Why Celtics Bettors Should Be Watching FIBA World Cup 2019
The Celtics aren’t oddsmakers’ favorites in the Eastern Conference like they were a year ago, but their 2020 NBA futures odds could see an increase in value following the shake-up of the USA Basketball roster this summer.
Sharp fans of NBA betting would be wise to keep an eye on the upcoming FIBA tournament after more than a dozen players, including James Harden, Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard, opt out of competing for USA Basketball in the upcoming FIBA World Cup in China.
Those decisions had a significant impact on the Americans’ gold-medal odds – they’ve fallen from -800 to -250 – but it also created opportunities for some of the younger up-and-coming NBA talent to join the training camp currently going on in Las Vegas.
Two of the biggest additions were the Boston’s Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, who joined Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker as the only quartet of teammates playing together this week.
While all four may not make the final 12-man roster, the four core players (and head coach Brad Stevens, who will join them this week in Vegas) are gaining valuable chemistry both on and off the court that should give them a head start on preparing for this upcoming NBA season.
Watching how they jell could tell bettors a ton about the Celtics’ prospects.
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Boston Celtics 2020 Odds
The Celtics were everyone’s pick to win the East last season, but they wound up bowing out to the Milwaukee Bucks in Round 2. And after losing Kyrie Irving, Al Horford and Terry Rozier this summer, oddsmakers aren’t as bullish on their chances of getting back to the Finals for the first time since 2010.
The Celtics are currently +700 to win the East and +2500 to win the 2020 title, both third-best in the East behind Milwaukee and Philadelphia. But those odds could both gain significant value based on how the Celtics fare together in the FIBA World Cup, especially in what should be a wide open 2020 NBA season.
Don’t Expect FIBA to Hinder Boston
Many of the stars who opted out of the World Cup cited wanting to stay healthy for the upcoming NBA season. It’s a legitimate reason – especially with the money being thrown around in free agency – but not something that should hinder the Celtics.
Walker has been a model of consistency, playing in 322 of a possible 328 games the last four seasons. Likewise, Tatum has missed just five regular season games during his first two seasons and appears primed for a breakout campaign.
Brown has appeared in all but 24 games in three seasons. Smart played in 80 games last season and is one of the league’s toughest players. A handful of extra practices and games before training camp won’t impact their chase for a title.
Boston’s major injury concerns last season came from the departed Irving and Al Horford, who combined to miss 29 games last season. Where Boston may not be as talented as they were a year ago, they’re healthier and should be more unified as a group.
Celtics Pleased with Kyrie-Kemba Swap
The Celtics essentially swapped Irving for Walker this offseason. Both have been All-Stars the last three seasons, both made All-NBA teams last year (Irving second team; Walker third team) and both finished in the top-15 in points and 3-pointers per game. Irving is probably the better on-court player, but it’s close.
But Irving was also at times a divisive locker-room presence. He struggled mightily to lead the Celtics in his two seasons and did his fair share of calling out younger players during Boston’s repeated slumps.
It’s why it wasn’t all that big a shock when he bolted for Brooklyn this offseason, and why the Celtics are pleased with the swap. Walker has always been labeled a consummate teammate and professional.
Walker also seems hungry for success. He’s appeared in just 11 career playoff games (and no series wins) in eight seasons and his teams have won an average of 33.1 games per year. The Hornets were never able to build successfully around Walker, who has taken his game to new levels the past three seasons.
Now Walker joins a Celtics team with serious expectations and an outstanding supporting cast. The Celtics have an over-under win total of 49.5 games, third most in the East and four more than Walker ever had in Charlotte.
But Walker is embracing the expectations, telling The Athletic: “This year there will be expectations and I’m excited. I don’t know how to feel. I’ve never had this feeling.”
About the Author
Mark Strotman is a veteran sports journalist who has covered the Chicago Bulls and the NBA for NBC Sports Chicago since 2012. His work has also appeared on ESPN.com, FoxSports.com, The Chicago Tribune, Yahoo Sports and NBC Sports. He covered the NBA Playoffs in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017 as well as Team USA Basketball in 2014 and 2016. He has also covered high school football and was nominated for a Midwest Emmy in 2016 for his work on a documentary featuring local Chicago product and NFL prospect Miles Boykin. Strotman graduated from Marquette University in 2012 and during his time there reported on the men’s basketball team, covering both the Big East Tournament and NCAA Tournament in 2011 and 2012.