The Golden State Warriors are in the midst of a dynasty. Following a 30-year run of incompetence and miserable playoff failures, the Warriors started to get on the right track when they drafted Stephen Curry back in 2009.
Selections of Klay Thompson and Draymond Green followed, and when the team dumped head coach Mark Jackson in favor of Steve Kerr prior to the 2014-15 season, they really took off.
Golden State has enjoyed an unprecedented amount of success in Kerr’s 4 years on the job. The team has made it to the NBA Finals in all 4 of his seasons on the bench, and they’ve won the title 3 times. The only time they didn’t win the championship came in 2016, when LeBron James led one of the most dramatic comebacks in NBA history. The Cleveland Cavaliers stormed back from a 3-1 series deficit to beat Golden State in 7 games.
Of course, the argument can be made that the Warriors team they beat was the best ever. Golden State won an NBA record 73 regular season games that year, only to run out of gas toward the end of the Finals.
As of this writing, Kerr has a regular season record of 265-63, which is an astounding winning percentage of 80.8. He has also gone 63-20 in the postseason, which comes out to a winning percentage of 75.9 percent.
The addition of Kevin Durant prior to the 2016-17 season only raised the team’s floor. Golden State has breezed to the championship in each of Durant’s first 2 seasons with the team, and they are the odds-on favorites to make it 3 in a row this year. If they fail to win a title this season, it would be quite an upset.
While I would be a little surprised if Golden State ultimately comes up short this season, it’s not exactly inconceivable. The “Big 4” of Durant, Curry, Thompson and Green is still in place, while Kerr is still patrolling the sidelines. That said, I would not be betting on this team to win the title this year. Here’s why.
The Warriors have been so good over the last handful of years that their greatness is expected. It’s taken for granted. We are just all going to keep assuming that, after the dust settles, the Dubs are going to be the only team left standing. The addition of DeMarcus Cousins, yet another All-Star, this past summer only made the team look even more unbeatable.
Of course, we have no idea what the Warriors are going to get out of him. Cousins is arguably the most talented offensive center in the game, but he is coming off of a devastating Achilles injury he suffered in January.
He is apparently close to a return, but Achilles injuries tend to be tough for athletes to fully recover from. There is no telling how Cousins will fare once he does hit the floor for the first time as a Warrior.
Does Cousins make the Warriors better in theory? Of course. He’s a massive upgrade over the other bigs on the roster (Jordan Bell, Kevon Looney). It’s also worth noting that the addition of Cousins didn’t do much to make the Warriors an appealing futures betting option.
They were going to be heavy favorites even without him, but the Warriors were as low as -250 to win the title prior to the beginning of the season.
Any team being listed at -250 to win a championship before the season begins is uncharted territory. A lot can happen over the course of a season. Injuries have derailed many a championship contender in the past, but oddsmakers were so confident in the Warriors’ greatness that they made them massive favorites, anyway.
The odds have gotten a little more favorable, but as of December 10th the Warriors were still at -155 to win it all. Golden State has had a bit of a rocky start to the season, but they still have the second-best record in the Western Conference as of this writing. It’s not like they’ve fallen on hard times by any means.
Assuming they’re healthy the rest of the way, anything short of a conference finals trip would be a massive surprise.
There just isn’t any value in betting on Golden State here. The team was such a heavy favorite before the season began that prospective bettors didn’t feel like wasting money on wagering on their future success. So, even if you wanted to bet on Golden State to win, what’s the point?
It’s easy to forget that last year’s Warriors championship wasn’t exactly looking like a lock late in their playoff run. Sure, they swept what was a weak Cavaliers team in the Finals, but it took Golden State 7 games to get past the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals.
If Chris Paul had not been forced to miss the decisive Game 7 with a hamstring injury, Houston very well may have won the series.
The Rockets haven’t looked quite the same this season since losing Trevor Ariza to free agency this summer, but they have been rounding into form of late.
James Harden in particular has been phenomenal, and you can bet Houston will be a team to be reckoned with once the playoffs roll around. Whether they’re good enough to topple the Warriors this season after narrowly missing out last year remains to be seen.
The Rockets aren’t the only potential challenger, though. With LeBron James now plying his craft on the west coast, several Eastern Conference contenders figure to emerge. The trio of Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto is particularly strong.
The Celtics were the trendy pick in the preseason, and they have gotten better since a shaky start of their own. Philadelphia made the biggest acquisition of the season so far when they nabbed the disgruntled Jimmy Butler from the Timberwolves.
One team I’ve been sounding the alarm on since the summer is the Raptors. Toronto made a huge splash by acquiring Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler from the Spurs back in July. I thought the team might have needed a few months to really gel, but Toronto looked like a contender from the jump. The Raptors’ 23-9 record is the best in the league so far.
Toronto is also built to beat a team like the Warriors. With an array of versatile defenders up and down the roster, the Raptors have the athleticism necessary to keep up with Golden State’s seemingly endless offensive talent.
Adding a bona fide superstar in Leonard was the final piece of the puzzle. If they are healthy come playoff time, I think this is the year we see the Raptors finally take the Eastern Conference.
Toronto went 2-0 against Golden State during the regular season, so they clearly aren’t afraid of the champs. The Raptors have the deepest overall roster in the league, and they have enough versatility in the frontcourt to play any number of different styles.
The Warriors being such a heavy favorite means you can bet on some of their rivals at favorable price points. The Raptors currently have the second-best odds to win the title this season at +750. There is immense profit potential in betting on Toronto at +750. You can get the Celtics at +950, while the Rockets and Sixers are both listed at +1500.
The Warriors’ rise to prominence was due in part to their outstanding chemistry. The team had a young roster comprised of hungry players that grew up in the league together. Curry, Thompson and Green were all drafted by the franchise, and watching them combine to become a super team was a unique story in this day and age.
However, things started to change once Durant came into the picture. The on-court transition was seamless. Durant is about as versatile an offensive player as we have in the league today, so it’s no surprise that the Warriors were able to absorb him without so much as a hiccup. He just slid into the role vacated by Harrison Barnes.
While their success thus far is indisputable, there have been some tense moments. Things came to a head in November when Durant and Green got into an on-court confrontation during a game against the Los Angeles Clippers. After Green turned the ball over in the waning seconds of the game, the 2 were caught by cameras getting into it in the huddle.
Durant was clearly agitated that Green declined to pass him the ball for the final shot. Green is about as temperamental a player as you’ll find, so he had no issue laying into Durant. The incident led to the team deciding to suspend Green for a game.
The 2 have reportedly patched things up since then, but that was clearly the result of some sort of conflict that had been slowly building.
There have been reports that suggest that Green is privately frustrated that Durant came from outside the organization and seized some of the spotlight. While that may be true, any potential issues haven’t yet cost the team on the court.
I think that could change. Green reportedly taunted Durant about KD’s upcoming free agency, which has been looming over the team all season. Durant has not said whether he plans to return to the Warriors next year, which has many speculating that this could be his final season in the Bay Area.
If Durant is already looking ahead to leaving the franchise, could that kind of distraction ultimately doom their title hopes this season? Absolutely.
The NBA tends to be more predictable than some other sports leagues. The NFL, for example, is known for its parity. Major League Baseball hasn’t had a repeat World Series winner since 1999-2000. More often than not, we know which teams are going to be there at the end of the NBA season.
There are enough question marks surrounding the Warriors at this point to where I am confident in betting against them winning a third straight championship this season. They may have the most dominant roster in the history of the game, but we haven’t seen a team go back-to-back-to-back in the NBA since the Lakers did it in the early part of the century.
The league is so rife with talent right now that having 5 All-Stars on the same roster isn’t even enough to guarantee a championship.
Potential chemistry issues plaguing the Warriors combined with a number of legitimate contenders like Philly, Toronto and Boston has me thinking the Warriors will fall short of their ultimate goal this season.
I would not be betting on Golden State winning a third consecutive title this year.