The axis has shifted since the NBA tradeline and it’s two non-trades that have altered the anticipated path to what seemed like a predictable NBA Finals re-match between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
One, Kevin Durant’s injury means the Dubs are no longer the mortal locks to regain their title. And two, the Cavs adding Andrew Bogut and Deron Williams as free agents gives them the honour of being the most super of super-teams.
We’re told Durant’s injury status should see him back in time for the playoffs but these things have a habit of shifting in the wind. But as Thursday’s defeat against Chicago showed, Golden State is now relying heavily on its shooters night after night – and that’s going to cause the occasional miscue.
The Warriors currently lead the NBA with 117.5 points per night but that production is set to fall. And while they should have enough chops to be worth a -6.5 start against the New York Knicks on Sunday, tougher days are ahead.
In the coming week, they’ll meet Atlanta, Boston and, significantly, San Antonio. The Spurs, just three games behind in the standings, have a real chance to deny their Western foes top overall seed and with that in mind, might be worth a punt for the Conference crown.
However, it’s Cleveland whose status has risen most, partly as a consequence of Durant’s absence but also by their new arrivals.
The Cavs were 15th in assists and 19th in points allowed at 105.9. By integrating Williams and Bogut, those two numbers figure to improve drastically. The Australian centre is a hugely under-rated presence despite his low production in Dallas this term.
It may take a few weeks for the reshaping to take full effect which is why betting on the Atlanta Hawks to upset Cleveland on Friday at 2.25 is not an unrealistic move.
But in due course, the moves should pay off. And the reigning champions now look more capable than ever of fending off their foes – the wounded Warriors included.
Best bet: Go under 208.5 points in Atlanta-Cleveland at 2.60