With a 50-win season in plain sight and a likely top-four seed in the Eastern Conference, it’s time to see how much the bettors actually respect the Cleveland Cavaliers.
From an individual standpoint, even though the NBA MVP race is basically down to three individuals — Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid (-170), Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (+260) and Denver’s Nikola Jokic (+280) — the fact that Donovan Mitchell is still one of the few names on board at +50000 with FanDuel Sportsbook shows that he is respected as one of the top stars in the NBA.
The work that head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has done this season has kept him among the betting favorites for NBA Coach of the Year at +3000. Sacramento’s Mike Brown (-800) is almost a lock to win the award, but Bickerstaff’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.
Cleveland’s title hopes, however, still aren’t getting much respect from handicappers. The Cavaliers are currently +4500 to win the NBA Championship — the 11th-best odds in the league. However, they are behind the Dallas Mavericks (+3000) and L.A. Lakers (+2500), despite both currently fighting to make it into the play-in tournament.
The Lakers’ odds are understandable; they have a championship pedigree and if LeBron James can get healthy, he is a proven playoff performer with four NBA titles. Dallas makes less sense. Sure, Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving are stars, but Dallas is 4-6 during the month of March and it is dealing with a thin roster (outside of the two stars).
If there are questions about the Cavaliers, they would come down to experience. The Cavs are a young team led by a dynamic sixth-year veteran in Mitchell. He came to Cleveland from a seasoned group in Utah and he will use those experiences to help guide the Cavaliers through their first playoff journey together.
“I’m a leader, I’m not around 12-13-year vets, I’m with guys who haven’t been,” Mitchell said after the Cavaliers’ 116-114 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday. “I’ve got to use my voice, but listen as well and not be too naive to listen to what’s going on. The person who has really helped with that is Ricky Rubio. I’m able to lean on him and we can talk about our past experiences.”
Mitchell continued to say that a lack of experience is not what the Cavaliers are focusing on as the playoffs approach.
“We control what we can,” Mitchell added. “We can’t control that guys haven’t been to the playoffs, all we can do is control how we play. I think we’ll be ready to go when the playoffs start and it doesn’t start on April 15, but with nights like tonight and continuing to build on our habits. We have to go out there compete and execute.”