Updated NBA Conference Odds: The Warriors Are Unstoppable
After Golden State outlasted Boston’s best effort on Saturday night to bump their winning steak up to 10 games, NBA fans are wondering whether there is any team that can beat the Warriors. The Bucks are still our model’s top team, and Giannis Antetokounmpo has been the most impressive player in the league besides James Harden and Anthony Davis by our player power rankings. All signs point to Golden State and Milwaukee meeting in the NBA Finals, although the Bucks have a tougher road in the East.
The West is the Warriors’ domain and that probably won’t change this year, but let’s take a look at the odds to win the conference from FanDuel Sportsbook for best value, whether that lies with Golden State or another contender.
|Golden State Warriors||-280|
|Los Angeles Lakers||+1400|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+1600|
|San Antonio Spurs||+3500|
|Portland Trail Blazers||+4800|
|New Orleans Pelicans||+6500|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+10000|
Golden State Warriors
Let’s start with the obvious pick. Ever since DeMarcus Cousins returned from injury, the Warriors have been unbeatable. Cousins has played in four games so far, including 42 minutes with Golden State’s new improved death lineup that features Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green as well. Those five have a mind-boggling 35.7 net rating on the court together, according to NBA.com.
Golden State has been dominant because of their other-worldly shooting. Stephen Curry has an effective field goal percentage of 62.1%, which can be attributed to his 44.6% shooting from three-point range. Curry can score from anywhere; he has a three-point pull-up shooting percentage of 42.9%, which is best in the league for any player who pulls up behind the line twice or more per game.
The Warriors would be one of the best teams in the league even if they hadn’t added Durant and Cousins over the last few seasons. Golden State is dominating right now and a contender hasn’t emerged yet that has proved that they can compete with the Warriors.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City is the best chance that the Western Conference has of having a non-Warriors winner as they’re currently constructed. While Russell Westbrook has been the face of the Thunder in recent seasons, Paul George has stepped up as Oklahoma City’s best player this year. George has the second-best real plus-minus, per ESPN, only behind James Harden
The Thunder have the third-best defensive efficiency behind George’s lock-down perimeter defense and rim protection from Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel. Adams is among the top ten players in the NBA in two-point shots contested, and his mobility at the center position makes him dangerous against opposing screens. With multiple elite defenders, the Thunder might be able to contend against a superior shooting team such as Golden State.
The last time Westbrook was the second-best player on the Thunder, they had Kevin Durant and were a game away of meeting LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the Finals. Paul George is playing at another level, and if this his new standard, the Thunder will be a tough out for Golden State in the playoffs if they meet. At current odds, the Thunder are probably the best value in terms of contending for the Western Conference.
Los Angeles Lakers
Even with LeBron James, the Lakers are not a current threat to win the West. Los Angeles has been playing without an injured LeBron and have slipped outside the playoff race. Once he returns, it’s likely that the Lakers will play well enough to qualify for the postseason, but we’ve seen how the “LeBron Show” has played out before. The Lakers need another superstar to pair with James.
Luckily for the Lakers, another superstar has just requested a trade to land him on a team that can win the title. Anthony Davis wants out of New Orleans, and the Lakers are one of the favorites to acquire him. Together, James and Davis would rival Curry and Durant as the best duo in the NBA. Davis is one of the best players at both ends of the floor -- he ranks among the top 15 players in both offensive and defensive RPM.
The Lakers aren’t the only suitor for Anthony Davis, but if they acquire him, and can develop chemistry between he, LeBron, and all their young talent, the Warriors would have to be on upset alert if they matched up in a playoff series. However, unless the Lakers make a move, they don't deserve to have the third lowest odds to win the West.
Houston is the last viable contender on this list, assuming that they’re healthy by the time April rolls around. Harden is a massive MVP favorite and he’s tied atop our player power rankings with Anthony Davis. His season has been truly historic so far; he’s averaged a whopping 36.3 points per game and has an offensive RPM of 8.06, which is far ahead of Stephen Curry in second place with 6.16.
We’ve already discussed how the Rockets’ losses of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute on the defensive end of the floor, and they’re currently 27th in defensive efficiency. They’ve managed to win games in spite of the injures to Chris Paul and Clint Capela because of Harden’s amazing performance so far. Paul did play in Sunday's game and Capela is expected to be out for about 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery last week, so Houston might be able to get healthy for the postseason.
If the Rockets do manage to get healthy come playoff time, they still might need a perimeter defender to replace the roles of players lost in the off-season. However, we’ve seen that this Houston team can push the Warriors to the limit when their full roster is available to play.