Dan Favale | Fri 08/12/2017 - 06:58 EST

NBA Teams With Best Chance of Dethroning Reigning Champion Warriors (So Far)

NBA Teams With Best Chance of Dethroning Reigning Champion Warriors (So Far)
The Houston Rockets? No, wait, how about the Cleveland Cavaliers? Er, actually, what about the Boston Celtics? Or the San Antonio Spurs? Maybe the Oklahoma City Thunder? The question of "Which NBA team has the best chance at dethroning the Golden State Warriors isn't an easy one to answer, but we wouldn't be here if we weren't up to the challenge

All championship odds come courtesy of TopBet and are accurate leading into games on Friday, Dec. 8. Teams will be presented in order of increasing threat level to the Golden State Warriors (-275), based off their ability to beat them over the course of a seven-game postseason series, be it as part of the Western Conference playoff bracket or NBA Finals matchup.

5. San Antonio Spurs (+1800)

spurs

Putting the San Antonio Spurs this "low" almost feels like an insult. They always figure out a way to hang around, it seems, even when their stylistic propensities clash for the worse with those of modern-day teams. They have one of the NBA's stingiest defenses yet again, and they're a little more switchy than in years past following the addition of Rudy Gay as a small-ball power forward.

But Kawhi Leonard has missed the entire season to date while recovering from a quad injury. Though the Spurs expect him to return any day now, it make take some time to integrate him into an offense that is currently running through LaMarcus Aldridge.

More than that, they don't have the depth to combat Golden State's all-wing lineups full-time. Running out Aldridge, Gay, Leonard, Danny Green and Dejounte Murray puts you in business for shorter stretches, but not the entire game. Where are they supposed to turn beyond that, particularly if Aldridge isn't able to stay on the floor while matching up with Draymond Green?

Can they get away with subbing him out for Kyle Anderson, who's also injured at the moment? What about Manu Ginobili? Is Davis Bertans mobile enough at the 5?

Too many what-ifs must break in the Spurs' favor for them to beat the Warriors four times in seven tries. If they add another wing or two between now and next season, they'll climb this ladder. For now, they check in at an admirable, albeit not good enough, fifth place. 

4. Boston Celtics (+900)

celtics

The Boston Celtics could be higher. Hell, maybe they should be higher. They rank first in points scored per 100 possessions while churning through a rotation that rivals, if exceeds, Golden State's reliance on like-sized wings who switch almost everything. Given that they also have the NBA's best crunch-time record and already beat the Warriors once, they have a pretty strong case.

Two things work against them, though.

First and foremost, they need to win the Eastern Conference just to face the Warriors in the NBA Finals. And that won't happen without them getting past the Cleveland Cavaliers, who, despite owning an inferior record, remain the team to beat out East so long as LeBron James is healthy.

Second, and equally important, the Celtics' league-best record and defense feels a tad flimsy under the circumstances. They turned over two-thirds of their roster between last season and now. They start two players, in rookie Jayson Tatum and sophomore Jaylen Brown, who are under the age of 22. They have played one of the NBA's five easiest schedules to date. And opponents are shooting just 36.3 percent against them on wide-open threes, which is among the NBA's five lowest marks and a big reason why the Celtics own the top defense at all.

In a one-off setting, yes, Boston is more than capable of staging an upset. But over the course of a seven-game gauntlet? Not so much. 

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (+500)

cavaliers

The Cavaliers are suddenly tough to place in this pecking order. They would have landed lower if not for their recent 13-game winning streak, during which they've been lights out on the offensive end, completely engaged on defense and getting absurdly great performances from a second unit headlined by Dwyane Wade.

The most impressive thing about their slow and steady rise: They're doing it without Tristan Thompson, one of their most valuable defenders, and Isaiah Thomas, an All-Star point guard who has yet to make his debut while recovering from a hip injury.

Incorporating Thomas upon his return should make for some warts. And he won't do anything to help the Cavaliers' defense. But trotting out a lineup of him, LeBron, Thompson Jae Crowder and J.R. Smith might give Cleveland just enough switchability to stand tall against the Warriors. 

And if this explanation doesn't do it for you, the fact that the Cavaliers still employ LeBron James, the best player in basketball, should sway you. 

2. Oklahoma City Thunder (+2000)

thunder

Hello, dice roll.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are under .500 at this writing. They have been one of the NBA's worst teams when playing with the game on line, and their offense checks in at a disastrous 22nd in points allowed per 100 possessions—almost unfathomable knowing they employ Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Russell Westbrook.

But that Big Three is part of the problem. They're all so used to having the ball in their hands, and it shows. They have totaled more isolation possessions between the three of them than 28 of the 29 non-OKC squads, according to NBA.com.

Still, the defense has been largely superb. The Thunder are second in points allowed per 100 possessions and have one of the league's switchiest options to throw at center, in Patrick Patterson. Run him at the 5 with Anthony, George, Westbrook and either Andre Roberson or Alex Abrines, and Oklahoma City has a puncher's chance at giving the Warriors a run for their money.

Of course, this assumes the Thunder hang on to George all year, which they may not. If they don't come out of their current downturn, they could look to move him ahead of the trade deadline, completely warping their stock.

1. Houston Rockets (+1000)

rockets

Yes, the Houston Rockets. Who else?

They are the one team with the firepower necessary to outgun Golden State. No team in the NBA attempts a larger share of its shots from beyond the arc. Likewise, 84.8 percent of their total looks are coming at the rim or from behind the three-point line—by far and away the most in the NBA. This squad can catch fire almost as readily as Golden State.

On top of that, the Rockets are thriving at the defensive end, pairing their second-place offense with a top-five rating in points allowed per 100 possessions. They also have one of the best potential "Death Lineups" at their disposal—an amalgam of James Harden, Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute that can, like the Warriors' own Death Lineup, switch everything.

This unit has yet to log more than a minute, on account of Paul's injury problems at the beginning of the year, but the Harden-Ariza-Tucker-Mbah a Moute quartet is outpacing opponents by 14.2 points per 100 possessions. Adding Paul to the fold more frequently should only improve their standing—which is bad news for the rest of the NBA...including the Warriors.

Results / FixturesNBA

*All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference or NBA.com and are accurate leading into games on Dec. 8 unless otherwise cited.

Category : Sports Betting News

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