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VSiN NBA preview: Celtics set to challenge LeBron

Matt Youmans  
VSiN senior editor

October 17, 2017 12:07 PM

jamesdurant
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers will be challenged in the East by the Kyrie Irving-led Boston Celtics.
© USA Today Sports Images

Once friends and now rivals, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving will cross paths on the opening night of the NBA season. Bet on them going head to head again in May, when the stakes are high.

Irving’s desire to escape James’ shadow in Cleveland will be a dramatic season-long storyline. The final chapter figures to be written in the Eastern Conference finals, with Irving running the point for the Boston Celtics while James runs the show as always for the Cavaliers.

The midsummer trade that sent an unhappy Irving to Boston could be what it takes to put the Celtics over the top in a playoff series against James. The team in green is young but extremely talented, and after adding Irving and free agent Gordon Hayward to the mix, coach Brad Stevens has the ingredients to make a title contender.

“When you have one of the best coaches in the NBA in Stevens, I don’t think it’s going to take that long for the Celtics to click,” said Westgate sports book manager Jeff Sherman, who’s picking Cleveland to again win the East.

Still, how much does the soap opera in the top-heavy East impact the big picture? The West is loaded from top to bottom. Defending champion Golden State is the odds-on favorite (minus-240) to win the NBA championship.

“Nobody is close to Golden State again this season,” VSiN host Mitch Moss said. “It will take a major injury and/or significant trades for the Warriors not to win their third title in four years.”

But Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry have some reasons to sweat. The rest of the West is not conceding to the Warriors. Houston picked up point guard Chris Paul to run with James Harden. Oklahoma City needed help for Russell Westbrook and found it by acquiring Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. San Antonio has Kawhi Leonard and its usual fighting chance. Minnesota is even entering the fray after dealing for Jimmy Butler.

The dramatic storyline last year was Durant’s defection from OKC and his bitter split with Westbrook. Now, the Thunder will be rolling with some serious firepower.

“I think it can work really well in Oklahoma City,” Sherman said. “I think that team is going to be right up there.”

A fourth straight Cleveland-Golden State showdown in the NBA Finals is not guaranteed. Injuries happen. Upsets are possible. Our panel of analysts predict the season:

VSiN NBA Season Predictions

Brent Musburger, VSiN @brentmusburger

East playoff seeds: 1) Boston 2) Cleveland 3) Washington 4) Toronto 5) Miami 6) Detroit 7) Milwaukee 8) Philadelphia

West playoff seeds: 1) Golden State 2) Houston 3) Oklahoma City 4) San Antonio 5) Memphis 6) Dallas 7) LA Clippers 8) Minnesota

Best win total bet: Lakers Under 32.5

Second-best win total bet: Spurs Under 54.5

Rookie of the Year: Ben Simmons, 76ers

MVP: Kevin Durant, Warriors

NBA Finals: Golden State over Boston in 6

Paul Howard, VSiN @paulyhoward

Best win total bet: Pelicans Under 39.5

Next-best win total bets: Timberwolves Under 48, Hawks Under 25.5

Rookie of the Year: Ben Simmons, 76ers

MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

NBA Finals: Golden State over Boston in 5

Mitch Moss, VSiN @MitchMossRadio

East playoff seeds: 1) Boston 2) Cleveland 3) Washington 4) Milwaukee 5) Toronto 6) Miami 7) Charlotte 8) Philadelphia

West playoff seeds: 1) Golden State 2) San Antonio 3) Oklahoma City 4) Houston 5) Denver 6) Minnesota 7) LA Clippers 8) Utah

Best win total bet: Rockets Under 55.5

Second-best win total bet: Pacers Under 31.5

Rookie of the Year: Ben Simmons, 76ers. I think Simmons wins, but there's value on Josh Jackson (Suns) or Milos Teodosic (Clippers) at 15-1.

MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

NBA Finals: Golden State over Cleveland in 5

Amal Shah, VSiN @AmalShah1

East playoff seeds: 1) Cleveland 2) Boston 3) Washington 4) Toronto 5) Milwaukee 6) Miami 7) Indiana 8) Philadelphia

West playoff seeds: 1) Golden State 2) Oklahoma City 3) San Antonio 4) Houston 5) Memphis 6) Portland 7) Minnesota 8) LA Clippers

Best win total bet: Nets Under 27.5

Second-best win total bet: Cavaliers Over 54.5

Rookie of the Year: Jayson Tatum, Celtics

MVP: LeBron James, Cavaliers

NBA Finals: Golden State over Cleveland in 6. Unless Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry miss the postseason, everyone else is playing for second place.

Jeff Sherman, Westgate @golfodds

East playoff seeds: 1) Boston 2) Cleveland 3) Washington 4) Milwaukee 5) Toronto 6) Philadelphia 7) Miami 8) Charlotte

West playoff seeds: 1) Golden State 2) Houston 3) Oklahoma City 4) San Antonio 5) Minnesota 6) Denver 7) LA Clippers 8) Portland

Best win total bet: 76ers Over 39

Second-best win total bet: Nets Over 27.5

Rookie of the Year: Ben Simmons, 76ers

MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

NBA Finals: Golden State over Cleveland in 5

Dave Tuley, VSiN @ViewFromVegas

East playoff seeds: 1) Cleveland 2) Boston 3) Toronto 4) Washington 5) Milwaukee 6) Miami 7) Charlotte 8) Philadelphia

West playoff seeds: 1) Golden State 2) Houston 3) Oklahoma City 4) San Antonio 5) Minnesota 6) Portland 7) LA Clippers 8) Denver

Best win total bet: 76ers Over 39. It's time for the Process to pay off with all that tanking and racking up high draft picks. Now if Ben Simmons and especially Joel Embiid can stay healthy...

Second-best win total bet: Jazz Under 41.5. The loss of Gordon Hayward was huge, and I'm not sure what's left can combine to get the Jazz to .500 and in the playoffs with the rest of the West getting better.

NBA Finals: Golden State over Cleveland in 5. It's so hard to make a case for any other team to break the Warriors-Cavaliers run in the NBA Finals. Maybe the Rockets with the combo of James Harden and Chris Paul, but there's still a big gap between them and the Warriors.

Jonathan Von Tobel, VSiN @meJVT

East playoff seeds: 1) Boston 2) Cleveland 3) Milwaukee 4) Washington 5) Toronto 6) Miami 7) Charlotte 8) Philadelphia

West playoff seeds: 1) Golden State 2) San Antonio 3) Oklahoma City 4) Houston 5) Minnesota 6) LA Clippers 7) Memphis 8) Denver

Best win total bet: Warriors Under 67.5

Second-best win total bet: Bulls Over 22

Rookie of the Year: Dennis Smith Jr., Mavericks

MVP: Kawhi Leonard, Spurs

NBA Finals: Golden State over Cleveland in 6

Matt Youmans, VSiN @mattyoumans247

East playoff seeds: 1) Boston 2) Cleveland 3) Washington 4) Miami 5) Milwaukee 6) Toronto 7) Philadelphia 8) Charlotte

West playoff seeds: 1) Golden State 2) Oklahoma City 3) Houston 4) San Antonio 5) Minnesota 6) Portland 7) LA Clippers 8) Denver

Best win total bet: Knicks Under 29

Second-best win total bet: Pistons Under 38.5

Rookie of the Year: Lonzo Ball, Lakers

MVP: Kevin Durant, Warriors

NBA Finals: Golden State over Boston in 7

NBA Season Win Totals 2017-18

(Posted at Westgate sports book)

Golden State Warriors 67.5

Houston Rockets 55.5

Boston Celtics 54.5

Cleveland Cavaliers 54.5

San Antonio Spurs 54.5

Oklahoma City Thunder 53.5

Washington Wizards 49

Minnesota Timberwolves 48

Toronto Raptors 48

Milwaukee Bucks 46.5

Denver Nuggets 45.5

Los Angeles Clippers 45

Miami Heat 44.5

Portland Trail Blazers 43.5

Charlotte Hornets 42.5

Utah Jazz 41.5

New Orleans Pelicans 39.5

Philadelphia 76ers 39

Detroit Pistons 38.5

Memphis Grizzlies 37.5

Dallas Mavericks 35

Los Angeles Lakers 32.5

Orlando Magic 32.5

Indiana Pacers 31.5

New York Knicks 29

Phoenix Suns 29

Brooklyn Nets 27.5

Sacramento Kings 27.5

Atlanta Hawks 25.5

Chicago Bulls 22

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