There are the Golden State Warriors (73–9), and then there is everybody else playing the role of underdog trying to stop them from becoming the first back-to-back champions since the Miami Heat in 2013.
After setting the league record for most wins during the regular season, the Warriors are strong -150 betting favorites (wager $150 to win $100) to take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy again in June at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
The big question is, who has the best chance—or any chance—to beat Golden State this year? The San Antonio Spurs (67-15) were one of the nine teams to hand the Warriors a loss, and the only ones who were favored to do so in an 87–79 victory on March 19. Nearly half (four) of Golden State’s losses came against opponents that did not even make the playoffs.
The Warriors went 14–1 against foes with the next five-best records, with the lone loss coming against San Antonio. The Spurs had the best home record (40–1) and figure to be the team with the best shot at dethroning Golden State. Their only setback at the AT&T Center came against the Warriors last Sunday in a 92–86 loss.
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San Antonio had also won 33 in a row versus Golden State at home during the regular season dating back to 1997, according to the OddsShark NBA Database, and is listed at +375 (bet $100 to win $375) to earn its second NBA title in three years and sixth overall.
The Eastern Conference’s top contender for the crown is again the Cleveland Cavaliers (57–25), who will need more than LeBron James to win their first NBA championship.
James was outstanding in last year’s NBA Finals but got little help from his teammates, with power forward Kevin Love missing the entire series due to a shoulder injury and point guard Kyrie Irving suffering a series-ending knee injury at the end of Game 1.
Cleveland is +400 to win the title and -260 to advance out of the East this spring.
Other teams with an outside chance but a tougher road to winning the NBA Finals include the Oklahoma City Thunder (55–27) at +1000, the Los Angeles Clippers (53–29) at +2800, the Toronto Raptors (56–26) at +3300, the Boston Celtics (48–34) at +6600, and the Heat (48–34) and the Atlanta Hawks (48–34) at +7500.
The Raptors have the most value in that group as the No. 2 seed in the East, led by the backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, who helped beat the Cavaliers in two of three regular-season meetings.