It’s important to remember the Golden State Warriors’ toughest challenge is just getting out of the Western Conference.
While four-time all-star forward DeMarcus (Boogie) Cousins likely won’t suit up for Golden State until late in the regular season as he rebuilds strength in a surgically repaired Achilles tendon, his signing has moved the Warriors into minus money on the NBA futures.
The two-time defending champion Warriors are a -175 favorite on the NBA championship odds for 2019 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. However, the balance of power in the NBA has moved even farther westward with LeBron James joining the Los Angeles Lakers, so it’s not a sure thing that the Warriors will be able to run a gauntlet through the conference to play in the NBA Finals for the fifth season in a row.
In both 2016 and 2018, the Warriors went the full seven games in the Western Conference Finals, going a combined 5-0 when facing elimination. That’s a tough margin to live on, even for a dynasty that will soon trot out five all-stars with Cousins, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant.
James’ decision has led to the Lakers (+650) having the fourth-best odds, although Los Angeles will have to make further acquisitions – Kawhi Leonard, perhaps – in order to transform from a 35-win also-ran into a serious challenge to Golden State.
Unlike the Eastern Conference that James dominated for nearly a decade, there are more good teams to scale over on the climb to the top. The upshot of the Lakers drawing action is that it might protect the value on challengers that came almost sadistically close to making the 2018 NBA Finals.
The Boston Celtics (+550) were minutes away from the NBA Finals last season and are looking forward to a full season from small forward Gordon Hayward and point guard Kyrie Irving, who were out much of the season while their supporting cast gained valuable on-the-job experience.
The Houston Rockets (+600) also came close to dethroning the Warriors and their current odds to win the 2019 NBA championship are enticing since they have yet to make a major offseason move, as they still have to come to terms with center-forward Clint Capela, while also hoping to add veteran small forward Carmelo Anthony.
The Philadelphia 76ers (+1600) round out the top five and could be worth a flier in conference championship futures, where the Celtics will be favorites.
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