Betting on the 2018 NBA Playoffs: Golden State Warriors & the Top Challengers

By Noah Davis
Published on April 16, 2018
Steph Curry and the NBA Playoffs

The Golden State Warriors look quite beatable right about now. The team is licking their wounds after a 40-point drubbing by the hands of the Utah Jazz, and they’re tentatively expected to march into the first-round sans star point guard Stephen Curry.

Not only are the Dubs not playing great basketball as they head into the playoffs, but they might not be 100%.

Even if Curry ends up suiting up in round one, he may not be quite himself.

Curry’s presence is going to be needed for the Warriors to do much of anything in the postseason. After all, life without him has not been pretty.

With the Dubs looking less and less like title locks, bettors need to wonder if an alternative bet is worth their time (and money).

All odds that are referenced in this article were taken from at 11:44 am CT on 4/11/2018. These odds may have changed since the time of this writing.

2018 NBA Finals Odds

With Golden State not looking so dominant (or healthy), the door is potentially open for somebody else to end the year as champion in the 2018 NBA Finals.

Top NBA betting sites like don’t disagree. Golden State is still the tentative favorite, but at +125, that bet is one that includes a little more doubt than usual.

Here’s how they stack up against the rest of the field as of April 11th:

Golden State Warriors+125
Houston Rockets+180
Cleveland Cavaliers+650
Toronto Raptors+900
Philadelphia 76ers+2000
Oklahoma City Thunder+4000
Portland Trail Blazers+5000
Utah Jazz+5000
San Antonio Spurs+6600
Boston Celtics+6600
Washington Wizards+10000
Minnesota Timberwolves+20000
Indiana Pacers+20000
Miami Heat+20000
Milwaukee Bucks+20000
New Orleans Pelicans+25000
Denver Nuggets+30000

To be honest, bettors are getting some value no matter who they roll with.

Before the season began, the defending champion Warriors were the easy pick. Their NBA Finals odds have only dropped, which gives them a much better price now than they had previously.

Top Threats

Of course, there is more value as you work your way down the line.

James Harden is a lock to win this year’s MVP award, and part of that has to do with the fact that he pushed his Rockets to the NBA’s best record this year.

Getting that #1 seed doesn’t guarantee a thing, but at +180, Houston offers some staggering upside.

Unlike past years, the Rockets are more than just an explosive offense. Chris Paul latched on to give this squad some defensive bite, while they brought in versatile perimeter players that can hit open shots and also defend.

Translation? The Rockets can hang with you offensively, and they’re now equipped (at least on paper) to take down elite offensive teams (Warriors, anyone?).

The other two logical bets offer interesting value as well.

Somebody has to emerge from the Eastern Conference, and right now that’s likely between the Raptors (+900) and Cavs (+650).

Cleveland looked absolutely lost after Kyrie Irving jumped ship this summer. They made some big moves, though, and seem to be healthy and clicking at the exact right time.

Considering the Cavs still have King James and have reached the NBA Finals in each of the last three years, they feel like an absolute steal at +650 right now.

That may be the case, but the Raptors literally changed the way they play basketball to give them a better chance at success this year.

It worked, as the Raptors looked like one of the best teams in the NBA all year and secured the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

We’ve been here before, though. This isn’t the first time Toronto made people believe they could get past LeBron James and co.

Still, even if you believe this is the year, you then have to buy them taking out the Warriors, Rockets, or whoever else might make it through out of the Western Conference.

As far as high-level consistency, experience, and talent goes, those are your true NBA Finals contenders. Golden State is the 1A to Houston’s 1B, but only one can actually advance to the Finals.

There they will almost certainly meet up with Cleveland or Toronto.

Top Sleepers

I hate to nix the sleeper talk just because it’s always fun to dream about a magical run, but it just doesn’t happen in the NBA.

An 82-game season tends to expose you for your strengths and weaknesses, and for the most part, you are who your record says you are.

Even if that’s not necessarily true, a seven-game series doesn’t give way to many crazy upsets, and they tend to produce the best overall team.

While that’s usually true, it’s worth noting that there are some teams that are either coming together just at the right time or they have an easier path out of the first round than some originally thought.

Specifically, anyone facing the Boston Celtics in round one immediately becomes dangerous.

Boston is a shell of what they were, as Kyrie Irving is done for the year with a knee injury. They could perhaps make it to round two, but even that might be a bit too hopeful.

The other things to consider here are momentum and health.

Are Joel Embiid and Kawhi Leonard coming to the rescue for the Sixers and Spurs? If so, then the Sixers (+2000) and Spurs (+6600) suddenly look very dangerous.

Stephen Curry’s knee status is also huge for the Dubs, should you fear Golden State’s ability to make it out of round one without him.

The T’Wolves and Wizards could also get a huge jolt now that guys like Jimmy Butler and John Wall are back in the fold.

Momentum could also be worth tracking.

Utah, Denver, Philly, and New Orleans have all been red hot, either over the past two weeks or for months now.

I’m not sold on those teams being able to march all the way to the Finals, but if you want sneaky sleepers, they’re at the top of the list.

Who Will Win the 2018 NBA Finals?

The Raptors and Cavs offer really tantalizing value, but the best team in the league really does appear to be the Houston Rockets.

Even if the Dubs get/stay healthy, Houston is a bad matchup for them and likely their last obstacle before getting back to the Finals.

The Rockets owned the Warriors during regular season play (2-1 series win) and were just incredibly dominant, versatile, and explosive across the board all year.

The biggest thing going for the Rockets, though, is the fact that they can defend.

Houston wields the number-one offense in the league, but they also offer up the NBA’s 6th most efficient defense.

In a likely Western Conference Finals showdown with the Dubs, I think Houston’s defensive bite and ability to match up with Golden State is going to prove to be the difference.

Once in the Finals, the Rockets might actually take it easily.

Cleveland does have one of the best players in the world, and they seem to have a mental hold over Toronto, but they are not better than the Rockets.

It’s possible something could “click” for the Cavs during the playoffs, but they ranked 29th in defensive efficiency all year. Now they’re suddenly supposed to stifle one of the best offenses in the league?

Toronto has a way better shot and may quietly be seen as the favorite to emerge out of the Eastern Conference.

The Raptors also have that balance the Rockets possess, ranking 3rd in offensive efficiency and 5th on the defensive side of the ball.

Ultimately, I just don’t trust the Raptors. They have the strategy and pieces to make some noise, but they always look good and falter in the playoffs.

Houston has the offense and star power to hang with anyone, but they also defend at a high level.

I think this is a defining year for James Harden, and getting a gritty teammate like CP3 helped him and the rest of the Rockets finally realize their potential.

The best part is that bettors still get value with Houston. They probably should be the favorite after everything we’ve seen, yet they carry +180 odds headed into postseason play.

I’ll eat up that value, seeing as they really look like a different team this year and could be on to great things.

The harsh reality is that the Warriors regressed slightly this year. They’re also not healthy, and it’s going to take everything they’ve got to fend off the Rockets.

With the value at hand, I’ll back the Rockets and bet Golden State’s reign ends this year.

PICKHouston Rockets+180
Betting on the 2018 NBA Playoffs: Golden State Warriors & the Top Challengers
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Betting on the 2018 NBA Playoffs: Golden State Warriors & the Top Challengers
Previewing the 2018 NBA playoffs and gauging if anyone can actually dethrone the Golden State Warriors. Read on to find the top challengers and where the value lies.
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