In the wake of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ franchise-altering trade for leading scorer Donovan Mitchell this past offseason, the team’s odds to win the NBA title shortened from 80/1 to 30/1 at PointsBet. Those championship odds held firm immediately before the regular season tipped, with Cleveland’s season wins over/under set at a consensus 47.5.
With eight games left in the regular season, the 46-28 Cavs are virtually assured of hitting the over and have to go just .500 the rest of the way to reach the 50-win milestone. But despite being tied with Boston for the league’s best point differential (5.6), Cleveland’s odds to make a deep playoff run have either stayed the same or lengthened at Ohio’s mobile sportsbooks.
“A lot of these futures at this point in the season is finding a number where people are willing to get involved,” said SuperBook analyst Jeff Sherman, whose sportsbook currently has the Cavs at 40/1 to win it all and 16/1 to win the Eastern Conference. “We’re just seeing more support at the top and we’ve been inching out Cleveland and others trying to find that price.”
While Sherman expects to “see some more involvement” from Ohio bettors as the playoffs draw nearer, he said he’s seen “nothing out of the ordinary” in terms of in-state Cavs wagering to date.
“This is the highest we’ve had them since before the start of the year, but it really hasn’t done much to get people involved,” he explained.
While the SuperBook and PointsBet give the Cavs longer odds to win the title than veteran teams with worse records (Dallas, Golden State, and the two Los Angeles squads), Caesars Sportsbook is a bit more bullish on B.J. Bickerstaff’s charges, assigning Cleveland 28/1 odds to win it all (the Mavs are at 30/1) and 12/1 odds to win the East. Fairly secure as the East’s fourth seed, Cleveland is looking at a first-round matchup with the Knicks, in which they’ll likely have home-court advantage, before a potential duel with Central Division rival Milwaukee in the conference semifinals.
“If you’re talking about playing the Knicks in a first-round series, they’re not even going to be that heavy of a favorite,” Sherman said of the Cavs’ prospective path. “Then you’re gonna have to go through the top seed. I don’t see much changing [with Cleveland’s futures odds] at this point considering the path ahead.”
EVERY ANGLE of Donovan Mitchell's monster dunk tonight 🎬 pic.twitter.com/CPb9KMRp75
— NBA (@NBA) March 22, 2023
Cavs’ closer could be key
It bears reminding that the Cavs have not made the playoffs without LeBron James on their roster since 1998 and haven’t won a playoff series without him since 1993, when Brad Daugherty was their go-to guy. So even if Cleveland’s season were to end after a first-round series win, it would undoubtedly be considered a success.
But could they go further? Sherman lumps Cleveland in with the Sacramento Kings, another young, talented team with similar odds of postseason success after making a significant leap up the regular-season standings.
“They’ve just got a lot of young talent and when they get into the playoffs, they might just be a year or two away,” Sherman said of the Cavs. “They’re right on pace for their season win number. I expected a regular season like this out of them.”
But, in citing the different style of play that the postseason tends to elicit, Sherman added, “It’s tough for a young team.”
The Cavs don’t have a ton of collective playoff experience, but Mitchell has shown a willingness to step up in big postseason moments, which should at least give Cleveland a distant chance of making a deeper-than-expected run.
“He’s had his successes and failures in the past in Utah, but he’s definitely a guy I’d put my trust in at the end of the game to make something happen with the ball in his hands,” said Sherman. “Some players are afraid of the big moment. He’s not.”
Photo: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images