The NBA season is a long one. The 2018-19 season tips off Oct. 16, 2018, and it wraps up in April. Then the real action starts. The playoffs get going April 13, the NBA Finals begin May 30, and the league will crown a champion by June 16. You might think the Golden State Warriors are destined to make the finals and win again, but the oddsmakers see it another way. Here’s a look at the most likely 2019 NBA Finals matchups, according to the Las Vegas oddsmakers.
Believe it or not, these matchups aren’t just Golden State against a random Eastern Conference team. (We think the vintage rematch at No. 6 would be extremely fun to watch).
15. Celtics vs. Jazz
Odds: +9000 (90-1)
The Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2018, even though they were without the injured Gordon Hayward, who is arguably their best player. Well, Hayward, who is one of the highest-paid NBA players, is back and ready to help Boston get back to the championship series for the first time since 2010.
If the oddsmakers are right, then one of the more likely 2019 NBA Finals matchups would see the Celtics and Hayward meet his former team, the Jazz, for the title. Utah has its three leading scorers (Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and Ricky Rubio) and top three rebounders (Gobert, Derrick Favors, and Rubio) back this season.
Next: An aging team faces a dynasty.
14. Heat vs. Warriors
Odds: +8500 (85-1)
The Miami Heat made four straight finals appearances and won two titles from 2011-2014, but they haven’t been back since. Even though they have one of the oldest teams in the NBA, including Dwyane Wade, the powers that be think they could get back to the promised land this season. However, in this scenario, they’d face a Golden State Warriors dynasty that has produced some of the best teams of all time.
Next: The country gets to watch Mr. Triple-Double in action.
13. Celtics vs. Thunder
Odds: +4500 (45-1)
It’s the Celtics coming out of the Eastern Conference again, but this time Vegas has them playing triple-double machine Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. Westbrook, Paul George, Steven Adams, and the Thunder would have to get past Golden State and the other powers in the Western Conference first, but this is one of the 2019 NBA Finals matchups with the best odds.
Next: Two remade teams could meet up.
11. Raptors vs. Lakers (TIE)
Odds: +4000 (40-1)
This will be a battle of remade teams if it happens. The Raptors made a splash and remade their roster by trading for former San Antonio standout Kawhi Leonard. The Lakers really changed their roster when they added Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson in free agency. Just kidding. Los Angeles opened up the coffers and landed LeBron James for $154 million in free agency. That’s why the franchise has a great chance to make the 2019 NBA Finals.
Next: The first of two throwback matchups on our list.
11. 76ers vs. Lakers (TIE)
Odds: +4000 (40-1)
The 76ers and Lakers played for the NBA title three times in four seasons between 1980 and 1983, and Los Angeles topped Philadelphia for the title in 2001. The rematch is one of the most likely 2019 NBA Finals matchups, according to the Vegas oddsmakers. Can LeBron James win a championship leading his third franchise? Can Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and the Sixer get over the hump? We’ll know the answers if this clash comes to pass.
Next: Can a productive trio come through?
10. Wizards vs. Warriors
Odds: +3500 (35-1)
Washington’s Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Jr., and John Wall comprise one of the best NBA trios right now, and if they’re on top of their games could come out of the Eastern Conference. In this scenario, though, they’d face another one of the best big threes in the NBA in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, and we haven’t even discussed Kevin Durant yet. This is an enticing matchup just because it’s not Cleveland coming out of the east to face Golden State.
Next: A rebuilt roster faces off against a stellar backcourt.
9. Raptors vs. Rockets
Odds: +2900 (29-1)
Chris Paul and James Harden are two of the NBA’s elite ball-handlers, and they both play in Houston’s backcourt. The Rockets gave the Warriors a run for their money in the 2018 Western Conference finals before falling in seven games, and Vegas thinks they can get over the hump this season. We mentioned the rebuilt Raptors’ roster, and the oddsmakers think the new group of player can lead Toronto to its first finals.
Next: David vs. Goliath
8. Pacers vs. Warriors
Odds: +2800 (28-1)
The oddsmakers believe this is one of the most likely 2019 NBA Finals matchups, and we believe it’s going to be like Davis vs. Goliath if it happens. Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, and the Pacers fell in the first round, and the franchise hasn’t won a first-round playoff series since 2014. Indiana is David to Golden State’s Goliath. The Warriors have won three of the last four NBA titles.
Next: Make sure the scoreboard has replacement light bulbs.
7. 76ers vs. Rockets
Odds: +2700 (27-1)
The Rockets scored 112.4 points per game during the 2017-18 season, which was the second-most in the NBA. Meanwhile, Ben Simmons and the Sixers were seventh at 109.8 points per game. We’re not sure how this championship series would shake out, but we have a feeling the scoreboard might need some replacement light bulbs since these two teams would light it up offensively.
Next: Another vintage rematch.
6. Celtics vs. Lakers
Odds: +1500 (15-1)
The Lakers have won 10 titles since 1980 and 16 championships, but they still trail Boston by one for most titles overall. Los Angeles was 2-1 against Boston in finals between 1984 and 1987. The Celtics got even by topping the Lakers for the championship in 2008. Reviving the rivalry with this vintage rematch with a fully healthy Boston team against the new-look Lakers? It sounds pretty good to us.
Next: We’d have fun watching this matchup.
5. Bucks vs. Warriors
Odds: +1200 (12-1)
We’re not sure if Giannis Antetokounmpo and the serviceable-but-not-great Bucks players he calls teammates can lift the team to a title, but we’d have fun watching to find out. Antetokounmpo is a stud who is one of the greatest steals in NBA draft history, and we’d love to see what he might be able to do against a loaded Warriors team.
Next: We’d welcome this change.
4. Celtics vs. Rockets
Odds: +950 (19-2)
This matchup doesn’t feature the Warriors coming out of the west or a LeBron James team representing the east. Frankly, we welcome the change. For a while, the Rockets’ Chris Paul was the best NBA player never to make a conference final, but he erased that distinction in the 2018 playoffs. Now he might be the best player who’s never made the finals. The Rockets and Celtics might be two of the best-coached teams in the league, and we’d love to see what happens in this NBA Finals clash.
Next: Will we see an NBA record broken along the way?
2. Raptors vs. Warriors (TIE)
Odds: +600 (6-1)
We’re not sure if the Warriors have it them to rewrite their own unbreakable NBA record for most wins in a season, but if they do, it’s a good bet they can ride that momentum to the finals. In one of the most like 2019 NBA Finals matchups, the Vegas oddsmakers see the Warriors taking on Kawhi Leonard, the MVP of the 2014 finals, and Toronto for the title.
Next: Witness a little bit of history.
2. 76ers vs. Warriors (TIE)
Odds: +600 (6-1)
Yes, it’s Steph Curry, who might be his franchise’s best player ever, and the Warriors yet again, according to the Vegas odds. We understand if you’re completely turned off by another Warriors vs. team TBD clash, but you’d be witnessing a little bit of history if it happens. It would be Golden State’s fifth straight finals appearance, something no team has done since Boston won eight straight titles between 1959 and 1966.
Next: A battle of strengths in the most likely Finals matchup.
1. Celtics vs. Warriors
Odds: +135 (27-20)
First, Kyrie Irving wanted to get away from LeBron James and Cleveland, even after winning the 2016 title. Now, it seems like we could be close to the end of Irving with the Boston Celtics. Making the finals might sway his decision to stay, and Vegas sees Boston vs. Golden State as the most likely of all the 2019 NBA Finals matchups. This clash would feature the Celtics’ stellar defense (100.4 points per game against, third-lowest in the NBA in 2017-18) against the Warriors’ high-powered offense that averaged a league-high 113.5 points a night.