Golden State has the best record in the NBA and has played consistently better than everyone as we approach the NBA Playoffs. With everyone now hip to the Warriors progress, is there any value left to be had in the 3/1 to 4/1 odds for this team to win its first NBA title since 1975? Let’s examine and make a pick.
The Golden State Warriors (57-13, 109.7 PF-99.0 PA) have been the big story in the NBA’s Western Conference this season, and with just 12 games left in the Regular Season—including tonight’s (Tuesday) meeting with the the Northwest Division-leading Portland Trail Blazers (44-24) at the Mota Center in Portland (TNT, 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT; Odds: Warriors -6½, 207½, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)—now is the perfect time to profile this extremely entertaining and hot-shooting team which is tops in the NBA in average Points Per Game (107.6 ppg) and Assists (27.2 apg) and an impressive 7th in Rebounding (44.6 rpg). At this particular point in Time, it looks like the Warriors (4/1 to win NBA Championship, bet365) are one of four or maybe five teams which has a realistic chance of capturing the NBA championship. Being healthy, having a solid roster, possessing much confidence, playing good basketball now and having an underrated Head Coach like Steve Kerr—who is slowly starting to understand what it means to be in charge of a team in this league—are all strong positives for Golden State, but the Warriors may have some problems trying to just survive, and to get out of the brutal Western Conference (8/11 to win NBA Championship, Ladbrokes). NBA odds makers know that this team’s mettle will definitely be tested in the next couple of months by clubs more familiar with playing NBA Playoff basketball and going deep into the postseason.
For people who don’t watch the Warriors that much and may think that these are still The Warriors of Old are in for some pleasant surprises as Golden State has really improved its defense and rebounding. Traditionally, when a team leads the NBA in (average) Points Per Game like the warriors do (109.7), they tend to be somewhat lazy defensively, often thinking that they can simply outscore opponents. And Golden State can indeed do that if it has to, but allowing an average of only 99.0 ppg (14th in NBA) is a testament to the energy that this club is choosing to expend on defense, no doubt a directive from former Chicago Bulls G Kerr who remembers how his former Head Coach extraordinaire Phil Jackson—the only Head Coach he he had in the Windy City during his playing career (1993-1998)—did it when he led his team to six championships, and an extremely important thing if this Warriors team is serious about making a run at an NBA Championship this year, which they most certainly seem to be. This team is indeed The Real Deal, brother.
And, that second impressive facet for Golden State this season (7/2 to win Western Conference, Boylesports) has been the Rebounding (and Blocked Shots). The Warriors rank 7th in rebounds—which translates to possessions which usually average around 1.0 point per—with C Andrew Bogut (8.1 rpg, 1.69 bpg), upstart PF Draymond Green (8.1 rpg, 1.30 bpg), SF Harrison Barnes (5.6 rpg), C/PF Marreese Speights (4.5 rpg) and PF David Lee (5.6 rpg) providing to combine an incredible massive presence underneath. And when you combine that with two of the hottest guards shooting-wise in the history of the professional game (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson), then you have successfully built a basketball team capable of Greatness. Part ABA, part NBA. Warriors General Manager Bob Myers, Kerr and the rest of the Warriors coaching staff deserve major recognition for what they have done so far with this wonderful franchise—which used to be the San Francisco Warriors (1962-1971), and, before that, the Philadelphia Warriors (1946-1962)—in one of the toughest conferences in the history of all of professional sports. Yes, all of. We don’t have Time to get in to it.
And one can definitely say that when possibly two of those conferences teams—the Phoenix Suns (38-33) and the New Orleans Pelicans (37-33)—won’t even be making the NBA Playoffs—which begin on Saturday, April 18—despite likely finishing above the .500 mark when the Regular Season finally comes to an end. Teams that can’t win more games than they lose in a given season in a given (applicable) sport probably don’t deserve to be participating in any playoffs, Bubba. That’s almost like fishing in a stocked Salmon Pond. Where is the fun in catching a damn fish that’s been provided for you to catch on a frigging platter? What did you learn from catching a fish in a stocked pond, man? The answer? You learned that Things shouldn’t be given to you and are always best when earned. The Satisfaction and Growth from going out and to a Real Lake and catching a Real Fish who will be unaware and fighting for his darn Life and doing it (fishing) the same way (sort of) that Birds and Bears do, provides the lesson(s) needed to be learned. Splash. I am so sorry Monsieur Reader. I seem to have strayed way far here. This will happen. What I’m really trying to get at here is that the Suns and the Hornets deserve to make (and should be in) the NBA Playoffs this season, whereas the Eastern Conference’s current No. 7 and No. 8 seeds—the Milwaukee Bucks (34-36) and the Miami Heat (32-27)—don’t deserve to be competing for a title, nor do they deserve to sell Playoff tickets and be on TV in April and May. Our boy Adam Silver (NBA Commissioner) seems wise enough and more than progressive enough to be able to do something about it in The Future. So, go get ’em Adam. Nobody wants to fish from a stocked pond. Do the right thing.
Possible Starting Five
C—Andrew Bogut (6.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.69 bpg)
SF/PF—Draymond Green (11.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg)
SF—Harrison Barnes (10.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg)
SG—Klay Thompson (21.7, 43.1% 3-Pointers)
PG—Stephen Curry (23.3 ppg, 7.9 apg, 42.0% 3-Pointers)
Bench, Roster Depth
C—Festus Ezeli (4.0 ppg)
PF/C—Marreese Speights (10.9, 4.5 rpg)
PF—David Lee (8.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg)
SF—Andre Iguodala (7.8 ppg)
SG—Justin Holiday (4.3 ppg)
PG—Shaun Livingston (6.0 ppg. 3.0 apg)
C—Ognjen Kuzmic (1.3 ppg)
PF—James Michael McAdoo (3.8 ppg)
SG—Brandon Rush (0.8 ppg)
PG—Leandro Barbosa (7.1 ppg)
Injuries, Coaching, Intangibles (Potential Playoff Paths)
The only Warriors player with a seemingly real injury in this late-season period of These Days of Rest and Fake Injuries is third-string C Ognjen Kuzmic (shoulder), who has been sent downstream to the D-League Santa Cruz Warriors. SG Klay Thompson was on the IL for a second but he was just resting and tonight it’s backup PG Shaun Livingston who will get The Coming-Playoff Rest against the Trail Blazers. This team is healthy and deep and is smart enough to be resting, knowing that the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference is theirs and that they will soon be playing a very tough No. 8 seed with nothing to lose and maybe with Superman on their side. As far as the coaching, it’s been magnificent so far, but basically first-year man Kerr (he took over Golden State in May, 2014) won’t have the valuable years of experience knowing what to do in the postseason like San Antonio Spurs maestro Greg Popovich (started coaching the team in December, 1996); Mavericks Head Coach Rick Carlisle (2008); or, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Scott Brooks (2008)—a team these Warriors could very well meet in Round 1 the Western Conference Playoffs—will. Experience is the Great Teacher, Grasshopper.
As that far as any Potential Playoff Matchups and the path which these Warriors may have to take, it could (and likely will) present a problem in both game opponents and the potential Wear-down Factor. If the NBA Playoffs were to start today, top-seeded Golden State would face the 8th-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder (40-30, 2½-game lead over Suns for final Playoff spot in West) and that aforementioned Superman, Russell Westbrook (27.9 ppg). Even though Kevin Durant (foot) and Serge Ibaka (knee) are both out for this team, the Thunder still lead the NBA in Rebounding average (47.7 rpg), and would likely be a real rough draw for a team like the Warriors which have played so well to earn the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. But, the good news for Golden State is that the Warriors are 3-1 against Oklahoma City this season, with the lone loss coming in the last meeting in January at the Chesapeake Energy Center in Oklahoma City when Durant was healthy and present (and the game’s leading scorer with 36 points). So, with the Home Court Advantage, a 3-1 mark against the Thunder and no KD or Ibaka, maybe Golden State (and its fans) shouldn’t be as scared as they think they should be right now, which is something for you to consider before placing your NBA picks.
In the Second Round, the Warriors would then potentially face the No. 4/5 seed winner, currently those Portland Trail Blazers (44-24)—whom they’ll dance with tonight in the Rose City—and the Los Angeles Clippers (46-25). Ouch. Not cool. And not fun in the least if you’re a Warriors fan. A series like this will wear you down quick, even if you end up advancing. This season, the Pacific Division leaders are 1-0 versus the Trail Blazers (Golden State also plays them April 9 as well as tonight) and 2-1 vs. the Clippers and will play them in the season series final in Los Angeles a week from tonight (Tuesday, March 31).
Should the Warriors make it to the Western Conference Finals, things really get ugly real quick if you’re a fan as the survivor of the other side of the bracket—maybe the Memphis Grizzlies (50-21) or the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs (44-25)—will possibly be waiting. And both the Grizzlies and Spurs can definitely knock off these Warriors if they can get an early leg up on them in any potential series, which would mean stealing a potential Game 1 or a Game 2 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland. Then, should Golden State have danced through the treacherous Hoops minefields of the Western Conference, and put themselves in a position to win it all, perhaps LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers (Name the Finalists: Cavs-Warriors 16/5, Sky Bet), or maybe the No. 1-East seed Atlanta Hawks (Name the Finalists: Hawks-Warriors 8/1, Sky Bet) will be their opponent in the NBA Finals (June 4), half as beat up from likely having a cakewalk matchup in Round 1. And Little Things like that often end up mattering down the road in the laborious NBA postseason.
The bottom line for this Warriors team is that opponents will have to make Life as hard as possible for star G’s Stephen Curry (8/15 to Win Regular Season NBA MVP, Paddy Power) and Klay Thompson, as, when they are Hot, you might as well just give up early, brother. With Kerr being a big 3-Point guy himself when he played—the now 49-year-old Californian shot an NBA-record 45.4% (minimum 2,000 attempts) from Three-point Land over his career—so he and this Curry-Thompson Duo were absolutely made for each other. To behold the sheer beauty of the 3s. And it will probably be the 3’s and the 27-year-old Curry and the 25-year-old Thompson’s ability to consistently hit them throughout the postseason for this team to achieve its’ ultimate goal. Golden State may live and die by the 3 in the NBA Playoffs. And with Head Coach Kerr resting players—like the aforementioned Shaun Livingston tonight—like the Spurs’ Popovich does, you can see that he is preparing his squad for A Deep Run in the postseason. And with Steph dishing the rock (7.9 apg) and filling it up and looking like the league’s MVP as the Regular Season wanes, Times are really good for basketball fans in the Bay Area. Having the best and hottest player in a sport is always a good thing. But for the Warriors, a Thunder—Trail Blazers—Grizzlies/Spurs—Cavaliers/Hawks path may be just a little bit too much to handle this season for this still growing and young team whom is now on the radar of all other teams. Hey, it ain’t easy being on top bruh. And if this team does somehow find a way to win its first NBA championship in 40 years, it will likely be more because of the somewhat underappreciated big guys in The Paint like Bogut, Green, Barnes, Speights and Lee. The Warriors usual starting 5 will have to be on every game in the NBA Playoffs and produce, as despite some talent in roster sports 6 through 13 (or 15), there is a little drop-off on the bench and opponents will probably put maximum effort into trying to slow and frustrating Golden State’s two killer Guards. The Warriors will definitely be tested, but it will be really enjoyable see how they react to all of these theoretical challenges in The Not-So-Far-Off Future. And we all know that it—The Future—almost always never pans out the way we all visualized. The good news for Golden State and its fans here is that they are one of the four or maybe five teams heading into the NBA Playoffs that actually do have a realistic chance at bringing a championship home. But, it don’t, and won’t, come easy. Nothing worth having ever does.
PREDICTED PLAYOFF DESTINY: Warriors eliminated by Spurs in Western Finals
RELATED NBA PICK: Spurs To Win Western Conference, 13/2 (bet365)