Every Team That Could Actually Challenge the Warriors in 2018

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It’s tough to bet against the Golden State Warriors going into the 2018-19 NBA season.

The defending champs have won two straight championships since Kevin Durant came to town, and it really doesn’t look like they plan on stopping.

Golden State swept the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals last year and seemed bored at times in doing so. Then they went out and got even better, landing a stud center in DeMarcus Cousins.

Even without Boogie, the Dubs appeared to be daunting and the top team in the Western Conference. With a healthy Cousins in tow, it’s tough to rationalize someone else winning the Finals next summer.

But we have to try.

Golden State offers little value for sports bettors (-150 favorites at Sportsbetting.ag), and so many other teams have NBA Finals odds that demand a wager. Only so many are truly viable wagers, though.

Here are the teams you actually want to consider betting on, should you wager cash on teams outside the Dubs to win it all this year.

All odds that are referenced in this article were taken from Sportsbetting.ag on 7/25/2018. These odds may have changed since the time of this writing.

Philadelphia 76ers (+1400)

The 76ers enjoyed quite the turnaround last year, leaning on the duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to take the league by storm.

Philly turned into a very dangerous and dynamic team that can carve you up on the inside or destroy you from long range. When a healthy Embiid was on the floor, they were even tough defensively at times.

This is a young team, but they’re easily among the most talented rosters in the NBA as they stand. The Sixers did lose some shooting and depth, but their starting five projects as one that can match up with anyone defensively and can also shoot the lights out.

If Markelle Fultz can ever rediscover the form that made him a #1 overall pick, Philly could morph into a champion over the next season.

Either way, they absolutely have the goods to be the best team in an Eastern Conference that gets blown wide open by LeBron James’ departure to La La Land.

Toronto Raptors (+1200)

The Raptors were truly the best team in the Eastern Conference a year ago.

Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan could always cook defenses with their elite isolation scoring, but Dwane Casey finally taught this team how to share the rock, and it led to 59 wins and the best record in the east.

Toronto couldn’t get past LeBron James and the Cavs, though, which led to Casey – the league’s Coach of the Year, mind you – getting canned.

While that was a bit rash, Toronto took it one step further by breaking up their roster with a huge trade involving DeRozan and Kawhi Leonard.

There is a very real chemistry concern here, while you also have to consider that Leonard really didn’t want to go to Canada and played just nine games last year due to injury.

Nobody can project the new NBA season without admitting that, but a healthy and dialed-in Leonard without a doubt makes this version of the Raptors better than the one of a year ago.

DeRozan was an elite isolation scorer, but he didn’t offer a reliable three-point shot and wasn’t a high-level defender. Leonard does and is, while he can also carry an entire offense and create for others.

The Raptors also landed a viable two-way guard in Danny Green with that trade, while they still retain the rest of the roster that won 59 games last season.

This all just comes down to Leonard’s health and mentality.

If Leonard is on the court and actually cares, the Raptors figure to offer insane value at +1200.

Los Angeles Lakers (+850)

Do I really think the Lakers are about to knock off the Dubs? No, but anytime you have LeBron James, you have to be taken somewhat seriously.

James is not going to have it easy in the Western Conference. He will probably have to run into the Houston Rockets or another viable threat before getting/having to face Golden State.

That’s if this marriage even works out swimmingly in year one. Everyone automatically assumes the Lakers will now be in the playoff hunt, but they’ve surrounded James with a litany of non-shooters.

On paper, James does inherit a way more talented supporting cast than he had in his final days in Ohio. However, guys like Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma are all still young and in a lot of ways just not ready for the NBA’s biggest stage.

Perhaps that’s why veterans like Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are here: to close the gap.

I think the Lakers get to the playoffs and sniff a Finals trip, but this may be a two-year process. Still, a LeBron James-led roster has +850 odds to win a title. That’s not a terrible flier bet.

Houston Rockets (+600)

Houston remains Golden State’s stiffest competitor in the Western Conference.

Chris Paul returned to Texas to join James Harden, the Rockets brought in Carmelo Anthony, and I’m sure they’ll hold onto star two-way center Clint Capela.

To me, all of that is more than enough to fend off the Lakers or anyone else out west, while Houston had the Dubs on the ropes last year, up 3-2 in the WCF.

Health is going to be the deciding factor here, as Chris Paul has had really bad luck late in the year. His absence is probably why the Rockets didn’t win a title last season.

That’s how it went down, though, while you also have to look at Melo’s potential impact. If an aging isolation scorer couldn’t help the Thunder, is he really a lock to be a perfect fit for Houston?

I’m not sold, but the Rockets as a whole still have the team capable of competing with and besting the Dubs.

I’ll truly believe it when I see it, but at +600, the Rockets are easily the second-best wager out of the Western Conference.

Boston Celtics (+550)

LeBron James left Ohio, and now the Eastern Conference is officially wide open.

You can say someone in the Western Conference will take down the Dubs, but in all likelihood, the best bet is whoever meets Golden State in the Finals doing so.

While I’m slightly interested in the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers, I think the natural progression of the league gives way to a healthy Celtics team taking that next step.

After all, the Celtics were one game from reaching the Finals last year, and they didn’t even have Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward on the court.

This year, they will. The Celtics will be at full strength and across the board will have more experience, depth, and star power than anyone else in this conference.

If you’re looking for someone to knock off the Dubs, this is it.

Can Anyone Beat Golden State?

When I started to look at the field going into next year, I wanted to eliminate teams like the Washington Wizards, Denver Nuggets, and others.

These are competent, dangerous teams, but they’re not really realistic options to dethrone the Dubs.

I think bettors are looking at just five realistic options to take down the Dubs.

The crazy thing here is that you’re betting on next year’s champion. The Rockets or Lakers could end up shocking everyone and taking out Golden State, only to enter the Finals exhausted and bow out to the Celtics, Raptors, or 76ers.

I’m not taking the Lakers really seriously yet. LeBron James changes things, but they really need to prove themselves. As I’ve said, every single team here is worth a flier bet, but if you’re not betting on every team, they’re one I’d probably steer clear of for now.

If it isn’t going to be Golden State coming out of the west, it has to be the Rockets.

Houston has gotten to the Western Conference Finals twice now and seems ready for that next step. I don’t think they’ll get it done, but they’re not a bad bet and right now are 100% the Warriors’ main threat inside the conference.

Where it gets tricky is the other side. The Eastern Conference is wide open, but it’s still probably down to the three teams listed here. I’ll rank them Boston, Toronto, and Philly for now.

All three are extremely dangerous and capable of proving everyone wrong. However, come playoff time, mental strength, experience, coaching, depth, and star power are all pretty huge assets.

Of that crop, the Celtics have everything they need in spades.

If I’m going against the Dubs, Boston at +550 is without a doubt my favorite wager. After that, I’m going to be warming up to the Raptors. Kawhi Leonard is a former champion, and he really could make a huge difference for an already strong Raptors team. At +1200, Toronto is clearly the best overall value on the board.

Noting the top challenger and best value is important, but I still don’t think anyone but the Warriors is winning this year. This is a flat-out dynasty at this point, and winning a third consecutive title will only cement that.

Kevin Durant has found his groove, and this team brought in DeMarcus Cousins to provide an insane upgrade at center. If they’re healthy, I just don’t see how anyone beats them.

PICK Golden State Warriors-150

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