Surprise, surprise, the Golden State Warriors are favored to win the NBA title with the stretch run of the season on its way.
The latest Bovada odds to win the Larry O'Brien Trophy list the two-time defending champions at minus-230 (bet $100 to win $43.48), well ahead of the rest of the league. The Toronto Raptors (+750), Boston Celtics (+950), Milwaukee Bucks (+950) and Philadelphia 76ers (+1000) round out the top five, underscoring the fact that the Warriors' biggest challengers aren't even in the Western Conference.
It is no surprise the Warriors are the favorites given recent history and their loaded lineup. Their crunch-time lineup can consist of someone who has reached three or more All-Star Games at every position if head coach Steve Kerr plays Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins.
Golden State can beat teams outside with lethal shooting from Curry, Thompson and Durant, beat teams with its dribble penetration with Curry and Durant, or even have Green serve as a facilitator from the high elbow and Cousins overpower defenders on the blocks.
There is no realistic counter to the Warriors, which is a primary reason they have won three titles in the last four years.
The intrigue comes in the Eastern Conference, as evidenced by the next four teams. Postseason showdowns between the Celtics, Bucks, Raptors and 76ers will feature star power with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and others, regional rivalries and the right to take the conference crown from LeBron James.
James reached the last eight NBA Finals from the East but is now in the West on the Los Angeles Lakers.
It is a testament to his individual brilliance and consistency come playoff time the Lakers are sixth on this list and ahead of every Western Conference team except Golden State. Los Angeles wouldn't even be in the playoffs if the season ended Monday, as James and Co. are three games behind the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers.
James is facing an uphill battle just to reach the playoffs, but Las Vegas clearly still believes in him more than potential Warriors challengers in the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder.