The Oklahoma City Thunder trail the Golden State Warriors by just four games in the race for the top seed in the Western Conference, and finishing second or third would also prevent them from squaring off with the two-time defending NBA champions until the conference finals.
Led by All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook and another fellow All-Star sidekick in swingman Paul George, the Thunder might have the best shot of ending the reign of the Warriors this season - and with solid betting value to boot.
While it may seem like a sure thing, it is extremely hard to recommend wagering on Golden State as a massive -370 favorite (bet $370 to win $100) to take home a fifth consecutive Western Conference title at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Instead, finding a longer shot that has a chance like Oklahoma City is the way to go.
Heading into the All-Star break, Westbrook had turned in 11 straight triple-doubles while George has also been pretty good himself recently in helping form arguably the most well-rounded and unguardable dynamic duo in the league for the Thunder.
Cases can certainly be made for Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry of the Warriors and James Harden and Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets as equally unstoppable pairs, but few can argue with the numbers Westbrook and George have put up as teammates. The problem is, Harden and Paul pushed Durant and Curry to the brink in last year's conference finals yet still came up short in their quest to play for the Larry O'Brien Trophy, blowing a 3-2 series lead as the top seed in the Western Conference Finals.
The Rockets are currently the +675 second choice (bet $100 to win $675) to become Western Conference champions followed by the Los Angeles Lakers (+900), Denver Nuggets (+1100) and Thunder (+1100).
Of that group, Oklahoma City is the best bet because of the talent and depth that Houston no longer possesses. The Lakers are only listed because they have LeBron James, although they are not even among the top nine teams in the Western Conference standings right now. The biggest challenge the Thunder have until the end of the regular season is catching the Nuggets for the Northwest Division crown.