Warriors a Runaway Pick For NBA Title?

There are eight teams remaining in the NBA playoffs. One of them is the Golden State Warriors. Does it really matter who the other seven are? Not according to the basketball odds; wherever you look, the Warriors are favored over the rest of the field to regain their title. The odds don't care that LeBron James and the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers are still in the mix. And they don't care about the San Antonio Spurs or the Houston Rockets, teams that outperformed Cleveland during the regular season.

Since we're talking about the odds, a reminder: there are a lot of valuable bets out there, but before you place some action, make sure to do it on a reputable site -- check out the SBR rating guide of betting sites for more information. We'll be quoting the odds at Bovada Sportsbook for this piece; at press time, they have Golden State pegged at -200 to win the championship. And believe it or not, the Warriors could be a bargain at that price.

Forgot About K.

It's pretty rare to find a "value pick" at the top of the futures market. The very best teams in any sports league tend to be over-rated by their adoring public; those fans usually end up flooding the betting marketplace, causing the odds to shift and diverting all the betting value to the other side. That's why a lot of the wise guys prefer to look a little further down the odds list for value, hunting down second-tier and third-tier contenders with a reasonable shot at winning.

Here's the thing about the Warriors: They're under-rated this year. Hard to believe, but the statistics back it up -- this year's team is better than ever. Yes, even better than the 2015-16 squad that set the NBA record with 73 regular-season wins. The key stat here is point differential, or how many points per game they beat their opponents by. Here's how Golden State has performed the last three seasons:

2016-17: plus-11.6
2015-16: plus-10.8
2014-15: plus-10.1

These stats have much more predictive power than looking at a team's won-loss record, so even if the Warriors "only" won 67 games this year, their chances of rolling over the rest of the league have improved. And don't forget, Kevin Durant missed 20 games during the regular season. That's former MVP Kevin Durant, who's given the Dubs 27.0 points, 8.9 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.7 blocks, and 1.1 steals per 36 minutes while shooting 37.5 percent from long range.

Highly Valuable Players

It's easy to forget how important Durant's arrival has been to the Warriors. He and fellow former MVP Stephen Curry (27.3 points, 7.1 assists, 4.8 rebounds/36) are still performing at incredibly high levels, but because they share the court together, neither stands out as an obvious MVP candidate this year. And we still haven't mentioned Golden State's "other" all-stars, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Or their ridiculous bench strength.

While the Warriors have improved upon last year's model, the competition has taken a step back. The Cavaliers (plus-3.2) aren't nearly as potent, especially on defense, where they rank among the worst teams in the league. The Spurs (plus-7.2) are the team that should give Golden State their toughest test, but they're not quite the same without Tim Duncan patrolling the paint. If you want to bet on either of these teams, make it San Antonio at +900; stay far, far away from the Cavs at +300.

Those aforementioned third-tier contenders still have some betting value. The odds will change somewhat with each passing game, but if Cleveland is highly over-valued in the marketplace, that makes the Toronto Raptors (plus-4.2) a compelling value pick at +5000 to win their first title. Nobody south of the 49th Parallel pays any attention to the Raptors, not until they end up in marquee matchups like this, so most bettors don't understand how good this team is -- and how vulnerable the Cavaliers are. Will James and his teammates "flip the switch" and roll over Toronto regardless? Maybe, but at these odds, we wouldn't bet on it.

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