the roster prove that they're capable offensively.
Of course, they'd win a championship by doing this.
They're not going to (of this I'm 100 percent certain), so the logical conclusion is that they're not going to win a championship.
The Golden State Warriors would be my pick to take home the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference if and only if I could be guaranteed that they'd stay healthy.
However, no such guarantee exists when Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut are on the roster.
Between those two, David Lee, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, who should score in volume as a rookie, the Dubs are in great shape for the future. There's plenty of talent on this roster, especially on the offensive end of the court with the ridiculous number of three-point shooters, but that talent might spend too much time on the sidelines.
Golden State must have its star players wear jerseys more often than street clothes during the 2012-13 season, or else these odds won't have been steep enough.
You can't seriously expect a team that is starting Eddy Curry on opening night to finish in the top half of the title odds. It doesn't matter that Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman are both injured and will return later in the season.
It's Eddy Curry.
The Dallas Mavericks were already going to have a tough time earning a playoff spot in the Western Conference before Dirk went down with an injury that will keep him out for a significant chunk of time. Now, that prolonged absence might prove to be too much to overcome.
As Dirk proved in 2011, though, you can't count out teams with 7-foot Germans on the roster. There's still a solid chance that Nowitzki leads a second-half surge that results in a playoff appearance.
From there, anything can happen.
The Utah Jazz have talent galore in the frontcourt, but there's a strong possibility that not all of the talent will remain on the roster over the course of the 2012-13 season.
Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap both have expiring contracts and will be unrestricted free agents at the conclusion of the 82-game stretch, meaning that one or both could be shipped away from Salt Lake City before the mid-season trading deadline. After all, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are both biding their time lower down in the depth charts.
That's the main thing keeping the Jazz from rising into the top half of the rankings: the uncertainty as to who will stay and who will go.
Mo Williams was one of the more underrated acquisitions of the offseason, and he, coupled with breakout candidates Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks, will form a solid backcourt to match the sensational group of big men.
Although it won't be the last, this is the first time I must remind you that these are title odds, not power rankings. Because of the injuries to both Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love, the Minnesota Timberwolves would come in significantly lower in a set of power rankings.
However, Love won't be out for too long and should be able to lead the Wolves on a charge that leaves them fighting for a playoff berth out west.
If that happens, he and Rubio form a dynamic duo that is fully capable of pulling off a few upsets in the postseason.
Remember, these odds are about who can actually win a championship.
The Timberwolves might have worse odds to make the playoffs than the Jazz, Mavericks and Dubs after the injury to the best power forward in basketball, but they can make more noise if they earn that postseason spot.
The Atlanta Hawks may have lost Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets, but this team is poised to be just as solid as it was during the 2011-12 season. There's a chance it may even be better.
After all, Al Horford is healthy and ready to earn another spot on the All-Star squad after a torn pectoral muscle kept him out for the majority of Johnson's last season in a Hawks uniform. He and Josh Smith form one of the best one-two punches down low that the NBA has to offer.
You should also expect huge things from Jeff Teague, who will earn some consideration for Most Improved Player after he runs pick-and-roll after pick-and-roll with the aforementioned bigs.
Combine that with a ton of outside shooting and you have a recipe for a No. 4 or No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Hawks are ranked lower than seven teams in the East, but that's because it's going to be nearly impossible for this team to run through the gauntlet once the postseason comes around and the level of competition skyrockets.
I'm not a believer in the Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony combination. Call me a hater all you want, but I don't see their playing styles meshing together well enough to ever truly compete for a championship.
The New York Knicks might win a lot of games and look good doing it, but there's a reason that this team struggled during its first year together, although Melo did spark its first playoff victory in roughly 279 years.
Unless Raymond Felton lights the world on fire and gives New York a true Big Four, a championship is not in this team's future until it blows up the roster and starts over.
Another mid-to-low playoff seed and first-round exit from the postseason is in store for the Madison Square Garden residents.
The Philadelphia 76ers' season unequivocally depends on how well Andrew Bynum adjusts to being the No. 1 option. As soon as he's healthy, the Sixers are his team.
However, that could be a dangerous situation for a notoriously mentally fragile and injury-prone player. How will he react when the Philly faithful turn on him after a poor performance?
With plenty of athletic wing players and a blossoming young point guard in Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia has earned its spot among the Eastern Conference contenders. They're just still at the bottom of that group.
Bynum could prove me wrong and make the Sixers into an upgraded version of the Dwight Howard-led Orlando Magic, but I'm not going to bet on that happening until he's proved that I need to.
The Brooklyn Nets are going to have to overcome the inevitable chemistry struggles, but there's a lot of talent on this team.
For all those out there who think that the Nets only added Joe Johnson to the squad, think again. Brook Lopez is healthy, as is Gerald Wallace. Plus, the bench has been shored up and the young players have another year of experience.
Any team with some semblance of talent around Deron Williams is going to be dangerous, and the new inhabitants of the Barclays Center have an abundance of talent.
If the playing styles mesh from the get-go, the Nets will be a team to watch out for throughout their first season in black and white. However, if they struggle initially, they'll still be one to keep an eye on during the postseason, which they're most assuredly going to be taking part in.
The Indiana Pacers will go as far as their starting lineup can take them. Gerald Green, D.J. Augustin, Ian Mahinmi and Tyler Hansbrough are capable backups, but they aren't going to win games when the starters need breathers.
Fortunately for the Pacers, the starting five is quite solid, especially if Paul George makes the breakthrough that everyone and their mothers seem to be predicting. Just for the record, I'm being included in "everyone."
While I'm still not convinced that Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert are championship centerpieces, there is still a lot of high-level talent on this roster, and the starting lineup doesn't have any holes.
I'd be shocked if Indiana didn't clinch a playoff spot with at least a few games left in the regular season, but I'd be even more surprised if the Pacers took home the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
The Memphis Grizzlies are the most overlooked team in basketball right now. This is a squad with enough quality players on it to be truly deadly.
For the first time in a while, Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay are fully healthy and ready to terrorize opponents at the same time. That would be enough for a playoff-caliber squad, but the Grizz are more than that at the moment.
With Mike Conley running the show at point guard, Marc Gasol holding down the fort at center and Tony Allen playing incredible perimeter defense, Memphis has one of the best starting fives in the NBA.
If you don't sit down and watch this team a few times, you'll regret it. The same can be said about sleeping on its potential as an elite team in The Association.
The Los Angeles Clippers were swept out of the playoffs in the second round during the 2012 postseason, but don't expect a similar result during the 2013 version.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin's chemistry is still developing, as is the overall play of the young power forward. Plus, the Clippers have one of the deepest benches in the NBA after the offseason additions of Lamar Odom and Grant Hill.
If the preseason is any indication, DeAndre Jordan is at least going to be competent on the offensive end of the court when he's not dunking the ball during the 2012-13 campaign as well.
Flopping rules or no flopping rules, Lob City is going to be living up to its moniker and winning a ton of games in its first 82-game campaign.
I was planning on going with 20:1 odds for the San Antonio Spurs, so consider the 18:1 you see in the title of this slide the necessary bump to account for the fact that this team always exceeds expectations and makes prognosticators eat their words.
The Spurs might be aging, but Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are still on the roster, and Gregg Popovich is still pacing the sidelines.
Even if we were talking about the 3012-13 season, I'm still convinced that the aforementioned quartet would strike fear into the hearts of opponents.
Expect to see more contributions from Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter (who is an absolute monster when talking about per-minute contributions), which will be different. Also expect to see San Antonio hanging around the top of the Western Conference, which won't be different at all.
I doubt that this team will have the legs that are so vital to making a prolonged run through the playoffs at the end of the season, but I've also learned never to count out any Spurs squad.
Nothing matters until #TheReturn.
Well, that's an exaggeration. The Chicago Bulls have to play well enough to be in position for a high playoff seed while their fearless leader recuperates from his torn ACL.
However, while Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer are on the roster, that won't be much of a problem. Even without Derrick Rose, the Bulls are still a playoff-caliber team in the Eastern Conference.
This is another situation in which the distinction between power rankings and title odds is a vital one.
Rose, unless there's a serious setback, will be present for the inevitable postseason run. As long as he's on the court, the Bulls are a legitimate title threat.
That's why they rank ahead of a number of other playoff locks, despite the fact that they'll most likely finish the regular season with a worse record.
The Denver Nuggets are going to be both one of the best teams in the league and one of the most fun to watch during the 2012-13 season. Having Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee on the roster tends to do that.
Lawson is about to break out in a big way as the Nuggets' floor general, using his speed and aggressiveness to become a top-25 player in the league. McGee could experience a similar breakout after spending the summer working on his post moves, although expecting him to become a top-25 player is very wishful thinking.
The Nuggets would be good enough with their starters and just an average bench, but the hallmark of George Karl's squad is its depth. With Andre Miller, Wilson Chandler, Corey Brewer, Kosta Koufos and Timofey Mozgov coming off the pine, this team is in great shape.
Denver is a young team, but it's an ultra-talented one bubbling over with confidence after holding its own with the Los Angeles Lakers for seven games during the 2012 NBA playoffs.
Even though the Boston Celtics lost one of their most recognizable players to the evil clutches of the Miami Heat, they got better during the offseason leading up to the 2012-13 season.
The combination of Jason Terry and Courtney Lee will be more productive than Ray Allen was at the 2-guard spot for the C's, Jeff Green gives the squad an athletic forward capable of running the court in transition with Rajon Rondo, and Jared Sullinger is a viable low-post option even as a rookie.
Boston wasn't to be trifled with during the lockout-shortened campaign, and the Celtics are even more of a true contender now.
Rondo might be a little over-hyped as an MVP candidate, but as long as Kevin Garnett can continue to stave off Father Time and play at an elite level, like he did during the last playoff run, the Celtics are a serious threat to hoist up an 18th championship banner in the rafters of the Boston Garden.
The Oklahoma City Thunder might have traded away a crucial piece of their championship puzzle, but James Harden's services were more expendable than Serge Ibaka's. I'm convinced that Sam Presti made the right call by retaining the power forward and dealing away the bearded shooting guard, but we'll see how that plays out in the coming seasons.
Plus, the haul that the Thunder got for Harden was by no means shabby.
Kevin Martin can immediately step in and score 16 to 20 points per game for the Thunder, making up for Harden's scoring punch in one fell swoop. Admittedly, he's not as efficient, doesn't handle the ball as well and struggles to understand what the word "defense" means, but he can still score the basketball.
The draft picks that the Thunder received for Harden and the other traded players won't come into play this season, but Jeremy Lamb will. The rookie out of Connecticut will score well from the perimeter and off the dribble while playing solid defense as long as he stays motivated.
You can be sure that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will keep him motivated.
Oh yeah, Durant and Westbrook.
As long as they're both healthy and in Thunder uniforms, OKC will be one of the title favorites.
Sorry, Los Angeles Lakers fans. No matter how good your offseason might have been, it's all but impossible to dethrone the defending champions in the title odds when they get even stronger as well.
That said, we aren't looking at a second-round exit from the playoffs for this version of the Lake Show. And if that is in the cards for some reason, it won't be in just five games.
The Lakers had the best, and most glamorous, offseason leading up to the 2012-13 campaign. Adding Steve Nash alone would have been nice, but picking up Dwight Howard as well is borderline unfair.
Chemistry will be a struggle in the early proceedings, but there is an insane amount of talent wearing purple and gold.
This may still be Kobe Bryant's team in name, but he is going to have to take some sort of backseat to Nash, Pau Gasol and Howard at some points. If he can put aside his ego, forget about the scoring title and play more efficient basketball than he has in years, the Black Mamba will prove that the Lakers very well deserve to be the Western Conference favorites.
LeBron James just had the best season for any one player in recent memory, but there's a solid chance he plays even better during the 2012-13 campaign in his follow-up to his first ring. James is still entering into his prime and is continuing to use the offseason as a time to get better.
Ray Allen will make a big impact during his first season with the Heat, and there's always the possibility of Rashard Lewis experiencing a bit of a resurgence. If Lewis regains his old form, the rest of the league might as well start bowing down to the Heat, because that just won't be fair.
Of course, that's an unlikely scenario, as Lewis will become a solid role player off the bench at best. Even in that case, the Heat are still on the same level as the Los Angeles Lakers in terms of talent, but on a tier ahead of the Lakers and the other 29 teams because of chemistry and this guy named LeBron.
Smart money is still on the Heat.