The Golden State Warriors suffered a small hiccup in their first game back from the All-Star Break – a 137-105 thrashing at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers – but they’re still the heavy betting favorites to win the NBA championship.
The Warriors have won 91% of their games this season (49-5), are on a record-setting pace for regular season wins, and lead the NBA in points scored per contest (115.3).
While the Warriors are still the clear-cut favorites (-140), there could be some value on some of the other top contenders if you believe that they won’t be able to keep up this torrid pace.
The Cleveland Cavaliers (+350) are second in line according to the odds and that’s mostly because they’re expected to have an easier time getting to the finals. They’re in the Eastern Conference where the Toronto Raptors (+3300) are deemed to be the biggest threat.
In the West, the San Antonio Spurs (+375) have been viewed as a distant second-best but consider this: they’re now just three games back of the Warriors and own the NBA’s best point differential (+12.5). As for the Oklahoma City Thunder (+800), they have what many people believe to be two of the top five players in basketball right now. They’re also better than the Spurs and Warriors – and everyone else in the NBA – with their +7.2 rebounding differential.
Outside of the Warriors, Cavaliers, Spurs and Thunder, there is no other team inside of 20/1. The Clippers (+2000) are right at that mark and they’ve played well with star forward Blake Griffin missing most of the season. If they can sort out their team chemistry issues when he gets back they could be a significant hurdle for one of the top teams to overcome in the Western Conference playoffs.
The challenge for anyone not named the Warriors, Spurs and Cavaliers is that they’ll very likely have to go on the road in the playoffs and pull off an upset against a higher seed without home-court advantage. That figures to be a huge hurdle for teams in the West as the Warriors and Spurs are a combined 52-0 at home so far this season. In the East, the Cavaliers are 23-4.