Last night's game between the two top teams in the NBA - the Warriors and the Spurs - raised a few questions for me, questions whose answers will play out over the next few months. For the Warriors, the question I have is whether they can continue to exploit an interior defense that features two engaged defensive-minded big men (Tim Duncan was ineffective, and LaMarcus Aldridge too often got caught in no-man's land) like they did last night. Meanwhile, the Spurs' primary Achilles Heal still exists - they have a really tough time stopping scoring point guards from getting into the lane, as evidenced by Stephen Curry's ease at getting to the rim. Meanwhile in the East, strangely enough, LeBron James is having a hallmark 2nd half of the season and nobody cares because his team is a mess.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, a relevant question as we head into the playoffs is, what do the oddsmakers think of OKC's chances?
The Warriors and Spurs still hold the headlines and LeBron will eventually get the press attention, which is probably good for the Thunder right now as they vacillate between looking dominant and looking pretty unconcerned when they aren't dominant. We know that they can score with anybody (113.9 ORtg, third in FG% at 0.478, second in Points Per Shot (1.28), and are the best rebounding team in the league. But that defense...while not a cover-your-eyes awful that we saw earlier this year, still hovers around 13th in the league, which is what everyone is going to be paying attention to when the playoffs arrive.
Because of these facts, the oddsmakers are ranking OKC well ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers but yet still off in the distance behind the usual suspects. According to NBA Futures at the sports book topbet, Oklahoma City is slated to finish fourth, with a +1,200 oddset. According to topbet, while the odds are against OKC today, they may be a good sleeper pick in this postseason as the Thunder hopefully round into form.
We'll keep track of the odds moving forward, especially if OKC can get a quality tune-up against a team like Memphis who is big on heart but short on healthy bodies. Will the odds change at that point, or will OKC still be the 4th best team in a 3 team race?