Is the Warriors’ NBA Finals Record a Disappointment?

Jun 17, 2019 10:16 AM EDT
Credit:

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured:Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry

  • The Golden State Warriors won three NBA Championships in five years.
  • Using betting odds, we compare the Warriors' NBA Finals record with other dynasties.

The Golden State Warriors have been on a dynastic run. Stephen Curry & Co. have played in five consecutive NBA Finals — joining the 1960s Boston Celtics as the only teams to do so in league history. Golden State is one of nine teams since the ABA-NBA merger to win a title in at least two consecutive years and is one of just five teams to win three titles in four or fewer postseasons.

By nearly every measure the Warriors are one of the greatest teams in NBA history. But according to the oddsmakers, Golden State’s NBA Finals record is a disappointment.

Steve Kerr’s team was favored in all five Finals appearances based on data from SportsOddsHistory.com. When you account for the juice associated with the NBA Finals odds, the Warriors had a 72.7% chance on average to win the title.

This compares well to other NBA dynasties. Michael Jordan’s Bulls were favored in all six trips. Kobe Bryant’s Lakers were the chalk each time the title was on the line and Tim Duncan’s Spurs were underdogs just once in six Finals.

Using the pre-NBA Finals expectations, Golden State should have won 3.6 (adding up the expected win probability from the chart above) of a possible five championships. The Warriors won three, 0.6 fewer than expected. Here is how their record compares to other recent dynasties:

Jordan’s Bulls were expected to win 4.2 championships but lifted the Larry O’Brien trophy in each of their six appearances for a +1.8 difference between actual and expected titles. Duncan’s Spurs also exceeded expectations, winning one more championship than the odds implied. Kobe has five rings, but like the Warriors, his Lakers won fewer than anticipated.

Golden State won three of its four championships against LeBron James, a dynasty in his own right having reached nine consecutive Finals. James has only three rings, but based on expected win probability his record shouldn’t be considered a disappointment. He should have won 3.4, only 0.4 more than the actual number of rings on his hand, which is slightly better than the Warriors’ performance on the NBA’s biggest stage. So, LeBron at least has that going for him.

Of course, injuries and suspensions played a big role in the Warriors coming up short. Kevin Durant (Achilles) and Klay Thompson’s (ACL) injuries opened the door for the Toronto Raptors’ first championship, and Draymond Green’s suspension in Game 5 of the 2016 Finals helped the Cleveland Cavaliers rally from a 3-1 deficit.

Curry said after the Warriors Game 6 loss to the Raptors, “This five-year run’s been awesome but I definitely don’t think it’s over.” Time will tell if Golden State can get back to the promised land, but if the Warriors dynasty is over, fans in the Bay Area will always wonder what might have been.

Three rings put the Warriors in the conversation for greatest team in NBA history, but according to the odds, there should have been more.

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