The Golden State Warriors have the highest over/under win total for the 2017-18 NBA season with a historically ambitious 67.5, according to the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook (via Ben Fawkes of ESPN.com).
Betting the over means you think the Dubs will somehow have a better season than last year. As a reminder, they won 67 games, posted the league's top offense and No. 2 defense and waltzed to a title with just one playoff loss.
Better than that? Ludicrous, right?
Wrong. Get your money down on that over, because one of the greatest teams of all time can easily be greater.
Consider first the chemistry.
This will be the second year of Kevin Durant's tenure with the Warriors, and though his first went smoothly except for a couple of on-court miscommunications, it's still reasonable to think he and the rest of the Warriors will improve their cohesiveness this coming season. Part of it is natural; the longer players share the floor in practice and games, the better they understand one another. The more instinctive their actions within the scheme become, the greater the unspoken connectivity between superstars.
We saw this start to happen during the 2016-17 season.
Before Christmas, the Warriors posted a plus-17.5 net rating with Durant and Stephen Curry sharing the floor. After the holiday meeting with the Cleveland Cavaliers, in which Curry scored just 15 points and took heat for his off-ball role and deferential play, Golden State underwent a change.
"I think it showed us how aggressive we needed him to be," Draymond Green told Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post. "It really just showed us and Steph, 'We need you to be aggressive at all times, and everything else will flow from there.'"
Curry and Durant bumped their on-court figure up to plus-20.3 after Christmas. And though many attribute the improvement to Curry taking on a more forceful role in the offense, it's important to note that January was also Durant's best month of the season.
So as Curry took on more ball-handling duties and ran the offense with greater frequency, Durant found room to flourish, averaging 27.4 points per game on 56.5 percent shooting in those 14 January games. An injury derailed most of KD's second half, but it was clear the Dubs had found the right balance between their two superstars.
Beyond developing chemistry, Golden State is now deeper than it was a year ago, having added new ingredients to the mixture.
Omri Casspi and Nick Young offer more length, experience and shooting than the Warriors' second unit mustered last season. Throw in growth from second-year wing Patrick McCaw and the wild optimism surrounding rookie Jordan Bell's defensive potential and every other meaningful rotation player returning, and you've got options like the Dubs have never known.
Room to Improve
A deeper look at last year's numbers also portends improvement.
After crushing the league with a plus-40.2 clutch net rating in 2015-16 (that is not a typo), Golden State crumbled in close-and-late situations, barfing up a minus-12.6 last year. This is an organization with few flaws to address and also one keenly aware of its advanced metrics. It might only take better luck and the aforementioned improved chemistry to get Golden State's Death Lineup back into murderous form. But when you also consider how easy it is for this near-perfect team to isolate and address a single flaw—late-game execution—there's no way the Warriors fall short like that again.
This seems like a good time to mention that head coach Steve Kerr kept the Curry-Durant 1-3 pick-and-roll up his sleeve all season, only breaking it out against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals. It was brutally and predictably unstoppable, as Scott Rafferty broke down for Sporting News.
Ignore the miss in that second clip. That is a shot the Warriors will take every day of the week. Bust that 1-3 pick-and-roll out when in need of a bucket, and it solves every clutch problem.
And if you're looking for ways to pick up the one extra win necessary to bump the total from 67 to 68, expecting better than a 4-9 record in games within five points in the last five minutes is a good place to start.
Fresh Meat for the Feast
Finally, let's not underestimate the motivational potential of new challengers.
Practically speaking, the rebuilt Houston Rockets and juiced-up Oklahoma City Thunder could amass enough wins to keep the Warriors from coasting late in the year. Under normal circumstances, Golden State could expect to sew up the West's top seed with 62 or 63 wins and then chill for the final two weeks of the season. But with so much new in-conference firepower, there's a greater chance the Warriors have no choice but to stay engaged until closer to season's end if they want to lock down home-court advantage.
And from a competitive standpoint, these newly upgraded challengers should keep the Warriors' edge sharper than it otherwise would have been. Sure, the Dubs always have to worry about the San Antonio Spurs, but now they'll be eager to smash these fresh and much-hyped foes.
It's easy for the Warriors to preach big-picture concerns and commit to resting key players after three runs to the Finals. But when Chris Paul and James Harden show up on the schedule, does anyone expect Golden State's biggest talents to maintain long-range perspective? And when Russell Westbrook, Paul George and the retooled Thunder roll into Oakland, won't the Warriors want to inform them—rudely—who still runs things in the West?
It won't be difficult for the Warriors to stoke their competitive fires. New and improved opponents provide plenty of fuel.
Don't Overthink It
Pulling back, 68 wins is a lot. Like, a lot.
Considering the Warriors know how dangerous it is to prioritize the regular season after winning a title (see: 73 victories and no ring in 2015-16), maybe they'll deliberately coast and not even care about seeding. Maybe injuries crop up. Maybe Andre Iguodala slips. Maybe Curry, who'll turn 30 before the end of the season, will show signs of decline, too.
But this team is so talented, so deep and so obviously poised to improve its chemistry and late-game production that several things could go sideways and still not do enough damage to keep the win total under 70.
Do you really want to bet against a dynasty that hasn't peaked yet? One that has averaged 69 wins over the last three years? One that won't go wanting for motivation, despite its demonstrated dominance?