There is little question that the Golden State Warriors are widely expected to win the NBA’s Western Conference title and likely another NBA Finals championship. It would be their fourth in five years with largely the same group of players.
However, oddsmakers are giving at least one other team a legitimate shot to win the west. The Warriors are favorites with ⅓ betting odds, according to Vegas Insider, but the Houston Rockets have risen over the past month.
James Harden and Chris Paul’s squad now has 7/2 odds to win the conference, compared to 17/2 a month ago. Houston has rocketed all the way up to the third seed in the west after a shaky start to the season thanks to a nine-game winning streak. Harden has been the driving force behind it all, averaging 36.2 points per game on the year to lead the league by a wide margin.
For reference, Harden averaged just 30.4 points per game during his MVP campaign a year ago. The Rockets will have a chance to prove they are contenders on Wednesday night in a home game against the Warriors, who are just 4-6 in their last 10 games.
Golden State has suffered blowout losses to the Portland Trail Blazers and Boston Celtics recently, as well as strange defeats at the hands of the Orlando Magic, Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns.
The Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder are tied for third in the betting odds with identical 15/1 odds. Denver’s young talent could carry them to the Finals, while OKC could get there on the strength of a powerful defense and an MVP-like season from Paul George.
Nobody else has particularly strong betting odds to win the Western Conference. The ailing Los Angeles Lakers have measly 5000/1 odds to win it; this will likely be the first time a team led by LeBron James has missed the postseason since 2005. By comparison, the LA Clippers have better odds to win the west.
Betting odds to win the NBA Western Conference ( Vegas Insider )
Golden State Warriors 1/3
Houston Rockets 7/2
Denver Nuggets 15/1
Oklahoma City Thunder 15/1
Utah Jazz 30/1
Portland Blazers 40/1
San Antonio Spurs 100/1
Los Angeles Clippers 250/1
Sacramento Kings 1000/1
Los Angeles Lakers 5000/1
Minnesota Timberwolves 5000/1