Another NBA season and we are in another epic battle for the Western Conference.
The Nuggets have pulled up evens (at the time of writing) with the Warriors at 50 wins apiece, while the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets are locked in a battle for 3rd. Meanwhile, the Clippers, Jazz, Thunder, and Spurs are all between .5 and 1.5 games apart. The Warriors are still the odds-on favorites at top online sportsbooks to three-peat, but it’s a highly competitive season.
We’ve seen a lot in the media recently. Talk of the feud between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green. Talk of Durant’s impending free agency. Headlines on Steph Curry’s leadership role. Some might attribute the aspects of the ‘rumor mill’ to the reason why the Warriors don’t firmly have the foot placed on the throat of the Western Conference at this point in the season. But that is not it. The Warriors have not gotten any worse. The rest of the conference is just finally starting to catch up. Think of it like the 4-minute mile. Before Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mark in 1954, it was inconceivable that anyone could ever do it. But once he did … slowly others started to catch up.
Speaking of catching up, the Eastern Conference is finally catching up as well. In previous years, the No. 8 team in the West would be comparable to say the No. 3 in the East. But now you have the Bucks with 56 wins, the Raps with 52, then the Sixers with 47. Sure, the conference isn’t quite as tight once you get past the No. 5 spot (at the moment) but it is a lot more competitive than it has been in years past. So much so that the Bucks are listed with a higher probability than the Warriors by top predictive algorithms to finish as 2019 Champs. Team Rankings has the Milwaukee Bucks at 39.7% and the Golden State Warriors at 16.6%.
The Power Rank actually has both the Bucks and Raptors ranked slightly higher than the Warriors using statistical data analysis. But Las Vegas understands playoff experience and they are not budging on the Warriors being heavy favorites to win it all yet again.
When we say heavy, how heavy?
- Golden State Warriors -250
- Milwaukee Bucks +800
- Toronto Raptors +900
- Philadelphia 76ers +1100
- Houston Rockets +1200
- Denver Nuggets +1600
- Boston Celtics +1800
So heavy that you would have to bet $2.50 on the Warriors just to win $1.00. The next closest team is the Milwaukee Bucks which is 8 to 1. So, for every dollar bet, you would win eight. This means, that Las Vegas believes the Warriors to be about 10-times more likely to win than anyone else … and why would they not believe this. The Raptors have historically choked in the postseason, and the Bucks, though playing basketball, are young and inexperienced with postseason play. On the other hand, the Golden State Warriors are like a well-oiled machine once the regular season ends. Over the last two season, they have been pretty much as clutch as an NBA team can be.
Denver could prove to be problematic in the postseason, but the Warriors already have a 2-1 win advantage over the Nuggets this regular season. The only other team that could legitimately take the Warriors down is the Blazers, just because they seem to match up well against the Warriors, especially when playing in Portland. But, Portland entered as a three seed last year and fully collapsed in the first round.
It’s almost like a new NBA. Teams are playing better and the gap has definitely gotten smaller. But still, the Warriors don’t have anyone to stop them out West just yet, so it is almost inevitable that we see them playing in another NBA Finals. Will the Bucks be up to the task is another question entirely.