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Three value long shots to win 2016 NBA Championship
By Jason Logan

If you were insightful enough to predict LeBron James’ homecoming last summer, you could’ve grabbed the Cleveland Cavaliers at 60/1 to win the NBA Championship even before James and his former club, the Miami Heat, lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals last June.

You could have also scored a nice price on the Golden State Warriors as well, with their championship futures opening at 20/1 behind a slew of other Western Conference contenders.

Hindsight is 20/20 – a saying that holds even more meaning when it comes to sports betting – but if you use your imagination and put your ear to the hardwood for some offseason rumblings, you can find that same value with the opening NBA titles odds for the 2015-16 NBA season, which were released by the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas Monday – ahead of Game 6 between the Cavs and Warriors Tuesday.

It’s no surprise Cleveland (9/4) and Golden State (5/1) top the list, but if you’re looking for a long shot, here are three value NBA futures bets to make before the 2015 Larry O’Brien is even handed out:

Washington Wizards (30/1, 14/1 to win East)

Kevin Durant isn’t officially a free agent until next summer but the Thunder could get anxious about their superstar forward jumping ship in 2016 – and not getting anything for him – and try to wheel and deal with Durant’s hometown Wizards.

Even if Washington doesn’t land Durant this offseason, it will likely be aggressive in the 2015 free agent market and attempt to beef up the frontcourt with some big-name forwards out there for the taking. The Wiz seem best equipped to follow the Golden State model, with a high-scoring backcourt combo and gritty forwards picking up the trash. Hey, Draymond Green will be out there…

Dallas Mavericks (40/1, 20/1 to win West)

The Mavericks are in danger of falling off the pace in the Western Conference and just made the postseason cut this past season. That doesn’t sit well with competitive owner Mark Cuban, who has his franchise in a good spot to chase some elite talent this summer.

Rumors are buzzing that Dallas is the front runner to land LaMarcus Aldridge, which would take the scoring load off Dirk Nowitzki and give the Mavs a pretty much unguardable frontcourt duo. Everything is weighing on Monta Ellis, who can stick around for 2015-16 or opt out. Ellis deciding to test the market, as well as dumping Tyson Chandler, opens up more cash to throw at marquee big men like Aldridge or DeAndre Jordan.

New Orleans Pelicans (20/1, 10/1 to win West)

The fact that the eighth-place team in the West is set this high on the board says oddsmakers have a lot of faith in Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. New Orleans’ title odds are on par with Houston (20/1) – No. 2 in the West this past season – and ahead of Memphis (30/1), Portland (40/1), and Dallas (40/1). The Pelicans have a solid frontcourt and need to add some scoring depth on the wing to open up some space around the hoop.

New Orleans signed new head coach Alvin Gentry, who brings NBA Finals experience with his current work as a Warriors’ assistant, and should get a shot in the arm on offense with his up-tempo playbook. Gentry has upped scoring production in each of his head coaching stops, potentially making the Pelicans the best two-way team in the league.

Here’s a look at the full 2015-16 NBA Championship futures odds, courtesy of the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas:

CAVALIERS 9/4
WARRIORS 5/1
THUNDER 5/1
CLIPPERS 10/1
SPURS 12/1
BULLS 12/1
HAWKS 20/1
PELICANS 20/1
ROCKETS 20/1
WIZARDS 30/1
PACERS 30/1
GRIZZLIES 30/1
RAPTORS 30/1
BLAZERS 40/1
MAVERICKS 40/1
HEAT 30/1
CELTICS 80/1
BUCKS 80/1
PISTONS 80/1
JAZZ 80/1
SUNS 80/1
LAKERS 80/1
NUGGETS 80/1
KNICKS 80/1
NETS 100/1
KINGS 100/1
76ERS 200/1
MAGIC 200/1
WOLVES 200/1
HORNETS 200/1