Why are the Heat tied for fifth-best odds to win the 2018-19 NBA title? The LeBron James effect

Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James follows through on a shot during an NBA basketball practice, Wednesday, May 30, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. The Cavaliers face the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday in Oakland. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

MIAMI — The Heat have very little financial flexibility to make significant changes to their roster this offseason, a roster that posted a 44-38 regular-season record and was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs this year.

So, one wouldn’t expect Miami to enter the offseason with the league’s fifth-best odds to win the 2019 NBA championship. But that’s exactly where the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has the Heat in its early odds for next year’s title.

The Heat own the fifth-best odds to win the 2019 NBA championship at 20-to-1, tied with the Lakers and behind the Celtics (8-to-1), Sixers (7-to-2), Rockets (7-to-2) and Warriors (5-to-4). That leaves Miami with better odds than teams like the Spurs, Cavaliers, Raptors, Jazz, Thunder, Trail Blazers and Pelicans.

Why? The LeBron James effect, and apparently this specific sports book believes there’s a chance he could end up with the Heat this summer.

“When you have LeBron in free agency, you have to be careful,” Westgate SuperBook oddsmaker John Murray said to ESPN. “You’ve got Philadelphia, Miami, the Lakers and even Houston as potential destinations [outside of Cleveland]. We cut all of those teams’ odds down, and we’ll raise back up the teams he doesn’t sign with.”

To put the Heat’s 20-to-1 odds into perspective, they began last season with 100-to-1 odds to win the NBA title.

Although a James-Heat reunion seems unrealistic because of Miami’s financial limitations, Las Vegas has not ruled it out.

In odds released last week, Bovada has the Heat tied with the Spurs and Clippers at 25-to-1 and BetOnline listed the Heat at 20-to-1 to land James this offseason. Only the Warriors, Lakers, Rockets, Sixers and Cavaliers have better odds than Miami to acquire the future Hall of Famer in both sports books.

But the reality is the Heat currently lack the salary-cap space to sign James in free agency.

The Heat are already close to the luxury tax line with 10 players under contract for 2018-19 who are due $119 million. That puts Miami way above the projected $101 million salary cap and very close to the projected $123 million luxury tax line, and definitely not in position to sign a max player like James unless it can shed a lot of salary.

What about acquiring James from Cleveland in a sign-and-trade deal? The Cavaliers have very little incentive to facilitate that type of move because it would probably keep them above the luxury tax line while losing the best player in the world. Meanwhile, other teams that are expected to be part of the LeBron sweepstakes actually have the cap space to make it happen, like the Lakers and Sixers.

Despite all of that, Las Vegas believes the Heat will be in the mix for James this summer. It should be an interesting offseason.

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