NBA Picks: Futures Market Watch - Golden State Warriors Already In Decline?

Jason Lake

Sunday, September 18, 2016 8:56 PM UTC

Sunday, Sep. 18, 2016 8:56 PM UTC

Kevin Durant may be coming to the Golden State Warriors, but will the former MVP's arrival in Oakland be enough to keep the Dubs on the right side of the basketball odds?

Who's the best NBA team of all-time? Not the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors. They may have set the regular-season record for wins at 73-9 (45-35-2 ATS), but they folded up like a tent in the Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Golden State peaked at 1839 last year on the Elo charts at FiveThirtyEight; the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls peaked at 1853, so they're still No. 1 among discerning hoop nerds.

Maybe Warriors fans should be happy that there's room for improvement. Signing former league MVP Kevin Durant as a free agent was definitely a coup. But will it be enough to make Golden State a viable NBA pick this season? Maybe not. Let's take a very early look before the regular-season win totals hit the board, and see if Durant's arrival will make up for what the Dubs have lost.

WARP and Woof
We'll be using the CARMELO player projections at FiveThirtyEight for this exercise. They did quite well in their maiden voyage last year, and they've got some tweaks for 2016-17, like using Box Plus/Minus exclusively and throwing out Real Plus-Minus. Anyway, here are the WARP projections for the significant players in this year's rotation:

Stephen Curry: 16.1
Kevin Durant: 10.9
Draymond Green: 9.6
Klay Thompson: 4.3
Andre Igoudala: 2.6
David West: 2.2
Shaun Livingston: 0.7
Festus Ezeli: 0.5
TOTAL: 46.9

Now let's go back and look at last year's WARP numbers:
Stephen Curry: 21.7
Draymond Green: 12.1
Andrew Bogut: 5.2
Klay Thompson: 4.0
Andre Igoudala: 3.5
Harrison Barnes: 2.0
Shaun Livingston: 1.3
Festus Ezeli: 0.8
TOTAL: 50.6

There you have it: If we did the math right, Golden State's top eight players are projected to produce about four fewer wins above replacement compared to last year. Having Durant (+7.9 BPM for Oklahoma City) replace Barnes (–0.2 BPM) in the starting lineup will be fantastic, but it won't make up for the loss of Bogut (+4.5 BPM) and the expected declines from Curry (+12.5 BPM) and Green (+5.8 BPM).

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Of course, it's never as easy in real life as plugging in some numbers. Different players mesh in different ways, and under a good coach like Steve Kerr, the sum of the whole should be greater than its parts. But this exercise does give us a sense of what's going on, and a reason to consider pounding the UNDER if the opening regular-season win totals for Golden State are suitably high.

And they probably will be. Over at Bovada, the Warriors opened last season at +500 to defend their championship (behind the Cavs at +275 and the San Antonio Spurs at +350), with a posted total of 59.5 wins. This year, with Durant in tow, Golden State is the runaway favorite at –125. What are they going to put the total at this time, 70 wins? Stay tuned to our NBA odds board and find out.

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