I'm being honest here in that I put a few bucks down around this time last season for Golden State's Stephen Curry to win the NBA MVP Award and the scoring title. Not that I was super confident the former would happen, but he was at a good long-shot price and was a realistic candidate compared to someone like a John Wall or a similar All-Star player.
So while I am still patting myself on the back on hitting on Curry for that MVP Award, as he edged Houston's James Harden (not sure he should have, but that's another story), I can't say I expected the Warriors to win their first NBA title in 40 years. It wasn't totally out of nowhere as the Warriors won 51 games under Mark Jackson in 2013-14. But I was one of those who thought there would be a bit of an adjustment period under new coach Steve Kerr after Jackson was dumped. And rookie coaches used to not fare that well.
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So much for that as Kerr's Warriors won a franchise-record 67 games (39-2 at home, tying second-best mark ever), were never too threatened in the Western Conference playoffs and beat the Cleveland Cavaliers and their rookie coach, David Blatt, in six games in the NBA Finals. Would the Cavaliers have beaten Golden State if Kevin Love played at all in the series and Kyrie Irving wasn't knocked out in Game 1 with broken kneecap? I tend to think so, but maybe we get the answer to that question this June.
It really was hard to dislike the Warriors last season unless they were playing your team. Curry is too likable, and they don't have that one villain to root against. It does seem like everything went right, especially from an injury perspective. That led to Curry recently saying this (in jest obviously): "I apologize for us being healthy, I apologize for us playing who was in front of us. I apologize for all the accolades we received as a team and individually. I'm very, truly sorry, and we'll rectify that situation this year."
Warriors 2015-16 Season Betting Story Lines
Golden State is pretty much the same team. Kerr might not start the season with the club, however. He had back surgery in late July on a ruptured disk and apparently some spinal fluid leaked out. After the leak became apparent, Kerr had an additional surgery Sept. 4 to repair the issue. He has taken a leave of absence from the team and his return is TBA, although no one thinks it will be too deep into the season. Maybe he's back for the opener in less than two weeks. Luke Walton, just 35, is the interim coach.
Golden State's big offseason issue was to keep Draymond Green from leaving as a free agent. He was arguably the second-most important player on the team last year, with all due respect to Klay Thompson. Green finished second in the voting for both NBA Most Improved Player, won by Chicago's Jimmy Butler, and Defensive Player of the Year, won by San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard even though Leonard had eight fewer first-place votes than Green. He averaged career highs in points (11.7), rebounds (8.2), assists (3.7), blocks (1.3), steals (1.6) and shooting percentage (44.3). In the playoffs, Green averaged 13.7 points, 10.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists and had a triple-double in the clinching Game 6 win over the Cavaliers.
The Warriors signed the ultra-versatile Green to a five-year, $85 million extension. As a restricted free agent, Green would have been allowed to sign an offer sheet with another team but the Warriors would have had a week to match the offer. Green never planned to go anywhere and took a minor discount. That means Green will make more than Curry this season, who is only the sixth-highest paid player on the Warriors due to his four-year, $44 million extension signed before the 2013-14 season. That's probably now the best contract in the NBA.
So the starting five should be the same: Curry and Thompson forming the NBA's best backcourt, with Harrison Barnes at small forward, Green at the 4 and Andrew Bogut anchoring the middle. Barnes, incidentally, put a scare in the Warriors on Tuesday with a knee injury in a preseason game but apparently is fine. Barnes can become a restricted free agent after this season, and I'm not sure the Warriors will be able to afford to keep him with the cap going way up and most teams having tons of money to spend. Bogut is always an injury worry. Don't count on him playing more than 65 games or so simply for maintenance.
As for the bench, you have NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala on that group. The Warriors traded David Lee for salary-cap reasons but added some big-man depth in Jason Thompson. The team also lost Kerr's right-hand man in Alvin Gentry, a bright offensive mind who took the head coaching job in New Orleans.
Golden State opens the season on Oct. 27 at home and will raise the championship banner against Gentry's Pelicans.
Warriors 2015-16 Betting Odds
At BetOnline , the Warriors are -250 to win the Pacific Division again, +300 to win the West and +500 to repeat as NBA champions. They have a wins total of 59.5, with both at -115. Curry is +650 to win another MVP.
Warriors 2015-16 Betting Predictions
I never recommend a repeat winner in the NFL, MLB or NHL, but the NBA has always been a different animal in that regard. Still, you don't really have karma on your side two years in a row. Bogut could break down. Green might come back to earth a bit. And Curry used to have ankle problems. Don't get me wrong, this is still a top contending team. It should repeat in the Pacific, but that's it. Go just under the wins, expecting something like 58-24.
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