NBA Title Odds & Analysis – Reset

Last week, I looked at all four teams remaining in the NBA Playoffs. Seven games have been played since, and to the surprise of many, the Raptors and Cavs are tied 2-2, while the Thunder lead the Warriors 2-1.

Along with the results, the odds have shifted. What should you be thinking when it comes to a futures bet now?

If you are going to bet on the Warriors, now is the time

Golden State, coming off the best regular season in NBA history, was less than even money to win it all entering the Western finals. Now that they trail OKC by a game, they’re odds have lengthened to 3/2 and it is reasonable to be concerned.

However, this is a Warriors team that didn’t lose two straight all season and has been in this spot before. Golden State won the title last season but trailed 2-1 in the Western Semis against Memphis and in the NBA Finals against Cleveland. They went onto win both Game 4s on the road (101-84 against Memphis and 103-82 against the Cavs) and wouldn’t drop another game in either series.

Golden State has not played good enough defense against OKC to date. But when they’ve needed wins this year and last, they’ve found a way to get stops. I don’t see any reason to expect anything different now.

The Cavs should beat Toronto, but there is reason for concern

Cleveland entered the Eastern finals having gone 8-0 in the playoffs, and they looked well on their way to the conference title when they blew out the Raptors at home in Games 1 and 2. However, Toronto was the better team for most of the two games in Canada, and now the series is tied.

The Cavs still have home-court advantage, and are likely to advance. But they don’t look like the Eastern Conference lock they once did and it’s starting to look like the West is just better (again). The Cavs have gone from 9/4 to 7/4 (thanks go the Warriors’ drop). That’s not a number I’m willing to take given what I’ve seen in the last two games.

Could the Thunder be the best team in the NBA right now?

Let’s take a cue from the NHL, where Stanley Cup winner is rarely the top-team from the regular season but, instead, the one that gets hot at the right time. Casual NBA fans might think the Thunder came out of nowhere to beat the Spurs in six and now lead the Warriors. But that’s not the case. This is a very talented team that was third in the NBA in point differential.

For a lot of the second half of the year, the Thunder had little to play for. They weren’t going to catch the Spurs and Warriors and they weren’t going to get caught by anyone in their division. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are both healthy and in their prime. The last time they were healthy for the better part of a full season, OKC finished second in the league. Their odds are down sharply from 29/4 to 3/1, but if you are going to bet on them, you better not wait much longer.

The Takeaway

Bargain hunters may still throw a few bucks on the Raptors, who haven’t flinched at 40/1. However, their path is still incredibly difficult. The Cavs continue to have the easiest road, but the way they have played against Toronto raises real questions about their viability in the NBA Finals.

At 3/2, the Warriors are probably the play. However, if you’ve been swayed by their series thus far, jump on the Thunder. I see the winner of Game 4 in the West winning the NBA title.

(Photo credit: nikk_la (Flickr: K26A6956) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)

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