The Golden State Warriors may be the new favorites to win the Western Conference, but the reigning champion San Antonio Spurs aren’t very far behind on the NBA odds list. Can anyone else win the West?
Jason’s record as of Jan. 7: 22-22-1 ATS, 2-4 Totals
Finally, the young kids are getting their respect. The Golden State Warriors are in first place in the Western Conference at 28-5 SU and 22-11 ATS, and now they’re favored at 11-4 to advance all the way to the 2015 NBA Finals (all futures odds from Bovada). It’s been a long time coming, too. This is a franchise that has endured a lot more downs than ups in the 40 years since Rick Barry led them to their last championship.
But there’s still a long way to go. The West is loaded with quality teams, including the reigning and defending champions, the San Antonio Spurs. Even though the Spurs are barely in the top half of the conference after getting sideswiped by injuries, they’re still the second favorites to win the West at 15-4. Will San Antonio put away those pesky Warriors and make yet another NBA Finals? Or should you devote your NBA pick to one of the many second-tier contenders?
Miracles Is the Way Things Ought to Be
It’s actually quite refreshing to see a team like the Dubs atop the NBA odds list. They’ve been keeping a low profile out there in Northern California, making very few headlines – and very few postseasons – since the days of Nellieball and Run TMC in the early ‘90s. The Warriors did give us a taste back in 2006-07, when Don Nelson returned as head coach, and they upset the No. 1 Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs. But Golden State was right back on the outside looking in the following spring.
Enter Stephen Curry. After making a splash at the NCAA Tournament with the Davidson Wildcats, the sweet-shooting guard was picked seventh overall in the 2009 NBA Draft. One year later, he was the team’s best player. Now he’s the best player in the entire league, at least according to the VORP (7.8) and Win Shares/48 minutes (.281) metrics at Basketball Reference.
Curry’s got plenty of help, too. Klay Thompson (2.9 VORP) has developed into a quality backcourt mate, while young Draymond Green (4.6 VORP) and Harrison Barnes (2.3 VORP) are making big strides in their third year in the bigs. Right on schedule. And lo and behold, center Andrew Bogut (plus-6.4 DBPM) made his return from the injured list Wednesday night. The future looks bright down by the Bay.
The Galaxy Defenders
The Men in Black aren’t fazed. People have been prophesizing their doom for years – well, they used to, but the now that the Spurs have gone to the NBA Finals in back-to-back seasons and beaten the Miami Heat like a rented mule, the narrative has flipped. It seems like Tim Duncan (3.3 VORP) will never get old, and we’ll always have Gregg Popovich to give sideline reporters one-word answers.
Unfortunately for Spurs supporters, they won’t have last year’s Finals MVP for the next couple of weeks. Kawhi Leonard (2.1 VORP) suffered torn ligaments in his right hand in mid-December, and in the 11 games that he’s already missed, San Antonio has gone 4-7 SU and ATS. That leaves the champions in seventh place in the West at 21-15 SU and 16-20 ATS. More like Men in Red, amirite?
This opens up some room for the other Western contenders to stake their respective claims. The Dallas Mavericks (5-1) are loaded for bear after trading for Rajon Rondo. Speaking of bear, the Memphis Grizzlies (9-1) are in the hunt, and the Houston Rockets (10-1) think they have the winning formula after picking up Josh Smith. Then again, maybe the Oklahoma City Thunder (5-1) will end up on top, if they can keep Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook healthy. Or how about the Los Angeles Clippers (15-2), or the Portland Trail Blazers (11-1)? There can be only one correct basketball pick from this group. Choose wisely.