For the foreseeable future, the NBA’s Western Conference belongs to the Golden State Warriors. Their roster is stockpiled with unselfish stars and ring-chasing veterans who want to keep winning championships together.
Of course, not everything is foreseeable in the NBA. Unexpected things happen every year, and maybe this year one of those things is Golden State failing to win its fourth straight Western Conference title.
It’s time to break down the betting odds for this conference, starting with the Warriors and other favorites, then moving on to a couple of fringe contenders for the conference championship that have nice odds. Finally, we’ll give a couple of predictions and picks to help you decide on your bets with the top sportsbooks that face America.
Western Conference Championship Favorites
Golden State Warriors (best odds -275 with Bovada)
The Warriors have two of the four best players in the NBA (Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry), plus two other All-Stars (Draymond Green and Klay Thompson). If that seems unfair, it’s because it is. No other team in the Western Conference has much of a chance to beat this squad if it’s healthy.
The scary thing is that the Warriors have plenty of great role players to supplement their stars. Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Nick Young, JaVale McGee and Omri Casspi all do plenty of good things on the basketball court and can fit in well with the Dubs’ star-studded lineups.
San Antonio Spurs (+650 at Bovada)
The Spurs will probably stay near the top of the Western Conference as long as head coach Gregg Popovich is at the helm. Pop has led this team to 19 fifty-win seasons in the last 20 years, with the one exception being the lockout year in 1998-99 when teams only played a total of 50 games. The Spurs won the NBA title that year.
This will be one of Popovich’s least talented groups, though. Superstar Kawhi Leonard is the team’s best player on both ends by far. There are lots of question marks around his top teammates: is LaMarcus Aldridge going to continue his decline? Will Rudy Gay come back from Achilles surgery at 100 percent? How soon (and strong) will Tony Parker return from his offseason surgery?
The Spurs’ depth is very good, though it lost some punch during the offseason with the departures of Dewayne Dedmon, David Lee and Jonathon Simmons.
Houston Rockets (+1200 at GTBets)
The Rockets have a very high ceiling and look like the team that will challenge the Warriors the most this year. The addition of Chris Paul next to James Harden is a little bit risky given how ball-dominant they both are, but Houston had to make the move. Plus, no other team in the league has a pair of facilitators like these two.
Houston made some other moves this offseason with Golden State on its mind. P.J. Tucker is a physical defensive wing who will see a lot of time against Klay Thompson, while Luc Mbah a Moute is also a strong defender and will check Kevin Durant pretty well. With these two and Trevor Ariza in the fold, it seems the team won’t have a major weakness on defense anymore.
Best Western Conference Championship Dark Horse Bets
Oklahoma City Thunder (+1600 at Bovada)
Oklahoma City, like Houston, had a great offseason and now finds itself matching up much better against the Warriors. Paul George can be a poor man’s version of Kevin Durant next to Russell Westbrook while proving slightly better defense on the wing. If that pair can even muster close to the production the Westbrook-Durant pairing had for several years, the Thunder will be dangerous.
Raymond Felton finally gives the Thunder a legitimate backup for Westbrook. Patrick Patterson is OKC’s answer to the Warriors’ Draymond Green as a versatile stretch 4 who specializes in defense. The Thunder are now rock-solid on the defensive end from positions 2 through 5. George, Andre Roberson, Patterson and Steven Adams is an elite defensive foursome.
Denver Nuggets (+25000 at GTBets)
GT Bets shockingly gives the Nuggets longer odds than all but two teams in the conference, but Denver will be one of the five or six best teams in the West this season. The team went 29-22 once they switched to Nikola Jokic as its starting center in 2016-17, uncovering the Serbian’s star talent in the process. The Nuggets’ young roster blossomed alongside his remarkable abilities on the offensive end.
The Nuggets also landed one of the biggest prizes of the offseason, All-Star Paul Millsap. Millsap fills the team’s need at power forward and gives it a reliable defensive presence that was missing last season. Denver did lose scoring forward Danilo Gallinari, but he was frequently injured — Millsap will more than pick up for that slack.
This roster probably needs some time before we consider it a legitimate championship contender, but maybe the team’s exciting young talent continues to blossom ahead of schedule and the Nuggets do even better than expected.
Our Preview’s Western Conference Championship Picks & Betting Predictions
One of the sportsbooks offers fantastic odds for this preview’s two advised picks, the Rockets (+1200 at GTBets) and Nuggets (+25000 at GTBets). Houston is +400 at MyBookie and +550 at Bovada and Denver is +4500 and +6600 at those places, respectively, which tells you that they are probably underestimated quite a bit at GTBets.
Golden State is obviously the smart pick to win the conference if we ignore the odds. But comparing the Warriors’ best odds with the Rockets’, Golden State is supposedly about 10 times more likely to win the conference than Houston. Considering the role injuries and other unforeseen circumstances can play in the NBA, the Warriors aren’t that invincible.
Denver, meanwhile, is just a chance at a huge payout that isn’t nearly as long of a shot as the odds suggest.