Fast forward to June. After a regular-season marathon and a long run through the playoffs, Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors will take the floor with another shot to win the NBA title.
A year after getting nosed at the wire in a Game 7 loss to Cleveland, Curry will be eyeing revenge. This time, he’s rolling with Kevin Durant and a so-called superteam.
Is it possible the Warriors will fall short again?
“I would be extremely surprised,” Westgate sports book manager Jeff Sherman said. “Golden State is as good of a team as I’ve ever seen put together. All things being equal, it will be tough for any team to beat them in seven games.”
The Warriors will mean to this NBA season what the Kardashians mean to reality TV — like them or not, it will be tough not to watch. It also will be really tough for the rest of the league to keep up with Curry, Durant and Klay Thompson.
Golden State is a minus-150 favorite (2-3 odds) to win the championship, with LeBron James and the Cavaliers the second choice at 11-4 odds.
“The Cavs are kind of a distant second,” Sportsmemo.com handicapper Erin Rynning said.
A season after winning a record 73 regular-season games, the Warriors’ win total of 66½ is attracting strong two-way betting action. Sherman said he expects the public to play Golden State at inflated point spreads right out of the gate, at least until bettors get burned.
Opening night in the NBA arrives Tuesday, when the Cavaliers are 9½-point home favorites over the New York Knicks and the Warriors are 8½-point home favorites over the San Antonio Spurs. Fast forwarding to June would be a mistake, though, because several dramatic moments will unfold between now and then. And injuries could change everything.
Aside from the Warriors and Cavaliers, here are five reasons to watch this season:
■ Gregg Popovich can coach up an improved Spurs team with the potential to win the Western Conference.
Rumors are circulating that power forward LaMarcus Aldridge is unhappy playing second fiddle to Kawhi Leonard in San Antonio, and Aldridge wants to be traded. But he has denied the rumors. Pau Gasol was added to the front line, and Tim Duncan was subtracted after retiring. The Spurs have holes, and their guards don’t match up well with Golden State, but their win total of 57½ is the league’s second highest for a reason.
■ Are the Knicks true contenders in the East?
New York acquired point guard Derrick Rose in a trade with Chicago. Rose called the Knicks a “superteam” — along with the Warriors — because he’s joining forces with Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Joakim Noah. Oddsmakers opened a total of 38½ on the Knicks, and the public has bet it to 40½. Few sharp bettors are taking this team seriously. Boston, with a win total of 52½, is a true contender with Cleveland.
■ Dwyane Wade took his talents from South Beach and is returning home to Chicago, but is there hope?
The Bulls’ win total of 39½ indicates they are considered a fringe playoff team. Sherman said he expects Wade, who’s 34 and wearing down, to miss around 15 games. Jimmy Butler is a capable team leader. But Rajon Rondo is a problematic point guard, and Fred Hoiberg has a lot to prove as an inexperienced NBA coach.
“I’m not crazy about the Bulls, but I probably like them better than the Knicks,” Rynning said. “I don’t like Rondo, I don’t like their coach and I don’t like Wade. But the Bulls probably have a better chance of coming together than the Knicks.”
■ Minnesota and Utah are rising fast in the West.
Gordon Hayward leads a Jazz team loaded with talent, and they pushed the Warriors last season. The same goes for Andrew Wiggins and the Timberwolves, who are young and restless but guided by new no-nonsense coach Tom Thibodeau.
Utah’s win total (47½) calls for a big leap from its 40-42 finish last season. Oddsmakers set Minnesota, which won 29 last season, at 41½ wins.
■ Russell Westbrook is ready to run wild.
Oklahoma City won 55 games and reached the West finals last season with Durant and Westbrook. With the duo divorced, the Thunder’s win total is 45. Westbrook, a shoot-first point guard who no longer needs to worry about Durant’s ego, could lead the league in scoring.
Contact sports betting reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. Follow @mattyoumans247 on Twitter.
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