It’s easy to forget that just a few months ago, the Warriors were the best team in the NBA.
Golden State struggled with form and dropped to the third seed in the West after injuries hampered them in the second part of the season, and most experts on ESPN are predicting a second round exit for the Dubs. The bookies currently have them as the 4th favorites to win it all – barely ahead of teams like the Celtics, Heat, Sixers and Grizzlies.
But why such pessimism for a team with championship pedigree, which was dominating the league in the first months of the season, doing that without one of the best shooters in basketball history, Klay Thompson?
Two words: recency bias.
It’s not fair to judge the Dubs by recent performances considering the fact that they haven’t been healthy. Yes, Steph Curry might miss the playoff opener, but Golden State is expected to be at full strength in this postseason (minus Wiseman), and that should be a scary prospect for the entire league.
There’s the thought that Steph, Klay and Draymond barely played together this year, and that’s true. What’s more, other key pieces have been in an out of the lineup, so it is fair to expect Golden State to need a bit of time to find its groove. However, this is a core group which has been playing together for a decade in a well determined system, and the first round opponent, a Nuggets side with no Jamal Murray or Michael Porter Junior, sounds like the perfect stepping stone for the Warriors to get back into their rhythm. Nikola Jokic is a monster, but he ain’t beating no Golden State Warriors by himself. Backing the Dubs at BetNow Sportsbook to win this series would be a good bet in itself. 4-1.
The Memphis Grizzlies should be next, and they have been excellent throughout the season, but experience has proved to be invaluable time and time again in the playoffs, and the Grizzlies don’t have it. It’s too much to ask this young team to overcome such a gap in this department, considering that this is their first real playoff run (they were not ready last year). As per NBA.com, there are plenty of examples with the battle tested team teaching the new kids on the block a lesson in their first go-around. 4-2.
A likely Conference Finals against the Suns would be tricky given how Phoenix is playing this year. They have been the best team in the league, and their big men will give the undersized Warriors quite a workload. But this small-ball Warriors group overcame size issues plenty of time in the past, including this year. It’s not like they are not used to it. I will go with Steph Curry over Chris Paul here, the Warriors and the Suns go as these two guys go, and Steph has traditionally owned the savvy veteran. Plus, there’s the significant issue of not being able to trust Chris Paul’s health in the playoffs. 4-2.
I’m not predicting the NBA finals yet. I would probably trust Golden State against anybody, but you can’t really construct a valid argument without knowing who the opponent will be. However, the mere fact of reaching the finals would merit associating the word dynasty with the Warriors yet again.
With the NBA season having just kicked off on Tuesday, I thought it is worth taking a look at the rule changes which come into effect this year. After all, if you’re betting on the games, you need to be properly informed. There are two main revisions which have been made.
1) The most noteworthy one is changing the way fouls are called, and this was way overdue. The last few seasons have seen players like James Harden make a living out of forcing fouls, making moves with the sole aim of going to the free throw line – not scoring the basket! It ruined any idea of defense, made the game unfair, and often times unwatchable. Fortunately, this year you won’t be able to jump into a defender, launch the ball into the stands and go to the line anymore. NBA vice president of referee development and training, Monty McCutchen, explains:
“If you’re placed at a disadvantage through good play, then therefore a foul should be called, offensively or defensively. We’re not trying to take away every pump fake. We are trying to take away a pump fake that then leads to an abnormal launch angle that the defender never would’ve hit the offensive player had this offensive player not taken this abnormal launch angle.
“We want to balance out the ability of a defensive player to compete with passion with an offensive player who can compete with passion, and when we find that balance, good competition is the result.”
It was about time! Now try and take care of the leg-kicking issues when launching three point shots. That hurts the game as well.
Can bettors take advantage of this rule change? Early in the season we may want to keep an eye on under/overs. Maybe it can be capitalized on. And if we see less scoring around the league compared to last season, it may be a correlation, and we may be able to profit until the bookies and the general public catch up (kind of similar to what happened in the All Star game the first year after the format change, it was the easiest under winner ever). So far the trend does lean towards the under, although we might want to wait just a little while longer for a more relevant sample size. Also, keep an eye on points scored by players who are notorious for having gotten calls on the old rule (Harden, Doncic, Young), and on their team’s free throw totals. Will these numbers drop by 1 or 2 points?
I would have recommended looking for the odds and taking the bets at Betfair, but they have gone completely downhill, and I just stopped using them (more on this in a future article). As such, you may want to look at DafaBet’s sportsbook and exchange, as there are good NBA odds and markets there. We haven’t reviewed them yet on Betdistrict, so you can check out a Dafabet review on BettingNews88.
2) The other, less important change, allows coaches to ask reviews of out of bounds plays in the last two minutes of a game. This used to be at the discretion of the referees before this year. It’s a nice change, but not a major one, though it will surely make for some more drama and have an impact in some games.
On the same note, the play-in tournament has been confirmed for another year.
Big day today for all basketball fans, as the 2021/2022 NBA season is finally upon us! Unable to contain my excitement in the last few hours until the opening whistle, I decided to stay busy by taking a look at the race for the MVP award – which will be one of the closest and most interesting ones in recent history. Who do the odds say are the Top 8 candidates, and what are their chances? Who’s got the favorable circumstances, and who’s got the (oh so important) best narrative?
Luka Doncic (5.50) – He will put up monster numbers, and Dallas is primed to have a great regular season with Jason Kidd as the new head coach, with Luka getting better after another year in the league, and with Porzingis finally healthy the entire off season, able to work on his game and on his role on the team (Kidd made it a priority to get KP involved and happy). If the Mavericks claim a Top 4 seed, and I think they might very well do it, Luka will have the numbers, Dallas will have improved vastly from last season, so “The Don’’ would have the necessary storyline and would be in a prime position to win MVP.
Kevin Durant (7.50) – KD will win only if the Nets finish as the first seed in the East, and Kyrie (and/or Harden) miss a significant amount of time. Both are possible, particularly with Kyrie’s vaccination status up in the air. There’s a narrative right now about KD being the best player in the league, and about his comeback last year after the Achilles tear. The voters are waiting to give him the award if the above mentioned scenarios take place.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (8.00) – The reigning Finals MVP, Giannis is not winning the regular season award this year. He already won it twice back to back in recent years, and there’s nothing more he can do to create a narrative and impress the voters. It is simply not his turn.
Joel Embiid (8.50) – Embiid would have been MVP last season if he hadn’t missed significant time. If he stays on the court, with Philly expected to be good in the regular season and with all the Ben Simmons drama, Joel might actually be the favourite to win. The problem? As always, health. Embiid has never played more than 64 games in a season. Unless he does something we have never seen before, that number of games is probably not enough to win MVP.
Steph Curry (9.00) – Steph was arguably the best player in the league last season, but with the banged up Warriors only able to claim an 8th seed (and then losing in the play-in tournament), there was no way he could win Most Valuable Player. He has a better chance this year though. The Warriors will be much improved, especially after Klay Thompson’s expected return in December. Klay will have a big impact, but after a long layoff his numbers will likely be pedestrian, so all the success will be attributed to Curry.
Damian Lillard (14.00) – Dame has the popularity, the swag, the narrative. Unfortunately, there’s no way Portland will be good enough for him to get the votes. Being a 5-8th seed won’t win you MVP unless you do something truly miraculous (see Westbrook’s triple double a few years back). Lillard can’t do that.
Nikola Jokic (15.00) – The reigning League MVP has no chance to win again. The media already hated voting for the Serbian big man last year, and the narrative is that, while he had a great season, he kind of won it by default due to injuries to Embiid or Lebron. He is not getting much respect from the US Media, and hell will freeze over before they give him the award a second time in a row.
Lebron James (15.00) – It’s hard for Lebron to win, given the fact that he is on a stacked team, and at his age he might take some games off. But the media would love nothing more than to present him with a fifth (and likely final) MVP trophy for his illustrious career. If the Lakers get the 1st seed and Davis or Westbrook miss some time, Lebron might enter the conversation. And if he is anywhere near contention, the media will jump at the opportunity to vote for him. I do not expect Lebron to win, but I think he is worth a shot at these odds.
You can check out more markets and prices on Odds Shark, if you fancy dipping your toes deeper into other futures for the new NBA season.
I think backing Luka Doncic makes a lot of sense in a vacuum, but are the odds on him worth the risk? After all, we are talking about an outright bet which is influenced by a ton of variables. The MVP race (and futures in general) doesn’t always go according to plan, we know that very well.
Personally, I would feel more comfortable taking a more casual approach, investing lower stakes at higher odds. For that reason, my picks are going to be Steph Curry and Lebron James. Old school!