NBA Betting: Cavaliers, Warriors Co-Favorites to Claim Title
After 82 regular-season games, we’ve arrived at pretty much the same place we started: With the Cleveland Cavaliers on top of the NBA championship futures market. Last summer, after LeBron James decided to bring his talents back to Cleveland, we had the Cavaliers favored at 7/2 to win the title. Now they’re tied with the Golden State Warriors at 11/5 as we go to press.
It hasn’t been smooth sailing for the Cavs. They started the year at 5-7 SU and 4-8 ATS, and eventually lost six straight games in January while King James was recuperating from assorted injuries. But his return to health, combined with the mid- season trades that brought Timofey Mozgov, JR Smith and Iman Shumpert to town, have Cleveland (53-29 SU, 39-43 ATS) poised to win its first-ever championship.
A Golden State of Mind
The Warriors (67-15 SU, 47-34-1 ATS) will have something to say about that. They were compelling 20/1 outsiders on the futures market back in July. They were a team on the rise with tons of young talent and a respected basketball figure in Steve Kerr coming in as their new head coach. Golden State started winning early and often, and continued winning throughout the season, to the point where they briefly overtook Cleveland as title favorites two months ago.
While all this was happening, Stephen Curry (plus-8.87 RPM) was overtaking James (plus-7.66 RPM) as the best player in the league. But the Warriors are more than just a great shooting team: They also have two of the league’s Top 5 defenders in Andrew Bogut (plus-6.02 DRPM) and Draymond Green (plus-4.60 DRPM), as well as arguably the deepest bench in the NBA. These attributes allow the Warriors to retain some betting value even after putting up one of the best regular seasons in league history. Playing in Oakland outside the national spotlight helps, too.
Only One Can Win
Joining the Cavs and Warriors in the top tier of title contenders, we have the defending champion San Antonio Spurs (55-27 SU, 41-39-2 ATS) at 15/4. San Antonio was languishing in seventh place in the Western Conference for the longest time, partly because of injuries, and partly because the West is dripping with quality basketball teams. A return to health and a 21-4 run (18-7 ATS) to end the regular season have the Spurs back in the title mix.
The trouble with betting on either of the top western contenders is that only one can make it to the NBA finals. Even getting out of the first round will be challenging. The No. 1 Warriors will face Anthony Davis (30.9 PER) and the No. 8 New Orleans Pelicans (45-37 SU and ATS), who only recently got their full lineup back with the returns of Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson. The No. 6 Spurs – yes, the sixth seed in the West won 55 regular-season games – have to contend with the No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers (56-26 SU, 37-44-1 ATS). Meanwhile, the No. 2 Cavaliers will be playing the No. 7 Boston Celtics (40-42 SU, 49-32-1 ATS) out East. Hardly seems fair.