NBA Western Conference Playoffs Preview

The 2018 NBA Playoffs begin this weekend. That means playoff seedings are set. What’s interesting about this year’s NBA Playoffs as opposed to the past couple of seasons in the NBA is that the Golden State Warriors aren’t as huge of a lock to win the NBA Championship.

Golden State is at 5 to 4 to repeat as NBA Champions. Before the season started, the Warriors were 3 to 5 shots. At one point, they had fallen all the way to 1 to 2 in some sportsbooks. That’s insanely low betting odds on a team to win one of the major sports league titles.

Check out info on each team before I lay out some of my thoughts on the NBA Western Conference Playoffs.

2018 NBA Western Conference Playoffs Preview

Golden State Warriors               5/4

The Golden State Warriors have every right to be 5 to 4 chalks to win the NBA Championship. Golden State will be the 2-seed in the Western Conference. No matter. The Warriors were only 7.5 games behind the Houston Rockets and they suffered injuries to every one of their star players this season.

In fact, Steph Curry, Golden State’s best player, won’t be back until late April. Once Steph returns, Golden State becomes the best overall team in the NBA. 5 to 4 odds might just be a gift to many NBA handicappers. To me? Not so much. Finish reading about the other teams in the playoffs before getting to why I’m not in love with the Golden State Warriors to win it all.

Houston Rockets                          9/5

The Rockets are the 1-seed in the Western Conference. Houston has a great tradition of upsetting the top team in the West. Remember the teams led by Rudy Tomjanovich and the great Hakeem Olajuwon? They routinely beat squads like the Spurs and David Robinson, and the Lakers and Magic Johnson.

Could this be one of those seasons where the Rockets, as a slight underdog, takes down the best team in the NBA? It most definitely could. Houston is a well-coached squad that’s playing defense better this season than it has in the past 3 seasons. Coach Mike D’Antoni has the best defensive team he’s ever had in his coaching career.

Oklahoma City Thunder         40/1

Oklahoma City’s Big 3 was supposed to put the Thunder into a position to upset Golden State for the NBA Championship. The Big 3:  Carmelo Anthony, reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook, and Paul “PG-13” George, haven’t dominated the way that OKC fans thought they would going into the season.  That doesn’t mean Oklahoma City won’t step it up during the playoffs.

It does mean that the Thunder must change something to beat both Houston and Golden State to win the Western Conference Playoffs. Based on that tough road, OKC might be an underlay at 40 to 1 odds.

Portland Trailblazers              50/1

Portland is a good basketball team. The Trailblazers starting back court of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum rivals the starting back courts in Toronto, and in Houston. That’s how dominant Lillard and McCollum can be when everything’s working for the Trailblazers.

Portland’s biggest issue heading into the playoffs is that they’ve been cold. Before their final regular season game of the season, versus the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, April 11, the Blazers have lost 4 straight. Granted, the 4 straight losses were all on the road. Still, 4 straight losses are 4 straight losses.

One saving grace for Portland during the losing streak is that Houston only beat them by 2 points, 96 to 94, on April 5.

Utah Jazz                                      50/1

If you’re a Utah fan, you must like how the Jazz have bumped up their scoring average per game without sacrificing what they do on defense. The Jazz only allow 99.8 points per game. That ranks 2nd in the NBA. Utah averages 104.3 points per.  That ranks 19th in the NBA.

The secret to Utah’s success is that they’ve got a real point-guard to distribute to big men Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. Gobert is an imposing force. The point-guard, Ricky Rubio, can also score and grab boards.

San Antonio Spurs                    75/1

The Spurs were an 18 to 1 third choice to win the NBA Championship before the season started. San Antonio is no longer such a short-priced favorite. What happened to San Antonio this season? Their best player, Kawhi Leonard, has been out for the entire season.

Leonard won’t suddenly suit it up for the playoffs. Even if he does, San Antonio just doesn’t have enough in 2018 to upset Houston or Golden State in the Western Conference Playoffs. Even if a miracle happened and the Spurs did win the West, they’d face an uphill battle versus the team they faced in this year’s NBA Finals.

Just making the playoffs without Kawhi stepping onto the court is a huge accomplishment for the San Antonio Spurs.  Coach Gregg Popovich knows this. He’ll use it to motivate the Spurs next season.

New Orleans Pelicans          250/1

The odds on the New Orleans Pelicans to win the NBA Championship this season are anywhere from 250 to 1 to 300 to 1. It depends on which sportsbook you check. The true odds on New Orleans to win the NBA Championship are probably closer to 500 to 1. The Pelicans just don’t have the right mix of players to challenge for the NBA title.

Minnesota Timberwolves / Denver Nuggets

I’m writing this on Wednesday morning before the final NBA Regular Season games have been played. The 8-seed in the Western Conference Playoffs will be either Minnesota or Denver. Neither team should upset Houston in Round 1 of the NBA Western Conference Playoffs.

Minnesota is without their best player, Jimmy Butler. Denver has been hot. They don’t have a star player that can get them past Houston. No matter which team ends up with the 8-seed, the Rockets figure to sweep that hoops squad in Round 1.

Team that Offers the Most Value:  Houston Rockets

9/5 odds aren’t bad odds on the top seed in the Western Conference. Houston has really stepped it up on the defensive side of the ball this season. Opponents average 104 points per game versus the Rockets. That ranks 7th in the NBA. Because Houston scores over 112 points per, the Rockets often win their games.

The real reason to like Houston is that they went 2 and 1 straight up versus the Warriors during the regular season. Unlike the Eastern Conference Playoffs, the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors are the only two teams in the Western Conference Playoffs that can make it to the NBA Finals. Houston not only offers better odds than Golden State, they also beat Golden State in 2 of 3 head-to-head match ups.

NBA handicappers that can get anything close to 9/5 on the Rockets should consider them a decent betting option.

Single-Digit Odds Throw Out:  Golden State Warriors

Can the Warriors repeat as NBA Champions? Yes, they can. Will the Warriors repeat as NBA Champions? Maybe. Probably. The odds say they will.

Why then are they a throw out? The Golden State Warriors are a throw out to win the NBA Championship because this season things are slightly different enough to make them a throw out. You only want to wager on chalk when you’re positive about the chalk’s chances of winning.

Golden State is a 5 to 4 chalk that didn’t even win the top seed in their conference. Not only that, but even if they beat Houston and win the Western Conference, they’re likely to face the Warrior-killer, LeBron James, in the NBA Finals.

The final reason to not like the Golden State Warriors is that Kevin Durant is already looking to redo his deal with the Warriors. KD’s mind isn’t even on basketball.

With A Lot of Luck:  Portland Trailblazers

The Blazers would need a ton of luck, a massive amount of luck, probably the amount of luck you could fit in Trump Tower to beat both Golden State and Houston in the Western Conference Playoffs.

Think about the amount of luck it would take for the Portland Trailblazers to win the NBA Championship? With that being written, Portland’s got a few elements that make them a contender.  First, they’ve got one of the best back courts in the NBA. Second, Damian Lillard can play with guys like James Harden and Steph Curry. Third, Portland’s got a decent front court in Al-Farouq Aminu, Evan Turner, and Jusuf Nurkic.

Portland most likely won’t get close to the NBA Finals. However, after the Rockets and Warriors, Portland has the best chance of winning the Western Conference Playoffs. The makes the Trailblazers a decent long shot proposition to win the 2018 NBA Championship.

What do you think?

Written by D.S. Williamson