The Golden State Warriors have cooled off a tiny bit – they’re ‘only’ 12-3 in their last 15 games after starting the season 24-0 – but they’re still the favorites on the odds to win the NBA championship at the sportsbooks at +130 and on pace to re-write history.
The Warriors are half way to the 1996/97 Chicago Bulls regular season record of 72 wins and they’re still two games shy of the midway point of the season. They’re the clear-cut favorite to win the NBA championship, and it appears that only a few teams might be able to get in the way of their quest to repeat.
The San Antonio Spurs (+350 on the NBA championship odds) are just 2.5 games back of the Warriors for top spot in the West, which is phenomenal considering few people are paying attention to them. They’re a perfect 22-0 at home, so needless to say the top spot would be more than just a feather in their cap; that home-court advantage would be significant.
The Spurs have stayed hot on the Warriors’ heels and figure to be their biggest challenge in the Western Conference.
Entering the season, some people felt that teams like the Houston Rockets (+5000) or Memphis Grizzlies (+12500) might be contenders out of the West after they both won 55+ games last season. However, both have fallen off the map and are barely above .500. They face uphill climbs back to relevancy.
That really leaves just the Oklahoma City Thunder (+800) and Los Angeles Clippers (+1500) in the West as possible contenders. Both teams have been stellar after slow starts to the season.
The Thunder have won 21 of their last 27 games after starting 7-6 while the Clippers have won 10 straight after starting 16-13. Both teams are loaded talent-wise, but have some chemistry concerns that need sorting out if they are to challenge the Warriors and the Spurs.
In the Eastern Conference, it looks like a one-man show as the Cleveland Cavaliers (+275) appears to be a cut above everyone else.
The Cavaliers have won 27 of their first 36 games this season and that’s despite not having star point guard Kyrie Irving for the first 24 games and watching center Timofey Mozgov – a key cog in the team’s run to the NBA Finals last season – regress significantly.
Now that they’ve gotten healthy, they’ve gathered momentum on the strength of eight straight wins. Their defense is top-notch as they’re allowing the second-fewest points in the NBA (95.1 points per game).
There are some other decent teams in the East such as the Toronto Raptors (+4000), Miami Heat (+4000) and Chicago Bulls (+2500), but all are nothing more than dart throws at this point as they’re deemed to be a rung below the Cavaliers and the other serious players in the NBA’s power rankings.