The Golden State Warriors may have fallen short of their ultimate goal of winning back-to-back NBA championships following the best regular season in league history at 73-9. But the Warriors are slight favorites at +200 (bet $100 to win $200) to win their second title in three years in 2017 over the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers, who upset them this year and are +225 to repeat at online sportsbook Bovada.
Led by LeBron James, the Cavaliers became the first team ever to rally back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals and win the Larry O’Brien Trophy on Sunday at Oracle Arena in Oakland following 32 unsuccessful attempts by other teams. Now the big question in Cleveland after they celebrate the city’s first major sports championship since 1964 is, will James return for a shot at his second repeat with two different teams.
There has been speculation that James could leave again because he has a player option this summer, and power forward Kevin Love has also been mentioned in trade rumors following his underwhelming performance in the NBA Finals. Regardless, the Cavs are clearly the best team in the Eastern Conference as long as their roster stays intact. The same cannot necessarily be said about the Warriors in the West after their epic collapse in the championship round. How will they respond this offseason?
Some think Golden State could try to add top free agent Kevin Durant and let Harrison Barnes go elsewhere. That scenario remains a longshot, with Durant likely either staying with the Oklahoma City Thunder or signing with a contending team from the East. The Thunder are +850 to win the 2017 NBA title assuming Durant is back while other potential destinations such as the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards (his hometown team) are listed at +2500 and +7500, respectively.
After blowing a 3-1 series lead versus the Warriors themselves in the Western Conference Finals, Oklahoma City may just need one more key player added with Durant and Russell Westbrook, so the team can get over the hump and return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2012.
The West is definitely the tougher of the two conferences with other contenders like the San Antonio Spurs (+750), Los Angeles Clippers (+2000) and Houston Rockets (+5000) all lurking behind the top two teams. Even the Dallas Mavericks (+6600), New Orleans Pelicans (+6600), Memphis Grizzlies (+7500), Minnesota Timberwolves (+7500) and Portland Trail Blazers (+7500) have an outside shot at competing for a title if they can add some pieces through trades and/or free agency plus continue improving.
The East is much more of a crapshoot after Cleveland, as none of the other teams figure to challenge the defending champs with James unless Durant defects from the West. The Toronto Raptors (+2500) were able to break through and get to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time this past season, but they will need to find a way to re-sign DeMar DeRozan after he opted out of his contract to become a free agent.