Warriors broke the NBA record for regular-season wins with their 73rd in Wednesday's finale so naturally they are heavy -245 favorites on BookMaker NBA odds to repeat as Western Conf champs.
West Not As Deep In 2015-16
In my opinion, the Western Conference postseason is a lot different from last season's. That's because the West was crazy-deep last year. Remember, the Oklahoma City Thunder at 45-37 didn't even make the playoffs. Yet in the East, three teams with records worse than that did, including the laughable 38-44 Brooklyn Nets. The West had seven teams with at least 50 wins in 2015 and it really wouldn't have been a huge upset in the first round had any lower-seeded team won other than No. 8 New Orleans beating No. 1 Golden State -- the Warriors swept that one. This year, the West is clearly superior to the East at the top but is pretty weak in the bottom four. The East is stronger from 5-8.
What else can you say about the 73-9 Warriors? Steph Curry will win a second straight NBA MVP Award and he took his first scoring title at 30.1 points per game. Curry also made a incredible 402 3-pointers this season, shattering his previous record of 286 set last year. Draymond Green was barely edged out for Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 but is the favorite for that this season. The Warriors finished 39-2 at home, 34-7 on the road and with the league's best points differential at plus-10.8. The road wins were an NBA record, and the Warriors were the first team to not lose consecutive games in a season or to lose to the same opponent twice. Golden State was 21-2 against the other Top-10 teams in the NBA. Really, the majority of their losses were to poor teams -- Lakers, Timberwolves, Nuggets, Bucks, Pistons when still pretty bad -- when the Warriors simply lost their focus for a night.
Golden State opens at home on Saturday against No. 8 Houston, a team the Warriors took out in five games in last year's West Finals and swept this regular season. One could argue the Warriors got lucky they didn't instead have to face Utah, which nearly beat Golden State twice this season with stifling defense. The Rockets play no defense. Houston is +19000 on NBA odds to win the West.
The bracket really worked in Golden State's favor as it won't have to beat both the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, probably the only two teams with a chance vs. the Warriors in the West, to get back to the NBA Finals. If form holds, Golden State would play the No. 4 Clippers in the second round. Golden State won all four meetings this season, although L.A. played close in a couple of them. The Clips, who open against No. 5 Portland, are +1500 to win the West. The Blazers are +13500.
No. 2 San Antonio is +230 on NBA picks to win the West and it has what should be the easiest first-round opponent in perhaps all of the playoffs in No. 7 Memphis (+19000). The Grizzlies are without their two best players, point guard Mike Conley and center Marc Gasol, for the season. The Spurs won all four regular-season meetings and I'd be surprised if they don't sweep and get some extra rest for likely a conference semifinals matchup against the Thunder.
No. 3 Oklahoma City is +850 to win the West in what could be Kevin Durant's final playoffs as a member of the Thunder with free agency upcoming. The Thunder face No. 6 Dallas in the first round and the Mavericks are without one of their best players, forward Chandler Parsons, for the season. The Mavs, who were 0-4 in the season series, are +21000 long shots for the West.
NBA First-Round Picks: All chalk -- Warriors over Rockets, Spurs over Grizzlies, Thunder over Mavericks and Clippers over Blazers. Color me surprised if any series is longer than five games. Four sweeps are definitely possible, although the Blazers should get a game.