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Locky: Betting the Warriors in 5 and Other NBA Finals Futures

May 31, 2018 5:50 PM EDT

The Highlights

  • Yes, there’s still value in betting the Warriors to win the series, even at a price North of -1000.
  • The real drama here is between 4-0 and 4-1, so betting the series to be Under 5.5 games (-280) makes sense.
  • If you want a longshot, look at Klay Thompson’s odds to win MVP.

The Warriors are going to win the NBA title. That is a statement that can be made without hesitation. As I said on Twitter the other night, try to somehow calculate the percent chance of Golden State suffering two serious injuries in the series. Convert that percentage to a moneyline. Those are Cleveland’s true odds. My guess is, you’ll come up with something way higher than +1100 for Cleveland.

Yes, I bet Golden State (at -980 and -1000), but yes, there is value in -1100. The chances Golden State wins this series are higher than those implied odds, and the book is holding your money for only about 10 days. Betting -1100 seems dumb to many people, but for me, all I care about is what the odds should be, and what they are. If there’s a big enough difference, and the wait isn’t too long in some cases, I’m in.

 

Why is this such a certainty barring multiple injuries? Because the NBA lacks any parity whatsoever in situations such as this, where the talent discrepancy between teams is astronomical (and before we go further, there is no argument against this point; it is astronomical).

Comparisons are being thrown around on social media to various “upsets” that took place in NBA history, and people are using those as justification for backing Cleveland here. The 2004 Pistons famously beating the Lakers (which I referenced in the preview packet at the start of the playoffs) is held up as an example that the best team doesn’t always win.

However, what people don’t realize is that after acquiring Rasheed Wallace midseason, the Pistons had, per 100 possessions, one of the best defenses in NBA history. Their metrics were absolutely off the charts. The Pistons get disrespected frequently compared to other champions, but make no mistake: They were uniquely great. Cleveland does not have any of the traits Detroit had. Cleveland is not uniquely great. Cleveland’s defense is atrocious, especially in transition. That will be exploited here, frequently.

Moving further into this year’s series, 4-1 Warriors seems to me the most likely outcome by far. I think 4-2 is incredibly unlikely, and 4-3 or Cleveland winning are 1-in-100 type situations. Why 4-1 and not 4-0? Because throughout this playoffs, for whatever reason, we’ve seen Golden State establish an identity of inconsistency. The Warriors flip the switch when the trouble becomes apparent, but if there is no trouble? They can be had, but just briefly.

 

There’s really not a good reason why they should’ve lost Game 4 in San Antonio (by 13 no less), against a team that was missing their coach and one they were infinity times better than. Yes, the Warriors did not have Steph Curry, but what has become clear is that if they do not sense a threat from the other team, they do not feel the need to exert maximum energy for a sweep.

That type of personality in a team leads to occasional breakdowns, but not ones of consequence. The moment they realized the Pelicans were starting to gain momentum, and that their second-round series required effort? The defensive clamps came on. They lost Game 3, allowing 119 points. Games 4 and 5? They allowed 92 and 104. Oh, New Orleans thinks it can win? Fine, we got this.

The Houston series doesn’t fit this profile, because it became apparent very early that the teams were evenly matched, especially after Andre Iguodala was hurt a little later on. You saw maximum effort in each game. This profile applies only when the Warriors are significant favorites, and they can tell that within a quarter of basketball, probably.

The real drama here (for me) is between 4-0 and 4-1, and I think the Warriors, frankly, would rather win the title at home. This is the San Antonio first round all over again — an apt comparison because the series was over before it started. I will have a bet on under 5.5 games (currently about -280), and Warriors -2 games (-426), but if you like plus prices, my advice is 4-1 at +155. I don’t know which home game Cleveland is winning, but the Cavs get one a pretty good amount of the time. That’s the only drama here.

After spending a week’s worth of copy detailing that for you, I’d also add another thing I am interested in: longshot Warriors Finals MVP odds. Not all of the sites have opened their markets yet, but I already see Klay Thompson 14-1 at BetOnline, and Draymond Green double digits in a couple of places. Both are interesting to me, but especially Klay, as in a short series of reasonably low-stress games, there is no need for someone to specifically take over (like, say, Kevin Durant in the final six minutes of Game 7 in Houston hitting impossible jumpers). There’s actually some parity in how the statistics turn out game to game, and there won’t be many games, so there’s less of a chance of them evening out to a normal distribution.

Anyway, there will be more time to talk game-to-game, but that’s enough analysis for now. Congratulations to the Warriors, and hopefully the series provides a handful of fun moments.


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Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Klay Thompson

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