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NBA Futures Wait on LeBron

The NBA's free agent picture got a bit clearer on Wednesday, but we aren't going to know exactly how the league shapes up for next year until we hear from LeBron James.

NEWS UPDATE! LeBron James is off to Miami and the NBA future odds swung immediately to make the Heat favorites (7/4 at Bovada). So the Heat are less than 2/1 odds while the Lakers (at 11/4) at roughly 3/1/ odds.

James is expected to make his decision on his free agent destination during an ESPN special broadcast at 9:00pm ET on Thursday night. Teams still in the discussion are the Cavaliers, Heat, Bulls, Knicks, Nets, and Clippers, and each one of those teams would see a significant bump in their NBA title odds if The King decides he wants to sign there.

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And there's no telling where the Heat's title odds would wind up if they ended up as the winner of the LeBron sweepstakes. Miami scooped up the second and third best free agents on the market on Wednesday, bringing their own Dwyane Wade back into the fold and luring coveted forward Chris Bosh down south from the Raptors to their arena. Details on those two contracts had yet to come out as of late Wednesday night, but they're expected to be max (or near max) deals.

The Heat's stripped-down roster might still be able to absorb James' expected contract demands as well, assuming they can move one or two of their remaining signed bodies – Michael Beasley or Mario Chalmers.

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Excitement over the Wade/Bosh pairing, though, should bump the Heat up near the top of the NBA title odds list once books are confident enough to start offering those futures once again – even if they end up having to fill the rest of their roster with scrub players.

Bosh was one of only three big-time free agents to actually move teams so far this offseason. Forward Amare Stoudemire bolted the Suns to sign with the Knicks earlier in the week, while late on Wednesday it was reported that forward Carlos Boozer would be leaving the Jazz to sign with the Bulls. Stoudemire is going to be making almost $100 million over the course of his five-year Knicks deal; Boozer's terms are still undisclosed.

Adding Stoudemire is going to help the Knicks on the futures lists, although their fan base is still going to be annoyed if James isn't signed. Bulls fans are also going to see Boozer as just a consolation prize if the team doesn't manage to ink James on Thursday. Wade joins a group of a half-dozen key free agents that re-upped with their old teams. That group also includes Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, Hawks guard Joe Johnson, Celtics forward Paul Pierce, Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay, and (injured) Rockets center Yao Ming.

The Mavericks, Hawks, Celtics, and Grizzlies should all stay about status quo on the futures list, with Boston helping their cause on Wednesday by keeping Ray Allen in the fold.

Bettors won't be able to really judge the Rockets' championship chances until further information is released on Ming's health in the next couple months. Getting hit the hardest on the futures will be the Cavaliers if James decides to leave for another team on Thursday; without their top gun the Cavs might end up a lottery team.