Can the Warriors Repeat as NBA Champions? Here’s How To Bet Them in the Playoffs.

Can the Warriors Repeat as NBA Champions? Here’s How To Bet Them in the Playoffs. article feature image
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Mercedes Oliver/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors.

It's postseason time and for nearly every season since 2015, that has meant the Golden State Warriors were about to go on a run through the NBA Playoffs and into the NBA Finals.

As we approach that time this year, let's take a look at the profile of the Warriors and what it would take for them to repeat.

Who are they: Golden State Warriors, the defending champions, the guardians of the dynasty.

Magic number: The Warriors have clinched at least a play-in spot. Their magic number for a playoff spot is 3, pending losses from teams behind them.

Tiebreakers: The Warriors are in the morass of teams mired between fifth and eighth in the Western Conference.

Their tiebreaker scenario isn’t ideal for securing a top-five seed, but they have at least secured a Play-In spot

They clinched vs. the Mavericks, but Dallas has spiraled off the coil.

They lost tiebreaker to the Suns.

They split with the Clippers, and lead them by three games in the loss column for conference record tiebreaker.

They split with the Wolves. They split with the Pelicans. They lead the Thunder 2-1 with one to play.

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The Road for the Warriors

The Warriors won’t be a top-three seed. Since 2000, no team has won the title with a seed lower than third. Only nine teams in NBA history have made the Finals seeded lower than third.

In the 3-point era, no team has won the NBA title with a sub-.500 road record. The Warriors don’t just have a sub-.500 road record, they are 9-30. Only 29 teams in the 3-point era have made the playoffs with the number of road losses the Warriors already have.

The most road losses a team to win the title has had in the 3-point era is 20, by the Spurs in 2005 and the Heat in 2006. The Warriors are already nine over that.

Here’s the other problem: they’re not elite enough at home to balance out how awful they are on the road. It would be one thing if they were certifiably the best team in the league at home, but they aren't.

The Warriors are 32-8, tied for the third-best record among home teams. They are third in defense and 14th in offense, for fifth in Net Rating at home. That’s good! Unfortunately it's not as good as they were last season (second).

Their bench depth is very limited, and more than that, it struggles. The best test of the Warriors is how they perform with and without Stephen Curry, their best player, franchise icon, and the ultimate ceiling raiser.

Last season, the Warriors beat teams by 10.7 points per 100 possessions with Curry on the floor. That’s down to +4.7 this season. Last season the Warriors lost by just 1.4 points per possessions when Curry sat. This year, it’s -3.3.

Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images. Pictured: Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry #30.

So they win by significantly less in Curry’s minutes than they did last season, and lose by a bit more than they did last year when he’s out. They are, quite simply, worse in almost every dynamic than they were last year.

They cannot win on the road, which is necessary to win the title — they will not have home court in any of the rounds (most likely), when teams have needed at least one round at home.

They don’t defend as well as last year, they don’t score as well as last year, they’re not as good with Curry and they’re slightly worse without him than last year. But I still can’t rule them out.

In 27 games, over 331 minutes, the Warriors’ intended starting lineup (Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney) has a +21.9 Net Rating. That’s the best for any five-man unit with at least 100 minutes this season.

So when their best lineup, that will play the most minutes together in the playoffs shares the floor, they beat their opponents by more than anyone else does.

Because of Wiggins’ absence due to personal reasons, they have not had that unit together for enough to create separation.

I have to couch this with the fact that despite that gaudy net rating, the Warriors are just 14-13 in those 27 games. Fitting with their overall profile, they are 10-3 at home, and 4-10 on the road.

Since 2016, when the Warriors have Curry, Thompson, and Green on the floor for the entirety of a series, they are undefeated. That is a fact. In 2016, Green missed the crucial Game 5 vs. the Cavaliers, Thompson was hurt to end the 2019 series, and Thompson missed both the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images. Pictured: Klay Thompson #11 and Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors, Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics.

When they've had the Big 3 for the whole series, they have not lost a series. Four titles, zero losses.

How do you rule out that team?

Do you realize that if the Warriors lose before the Finals, it will be the first time in nine years of basketball that the Warriors have done so with Curry, Green, and Thompson available?

This has been an unassailable fact of the universe.

Now, all that is to say that eventually, all histories of greatness come to an end. LeBron James had never lost in the first round, before he did in 2021. When things end, they end badly, otherwise they wouldn’t end.

But that’s what we’re facing here trying to diagnose and bet the Warriors effectively: history vs. greatness.

History says that the Warriors are not a championship team, are not a Finals team, are barely a playoff team. They have told us for six months that this team is not elite.

All teams have injuries, most have significant ones. You either weather them with your collective strength and depth or you do not and the Warriors have not.

But the playoffs are won by greatness, and no one has been greater since 2015 since the Warriors when they have their guys.

Potential Matchups

The outcomes for the Warriors are wide right now. They could wind up in the 4-vs.-5 against the Suns, in a 3-6 vs. the Kings, a 2-7 vs. the Grizzlies, or a 1-8 vs. the Nuggets.

(Or they could miss entirely — we’ll ignore that for the moment.)

Suns vs. Warriors

The Warriors have matched up well with the Phoenix Suns through the years of Suns contention. Golden State’s ability to switch all, especially with their small-ball lineups, matters a great deal with how the Suns have become less versatile.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured: Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns, Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors.

They’ll have a traditional big on the floor at almost all times for the Warriors to attack.

The counter is the weakness of Jordan Poole in those lineups and the possibility of him being hunted by Devin Booker and Kevin Durant. But Golden State might be able to just stay big, given the success of the Looney minutes.

The Suns’ bench isn’t a huge advantage given what they gave up to get Kevin Durant, but against the Warriors, they’ll have an edge. I would look to bet Golden State as a dog in this series, waiting until at least after Game 1 with the Warriors’ road issues.

Kings vs. Warriors

The Warriors haven’t played the Kings since November. The Warriors would be favored in that series even with the Kings as the No. 3 seed.

The Kings defense is the worst of any West playoff team. However, the Kings also thrive in chaos and have a ton of offensive firepower.

An interesting element here is that the Warriors have the fourth-best point differential and 11th-best offense when facing top-10 offenses, per Cleaning The Glass.

The Warriors should win that series, but there would be an opportunity on the series line with the Kings. That arena would be bonkers.

Nuggets vs. Warriors

Denver is one I don’t want any part of pre-flop betting. The Warriors beat the Nuggets in five last year, without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. and a worse supporting cast.

But they’ll still be able to exploit Nikola Jokic defensively, and they feel totally comfortable getting wins in Denver. It was 10 years ago that the Warriors’ playoff run began with them upsetting the No. 3 seed Nuggets behind Green’s emergence.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images. Pictured: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets stands in between Draymond Green #23 and Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors.

Based on the histories of the franchises, the Warriors should win that series. Based on everything we know about these teams this season, the Nuggets should wipe the floor with them. They’re one of the best home court teams in the league. If you’re curious how the Nuggets can be so much better and still lose to an inferior team, welcome to the Warriors conundrum.

From there, Golden State is looking at either Phoenix or Memphis depending on the matchup. Memphis has given Golden State trouble in the past; you should expect that series to go long. Bet the dog, whichever way, in that series.

One more betting note on the Dubs: If you’re going to play their futures, only play them to win the conference. You can put them in Finals matchup parlays, but don’t bet them against the East.

The East teams are all significantly better in resume and profile. Golden State beat the Celtics last year, but this isn’t that Warriors team. If you want to bet them again, just wait and roll over your Western Conference winnings on the Warriors as a dog in the Finals.

Curry, Green, and Thompson are trying to extend a dynasty with a team that hasn’t lost together when fully healthy and available in the Kerr era, with the hardest path and worst team of the dynastic run.

Whether they can add one for the thumb will come down to whether you believe in what history has told us, or what the Warriors’ greatness makes you believe.

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