The Western Conference playoffs are a bloodbath every season and to even get to the Finals is a huge, huge accomplishment that any team should be proud of. Last season we saw the Golden State Warriors get through the West and win the championship. They were by far the best team we saw all season and they deserved to win the title. For an example of just how tough the Western Conference is, last season we saw the Spurs and Clippers face off in the first round despite them being two of the best teams in the league. That series was legendary and is unlikely to be topped in the future.
Despite losing in the first round last year, BetOnline sees the Spurs as the favorite to make it out of the West. Their age is always a concern, but the addition of LaMarcus Aldridge is downright scary. It’ll take awhile for the Spurs to figure out how to utilize him and for Aldridge to figure out the system, but once that happens this could be a very scary team. At +250 they are a good value as well if you think that he will be a perfect fit.
The defending champions are a surprising +280 as I would personally have them as the favorite. They have the complete core of last year’s team still intact and they are all young enough to bring it back again. Their offense and defense were works of art last year and it’s hard to imagine them taking a step back this season. There is the championship hangover and “disease of more” that Pat Riley has talked about, but I think this is a team that is poised to make another run at it. Steve Kerr is a great coach and Steph Curry is still unguardable. Some great value here.
The Thunder are an interesting play as well because if we are getting the Thunder of two or three years ago, look out. There is concern regarding Kevin Durant’s recovery from a foot injury, but he has looked solid in the preseason. The Ibaka/Westbrook/Durant trio is a big three that can compete with any team in the league. The addition of Billy Donovan as a coach could be huge for this team and they will score in bunches. Enes Kanter can score from the center position and we know all about what Durant and Westbrook can do. Could this finally be the year that the Thunder breakthrough? Defense will be a question, but if they stay healthy this could be a great bet.
My favorite underdog pick has to be the Houston Rockets at +975. They were one of the top teams in the West last season despite a lot of key injuries and made it all the way to the Western Conference finals. The addition of Ty Lawson could be a game changer off the bench and there is always a chance this team makes a big trade. Their style of play makes them a threat to any team and hard to match up against. If the big men stay healthy, I expect them deep in the playoffs again this year.
|San Antonio Spurs||+250|
|Golden State Warriors||+280|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+435|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+620|
|New Orleans Pelicans||+1600|
|Los Angeles Lakers||+7000|