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Defense Wins Titles!
by ASA - 05/31/2017
There is so much to be said regarding this series, and you've already read most of it, so it's going to be difficult to write a comprehensive analysis in just a paragraph but we'll do our best. The Warriors are going to win this series (-$255) and our numbers support a shorter series than most of you might think.
Golden State has one of the best rosters ever assembled in the NBA and could be compared with the Showtime Lakers of the mid-80's along with the Bird, McHale, Parrish, Johnson roster of the Celtics around that same time. This is coming from a guy that is a diehard NBA fan who has watched games religiously for the past 35 years. To keep this as short as possible we'll focus on the keys to the series.
Defense: The Warriors had the 2nd best defensive efficiency rating in the NBA during the regular season allowing just 1.04 points per possession and they've bettered that number in the playoffs allowing just 1.018PPP. Cleveland was 21st in DEFF this regular season and have been slightly better in the post-season allowing 1.083PPP, which would still have ranked them 11th in the regular season. Don't forget the slight post-season improvement came against a Raptor and Celtics team missing their All-Star points guards in Lowry and Thomas.
Kevin Durant: Last year in the Finals the Cavaliers game plan was to allow Harrison Barnes to shoot from beyond the arc and take their chances of him beating them instead of Curry, Thompson and Green. Barnes missed 19 three-pointers in the Finals last year and was a big reason why the Cavs won a Ship last year. KD has made 20 of 48 3-pointers this post-season which is nearly 42% and better than his regular season average of 38%. Durant's PER or player efficiency rating is 25.1 during the playoffs which is essentially 3rd best in the post-season among meaningful players (4th LeBron, 6th Curry).
Let's not forget, IF Draymond Green doesn't get suspended for Game 5, along with the injury to Andrew Bogut, the Cavaliers likely don't win a Championship last year. The Cavaliers are clearly a very good team, and LeBron is one of the all-time greats, (NO not the GOAT - that still belongs to Jordan) but we have to factor in they are playing in the watered-down Eastern Conference. To make our point about the strength of the two conferences we'll use some basic math and percentages. The six best NON-conference records in the NBA this season all belong to Western Conference teams and those six teams beat the East at a 71% rate. In fact, the Cavs 16-14 non-conference record (versus Western teams) is 12th best in the NBA. If we equate that 53.3% winning percentage and place them in the West this year they would have gone 28-24 in the Western Conference. Then we factor in their 67% winning percentage against the East and they would have gone 20-10 in those games. Combined that would make them 48-34 on the year, good for 6th overall in the Western Conference and barely better than Oklahoma City.
In summary the Warriors have depth to defend LeBron James with Iguodala, Durant, Matt Barnes and Draymond Green and can change up defensive looks throughout games. JaVale McGee gives them a rim-protector they didn't have last season when Bogut was injured. Pachulia is a physical presence that can neutralize Tristan Thompson on the offensive glass. Offensively the Warriors were the #1 ranked regular season offensive efficiency team in the league averaging 1.156 points per possession. In the playoffs they have improved that number to 1.181PPP and that uptick comes after playing the Spurs and Jazz who were 1st and 3rd in defensive efficiency ratings. Golden State has too many options for a poor defensive Cavs or any other team in the NBA to contend with. If Klay Thompson can dial in his shot starting in Game 1 then we'll predict a 5 game series at most and wouldn't be surprised with a sweep.