NBA Western Conference rivals gain a little on Warriors
July 18, 2017 3:00 AM
With Houston adding Chris Paul via trade before free agency even began and Paul George landing in Oklahoma City, the betting landscape already looks dramatically different than it did when opening Western Conference odds were posted by the Westgate Superbook on June 24.
Golden State is now at 1-to-4 (-400) to win the Western Conference after a few weeks at (-450) following a 1-to-5 (-500) opening number. Clearly neither number is desirable, but it’s definitely worth noting that the collective strength of the West has chiseled away on a little of the perceived advantage.
San Antonio remains at 7-to-1 (+700) as the team most likely to dethrone Golden State, but the Rockets continued ascent has seen them move to 8-to-1 (+800), way down from the 15-to-1 (+1500) where it opened and the 10-to-1 where it has been the past few weeks.
If you believe the Warriors are going to slip, banking on the Rockets may never be more lucrative than the present given the rumors that they’re hoping to land Carmelo Anthony from New York. Although Melo’s national reputation has slipped due to the Knicks’ ineptitude and his own stagnation as a player, he’s still an elite scorer and matchup nightmare who would improve Houston’s chances of competing with Golden State.
If Anthony joins the Rockets, it’s almost certain that they would climb with 5-to-1.It will be interesting to see how the on-court product influences the odds, especially if Anthony enters the mix, since James Harden will have to find a way to play share responsibilities with Paul as it is. Mike D’Antoni, who has cited Melo’s inability to adhere to his system as a major reason he was let go in New York, would have to find a way to maximize his strengths while avoiding the iso-ball that Anthony prefers.
There may be significant growing pains that could push Houston back into 10-to-1 territory, but injuries aside, don’t write off D’Antoni figuring things out by the time the postseason arrives. Just the fact they should have a fresher Harden makes it likely that this new version will be much improved over the one that was so casually tossed aside by San Antonio in the Western Conference semis.
The number on the Spurs hasn’t budged despite the uncertainty regarding over how involved LaMarcus Aldridge will be since the team actively shopped him. Pau Gasol will return, but after losing out on Paul, not to mention watching Jonathon Simmons leave for Orlando via free agency, they haven’t improved. Danny Green was also said to be available, Manu Ginobili may still retire and there really isn’t a reason to get behind this group. Kawhi Leonard did have his team headed to a Game 1 win in Oakland before Zaza Pachulia’s dirty closed out derailed his efforts, but he’ll need more help than currently on board to remain Golden State’s top threat.
Oklahoma City moved from 40-to-1 (+4000) to 15-to-1 (+1500) after acquiring George and should also feature an improved roster going forward. Sports Illustrated had a great nugget that fantastic Thunder GM Sam Presti handed out McGyver cards to encourage his team to think extravagantly and creatively in assembling their offseason plan. Keeping reigning MVP Russell Westbrook long-term is the next major endeavor, but with stopper Andre Roberson also locked up and a pair of 7-footers entering their prime in Steven Adams and Enes Kanter, the Thunder are a contender due to their abiity lock in defensively. If they find a consistent third scoring option alongside Westbrook and George every night, they’ll be a factor and are also unlikely to pay off as lucratively as they can if you buy in early.
The L.A. Lakers and Utah opened at 50-to-1 (+5000) to win the West and each took steps back according to oddsmakers. Coming up empty on the George sweepstakes means this will be a season where the Lakers look to compete by cultivating their great young talent, but they’ll be competing for a playoff spot at best and just as likely to be avoiding 50 losses in the competitive conference. They’re at 150-to-1 (+15000) now but will remain fun to watch if Lonzo Ball’s Summer League showing is any indication.
Losing Gordon Hayward to Boston moved the Jazz to 100-to-1 (+10000), which is a little harsh since they’re still likely to be in the mix with Portland, New Orleans and Denver, who have all remained at 50-to-1. Although they lost Hayward and George Hill, newly acquired Ricky Rubio and rookie Donovan Mitchell should help Rodney Hood, Joe Johnson and Joe Ingles replace the departed production along the perimeter.
Promising guard Dante Exum should be able to take a step forward and Rudy Gobert is likely to get more help up front from Derrick Favors, so their drop seemed a little reactionary.
The Grizzlies are also at 100-to-1, while Dallas (150-to-1), Phoenix and Sacramento (250-to-1) are expected to bring up the rear.
We’ll take a look at the East in this spot next week