Chalk in L.A. Makes Rockets Right Pick To Win West

Gosh, that was an exciting NBA Finals, wasn’t it? Well done, Toronto Raptors, but the Golden State Warriors can’t feel too bad about themselves; they gave it a strong effort despite all those injuries, and they should still have plenty of gas left in the tank once Kevin Durant gets healthy… what’s that? Oh. Ohhhhhhh.

So the Warriors are toast. Durant is off to the Brooklyn Nets in a sign-and-trade that brings D’Angelo Russell and two others to the Bay Area. Andre Iguodala was shipped to the Memphis Grizzlies in a salary dump, DeMarcus Cousins has signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, and Klay Thompson could miss all of 2019-20 with a torn ACL. The NBA odds are understandably in flux right now; not every book has their futures market open at press time, but at around +800 to win the West, you can stick a fork in the Dubs dynasty.

Battle Of Los Angeles

As you may have already heard, the Lakers also picked up Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, finally consummating that long-awaited deal. It was enough to move L.A. to the top of the futures market for a while, but then the L.A. Clippers dropped a bomb on the league, getting Kawhi Leonard to leave the Raptors and pulling off a trade to bring Paul George over from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Now it’s the Clippers who are favored to win the West at around +175, ahead of the Lakers at +225.

If we were going to put either of these L.A. teams in our NBA picks, it would have to be the Lakers. Nate Silver and his crew ran the numbers at FiveThirtyEight and projected the Purple and Gold to win 54.9 games with their current lineup – and that was before Cousins left Golden State. The Clippers checked in at 54.2 wins. But neither team is No. 1 in the future West; that would be the Houston Rockets at 59.8 wins. Not bad, considering they’re available at around +800 to win the conference.

House Money

That’s what the fog of NBA free agency will do. The last time anyone paid attention to the Rockets, there were rumblings of a split between James Harden and Chris Paul, and almost no talk of any major pick-ups for the new season. Re-signing guards Gerald Green, Austin Rivers and Danuel House Jr. didn’t do much to put Houston back in the headlines.

It didn’t have to. We’ll see how the rest of free agency plays out – Russell Westbrook is still being dangled by the now-weakened Thunder, who have plummeted to around +4000 in the West. But with Harden and most of his teammates apparently coming back from a team that went 53-29 (40-39-3 ATS) last year, we’ll take the Rockets at a bargain price to hold it together while the two L.A. teams try to make their new pieces fit.