We are heading into the NBA Conference Finals, where the number of championship contenders has shrunk but the speculation has grown exponentially. There’s no shortage of factors to consider when looking at the championship odds for Golden State, Portland, Toronto, and Milwaukee. How will these matchups play out? When will Kevin Durant return? Could we see DeMarcus Cousins again this postseason? Can the Bucks take it all the way?
All of those questions have a common theme: Can anyone knock off the Warriors?
That’s essentially what this article aims to explore. Is there still value in backing the defending champions, or should we look towards the usurpers for a higher payout?
The Championship Odds
Here are each remaining team’s odds to win the NBA championship, taken before Golden State’s Game 1 victory in the Western Conference Finals:
- Golden State -165
- Milwaukee +230
- Toronto +800
- Portland +1600
The Warriors opened the season with the best odds at +125. Those who backed Milwaukee prior to the season are sitting on fantastic value, as the Bucks were +7500 in the preseason. For comparison, Portland was +10000 and Toronto checked-in with +6000 odds in October.
The Conference Finals
The Conference Finals at the start of the round:
- EAST – Milwaukee -275
- EAST – Toronto +240
- WEST – Golden State -550
- WEST – Portland +450
The odds like Milwaukee to win in five games, as that outcome has a +275 line. Milwaukee in seven (+300) and six (+450) are next in line.
The most likely outcome for the Western Conference Finals is Golden State in five games. Those odds currently rest at +225. Golden State in seven (+325) and six games (+350) represent the next most likely scenarios, according to the odds.
Durant did not play in the first game of the Western Conference Finals. It’s not likely that he’ll participate in Game 2 either. Beyond that, we aren’t really sure of his status. People looking to back Golden State need to ask themselves this question: Can the Warriors get it done without Durant if needed? The answer is “probably” when looking at the series against Portland, but a potential meeting with the Bucks could be tricky if KD is less than 100%.
Cousins is officially out until May 20, which means he’ll miss the first four games of the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors will likely take it day-by-day from there, using a blend of necessity with an obvious close eye on Cousins’ ability to play. If you are interested in taking the Warriors, it’s best to take a conservative approach while not expecting the big man to have a significant impact in the rest of this postseason. Essentially, it would be a bonus if he returns and is healthy enough to make a meaningful impact.
The Best Value
This obviously depends on if you already hold a futures ticket involving one of these four teams. If that’s the case, you’ll want to consider hedging at these current prices.
However, for those looking to make an independent wager ahead of the Conference Finals, I believe Milwaukee +230 to win the championship is a pretty sharp bet.
Even though the oddsmakers haven’t displayed much concern in Durant’s injury, his health could become a glaring issue in a potential Finals meeting between Milwaukee and Golden State. I’m not overlooking Toronto, but the Bucks have everything necessary to counter the Raptors’ strengths.
Milwaukee has been the most consistent team all season. They carry numerous matchup advantages on offense while also holding a top-five defense that is excellent on the perimeter (Hint: that will come in handy for a potential date with the Warriors).
Yes, it was impressive to see Golden State put away Houston on the road without Durant. However, I believe that speaks more towards the Rockets’ shortcomings than the Warriors’ strengths. Milwaukee has been the strongest, most consistent team throughout the regular season and playoffs.
From here, I’m looking to bet on Milwaukee anywhere around +200 or better. It becomes more of a decision as we move closer to the +175 to +190 territory, but I would still accept the higher range of those lines. The value will deteriorate after the Bucks win a game or two in the Eastern Conference Finals, so now is the time to jump if you are considering the Milwaukee bandwagon.
Spencer Limbach is a featured writer at BettingPros and FantasyPros. For more from Spencer, check out his archive and follow him @spencer_jl.