The NBA’s Western Conference has belonged to the Golden State Warriors for the last few years. Steve Kerr’s Warriors won the Finals again in 2018 to make it three championships in four years.
There has been change aplenty in the West, though, with Carmelo Anthony leaving the Thunder to join the Rockets, Jimmy Butler handing in a trade request and, most importantly, LeBron James making the Los Angeles Lakers contenders again.
Whatever anyone else does, the Warriors are the team to beat. Here are a few thoughts and tips on each division…
The Northwest Division is loaded with talent. Four of the five made the playoffs last season with the remaining team, the Denver Nuggets, only missing out because of final game defeat to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
It’s not impossible, though unlikely, that all five make the playoffs this term. The Thunder, having resigned Paul George, are probably in the strongest position of all, though.
Russell Westbrook and George have had a year to work together now and added the gifted Dennis Schroder. The departure of Anthony is unlikely to be seen as a negative after the troubles the Thunder had last season.
The Thunder to win over 49.5 games at 9/10 looks a good price.
The Portland Trail Blazers were the Western Conference’s breakout team last season. Dame Lillard was immense, but they limped out of the playoffs in the first round. With their hands tied by the salary cap, Portland bring a similar team back for this season.
The Trail Blazers may well be the odd team out this year. Their 11/20 price to not make the playoffs is on the short side, however.
Tom Thibodeau’s Minnesota Timberwolves got into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth. With Butler still set to be traded, it’s hard to see them making it back to the postseason.
The 5/4 on the T-Wolves to miss out is an excellent price. They are unlikely to get anything near value for Butler, and their young duo, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, have a long way to go before Minnesota are a contender.
Led by the versatile Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets are one of the NBA’s most intriguing teams.
They added Isaiah Thomas, moved Wilson Chandler and managed to draft the gifted, but injury troubled, Michael Porter Jr. Denver won 46 games last season. The 3/5 price to win over 46.5 this time around is a good one.
Much like the Blazers, the Utah Jazz were a surprise last season. Utah were just a game off the third seed and upset the Thunder in the first round. In Donovan Mitchell, Utah have one of the sport’s most dynamic players.
In Rudy Gobert, they have one of the best defenders. The offseason was a quiet one for the Jazz but, crucially, they kept their roster together.
Dante Exum, Derrick Favors and Raul Neto were all free agents, and resigned in Utah. Team chemistry played a big part in their success last season. Maintaining that is as important as anything.
TIP: Minnesota Timberwolves to miss the playoffs @ 5/4
The Golden State Warriors were the only playoff team in the Pacific. They added DeMarcus Cousins in the offseason, but the All-Star centre is unavailable for at least the first few weeks of the season. The other four All-Stars, though, are all fit.
The Warriors are 1/2 to win the title. Health, it seems, is the only thing that can stop Kerr’s collection of stars winning another ring.
After an up and down regular season last time, though, the 7/20 price to win the West is probably on the short side.
LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers are way in at 11/50 to make the playoffs. The Lakers made a lot of changes in the offseason and could start slowly.
A playoff spot is as good as guaranteed with LeBron around, but how competitive they are will depend a lot on the performances of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma.
Ingram, in particular, should benefit from LeBron’s arrival and could have a big year.
Playing in a relatively weak division should benefit the Lakers. Their 9/10 price to win over 48.5 games is worth consideration.
Some half-time reading for any #NBA fans out there... 🏀— 888sport (@888sport) August 11, 2018
James Harden worth backing to win back-to-back MVP awards? Our writer seems to think so.
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Outside of the big two, the Phoenix Suns are the team with most to be positive about. That’s weird to say, given that they sacked their general manager eight days before the season and their star man, Devin Booker, is out with an injured hand.
The Suns had an eventful summer. Trevor Ariza is a good complementary acquisition, while DeAndre Ayton is going to be fun to watch. Ayton went number one overall in the draft and is 6/4 to win Rookie of the Year.
Adding a point guard remains key. If Phoenix do that, their 27/25 to win over 29.5 games will look a steal.
The Sacramento Kings are still in the midst of a rebuild. Marvin Bagley III gives a reason to watch them this year, but that’s about it. Sacramento will be happy enough with another high draft pick. Winning under 26.5 games at 9/10 is not a bad price.
The Clippers are believed to still be in the race for Butler, which would change their situation drastically.
A playoff spot is possible with Butler, but very unlikely without him. The Clippers are likely going to be competing with Phoenix for the third spot in the Pacific.
TIP: Phoenix Suns to win over 29.5 games @ 27/25
Houston pipped Golden State to the number one seed out West.
James Harden and co. took the Warriors all the way to Game Seven of the Conference Finals, but a combination of misfortune and badly timed slumps ended their season.
The Rockets have added Carmelo Anthony in the offseason. How Carmelo adapts will be crucial for Houston, particularly after losing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah A Moute.
Houston’s defence was less than stellar last year and it’s only going to get worse. Evens on the Rockets to win under 55.5 games is a good price.
The San Antonio Spurs were at the centre of the offseason’s biggest trade. DeMar DeRozan joined Gregg Popovich’s Spurs from Toronto, with Kawhi Leonard heading the other way.
The Spurs made the playoffs without Leonard last year and are a good price at 11/20 to make it this year.
The news of Dejounte Murray’s ACL tear on Monday changes things slightly, but a healthy DeRozan with LaMarcus Aldridge and Popovich at the helm should be enough for San Antonio to play in the postseason.
LeBron James ➡️ Los Angeles Lakers— 888sport (@888sport) July 18, 2018
DeMarcus Cousins ➡️ Golden State Warriors
Kawhi Leonard ➡️ Toronto Raptors
DeMar DeRozan ➡️ San Antonio Spurs
Tony Parker ➡️ Charlotte Hornets
Never a dull moment in the #NBA! 🏀 pic.twitter.com/z0VxLUDxHR
Anthony Davis’ New Orleans Pelicans are a hard team to call this year. They have added Julius Randle, but the losses of Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins will hurt.
Davis probably needs to play at MVP-level for the Pelicans to be anything other than a borderline playoff team. We know he’s capable of it, which is why he’s 5/1 to win the award.
The Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks could upset a few this year. Dallas drafted Luka Doncic, and Memphis have talent in Marc Gasol and Mike Conley.
If Conley and Gasol stay healthy, Memphis could take a few games off the big boys in the Southwest Division.
Dallas could, despite their 13/2 price, be a playoff team. A lot depends how good Doncic is, but if he lives up to the billing, the Mavericks are a threat.
Dennis Smith Jr. has been brilliant in preseason, and DeAndre Jordan gives a presence in the paint.
TIP: Luka Doncic to win Rookie of the Year @ 9/4
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*