Following this past weekend’s All-Star break, the NBA kicks-off the second half of this season’s 66-game abbreviated schedule, making it an excellent time to take a closer look at a few of the top contenders in the Western Conference along with their current odds as provided by Bovada to make it all the way to this year’s NBA Finals.
The Oklahoma City Thunder remain the odds-on-favorite to win the West at 5/4 and considering that it had the best record conference at 27-7 over the first half of the season, they have certainly lived-up to expectations. The Thunder are ranked third in the NBA in scoring with an average of 102.7 points a game and have a healthy scoring differential of + 6.44.
There is little doubt that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are the driving force behind this team’s success with a combined 51.4 points, 12.9 rebounds and 8.9 assists a game, but James Harden is averaging 16.8 points a game off the bench and Serge Ibaka continues to play well underneath with 7.7 rebounds a game. This team is also very deep with eight players logging at least 20 minutes a game. This combination of talent, youth, and depth make Oklahoma City almost a lock to get as far as the conference finals this year.
The West is filled with more pretenders than contenders these days, but the one team that could give the Thunder a legitimate run for the title is the San Antonio Spurs at 11/2. They went into the All-Star break with a 12-1 record in their last 13 games to boost their overall record to 24-10. The Spurs are 13-1 at home this season, but recently proved they can win on the road with an 8-1 record in a recent nine-game road trip.
Past failings in the playoffs aside, the combination of longtime veterans Tony Parker and Tim Duncan appear to be gearing-up for possibly one last run towards a championship. DeJuan Blair and Richard Jefferson have done a good job in supporting roles, but the long-term health of Manu Ginobili, who has only played in nine games so far, could be a huge factor in how far this team eventually goes.
The new and improved Los Angeles Clippers also at 11/2 offer some solid value if Chris Paul and Blake Griffin continue to develop as one of the top two-man tandems in the league, but if you are looking for value in a team with deeper odds then strongly consider the defending conference and NBA champion Dallas Mavericks at 7/1. They finished the first half of the season at 21-13 to keep the Spurs well within striking distance in the Southwest Division and should occupy one of the top four seeds come playoff time.
Nobody saw this team coming last season at the halfway point and Dallas has played its way into the same spot this year. Dirk Nowitzki is having an off-year and the struggling offense is ranked 17th in the NBA in scoring, but the Mavs’ continue to win much more often than they lose. This is a veteran bunch that already knows what it takes to win the conference and the addition of Lamar Odom and Delonte West have provided some addition depth for this year’s run to the title.
DJ is a freelance writer that concentrates on his true passion in life; the world of sports. He produces a number of articles each week for BangTheBook.com as well as a select group of other websites that specialize in providing the most up-to-date information for the sports gaming industry. His goal is to write insightful articles on a wide variety of sporting topics that can provide an edge to today's sophisticated online player.