The Cavaliers and the Warriors have played each other in two straight NBA Finals, with each team winning one. Nearly everyone would love to see those teams meet for an unprecedented third straight year. However, what if that doesn’t happen?
We live in a strange time in the NBA. All season the league and the media has been hyping up the rubber match between Golden State and Cleveland. However, with this kind of hype comes a lot of biased and almost lazy thinking.
Everyone in league circles has been pitching a Cavs-Warriors III, but this is the NBA and right now both of those teams looks wounded. The Cavs have lost 10 of their last 19 games, and the injury to Kevin Durant puts the Warriors’ title hopes in question too.
What if Golden State got knocked out in the second round while Durant is still working his way back, or could the Cavaliers get to the Finals and lose to a team not the Warriors? All of these things could easily happen, and I have compiled the four most likely scenarios for which it could. Some of these would be valuable hedge tickets once the conference finals come around too if they look like they are going to hit.
San Antonio Spurs +500 Championship Odds
It’s hard to put the Spurs as a dark horse team in the future odds, but with 5/1 championship odds if the Warriors fall in the early rounds or to San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals, there is great value in the Spurs' future odds to win it all.
Assuming they can get their veterans healthy and tapered going into the playoffs, the Spurs’ schedule could be setting up nicely for a Finals run.
San Antonio has beaten the top three teams in each conference (two in the West considering the Spurs are in the top three) in 11 of their 13 games against them through the end of March, and that is probably the most telling stat as to why you should not short change the Spurs’ title odds.
Houston Rockets +1400 Championship Odds & +750 Western Conference Odds
James Harden paired with a talented team and a head coach like Mike D’Antoni has been a recipe for success this season. However, could we be underestimating the level of success they could see this season.
Assuming it’s the Warriors opposite them, Harden and Co. match up well when it comes to offense and it might depend on who is the hottest shooting team when they potentially get to a WCF scenario.
However, at +750 to win the West and +1400 to win it all, the Rockets are certainly worth discussing as a potential upset contender. They don’t have much defense, which could be their undoing, but if it comes to a seven-game series against Golden State the Rockets have the ability get hot enough to make it hedge-worthy.
Utah Jazz +2500 Western Conference Odds
If you’re really looking for the contrarian future odds play this NBA postseason, look no further than the Jazz. If they are fully healthy heading into the playoffs (which is a big if right now) this team is very dangerous and is very capable of upsetting some squads en route to a Western Conference Finals.
However, the Jazz would need to beat the Warriors in the second round for this to happen, and this is assuming they escape the Clippers in the first round, which we’ll talk about in a minute.
Utah, though, is an elite defensive team and has several ways to beat you other than just elite defense. The Jazz have several good shooters and the best defensive center in the NBA in Rudy Gobert.
The Stifle Tower could dominate the Warriors and even though Utah has not played that well against the Warriors this season, they have also not been completely healthy during any of those games. Don’t sleep on them to potentially upset Golden State in the second round if Durant comes back and isn’t himself by then.
Los Angeles Clippers +5000 Championship Odds & +2500 Western Conference Odds
I may be delusional when it comes to the Clippers. LA is just as easy a first round out as it is a Western Conference Finals contender. However, if you’re appetite is for a long shot the Clippers are your team.
They still own one of the best defenses in the league when fully healthy and playing well. Plus, their once-shallow bench is much more plentiful this season assuming Austin Rivers is ready to play by the time the playoffs roll around.
Even with all of their injuries this season, as of April 3 the Clippers are just 0.6 points per 100 possessions from ranking inside the Top 10 in defense this season. They also rank inside the Top 10 in three of the four offensive factors this season.
Other than the Warriors and Spurs, the Clippers are the best two-way team heading into the Western Conference playoffs, and they easily are better than +2500 to win the West and +5000 to win it all. They are my favorite long-shot option heading into the playoffs.
Assuming the Clippers stay as the 5th seed, this all would mean they have to beat the Warriors in the second round. Much like Utah, LA has yet to beat the Warriors this season, but the Clippers have played them well their last two against them and they are playing well heading into the end of the season. That may be all they need and +2500 to beat the Jazz, Warriors and probably Spurs is not a bad play with the Clippers right now. Is it still a long shot? Absolutely. However, improbable does not mean impossible.