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2019 NBA title odds update: Tracking the Warriors’ offseason betting trends

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Following free agency, oddsmakers have made the Warriors an even more prohibitive favorite to win the 2019 NBA championship.

NBA: Finals-Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers
Warriors are once again the favorites to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2019.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Even before the Golden State Warriors finished curb-stomping the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second straight year and title, the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas released the odds to win the 2019 NBA championship on June 2nd, installing the Warriors as 5/4 favorites, followed by the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers both at 7/2, Boston Celtics at 8/1 and Los Angeles Lakers at 20/1. Taking the Warriors at 5/4 at that moment may have been the best possible value in terms of 2019 NBA title betting. That ship has set sail but let’s take a look at how the odds have shifted after the completion of free agency and summer league.

Warriors’ betting value begins to shrink immediately

It’s understandable why anyone might not have been motivated or degenerate enough to place a bet on the Warriors to win the 2019 NBA title before the 2018 NBA Finals were even over but there is little doubt in my mind that there existed no better possible value in terms of 2019 NBA championship betting than getting the Warriors at 5/4. One major reason that 5/4 was as good as it gets is because it was offered before the acquisition of DeMarcus Cousins who, if he remains healthy throughout the playoffs, make the Dubs an even heavier favorite.

But even before the Cousins signing, bettors who prioritize value must have begun wagering on the Warriors to win the 2019 NBA championship, as the Dubs odds to win shifted to 6/5 from 5/4 on June 6th, the same day as Game 3 of the 2018 NBA Finals. For most of June, the Warriors’ odds to win floated around 6/5, shrinking to even on June 18th and 10/11 on July 1st.

Boogie’s signing jacks up the price of Warriors’ odds

July 2nd was a watershed moment of sorts for the NBA as it was announced that Boogie Cousins would be signing with the Warriors, sending the Dubs’ odds to win the chip from 4/5 to 2/3 on the same day, later moving to 4/7 and finally landing around 1/2 where it currently sits.

Golden State has seen its preseason odds to win it all get pricier following each of the last two offseasons. Prior to the 2017-18 NBA season, the Warriors opened at 5/8 in the summer and dropped to 5/12 in October, with the Cavs opening at 5/2 and then moving to 4/1. Prior to the 2016-17 season, the Warriors were 2/1 favorites followed by the Cavs at 9/4. Some were surprised that the Cavs were favored to win the 2016 championship after the Warriors won the 2015 title, with Cleveland opening as 9/4 favorites and the Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder at 5/1 prior to the 2015-16 season. The Warriors were 20/1 before the start of the 2014-15 season and the Cavs were favored at 5/2, the San Antonio Spurs next at 7/2.

Celtics and Rockets lead the field, LeBron James boosts Lakers’ odds

As the value for picking the Warriors to win has become less palatable over the summer, one might consider taking a look at the field’s increasing value to see if there might be odds worth taking. During the 2018 Finals, the Rockets and 76ers were considered the top threats to the Warriors chances, both at 7/2, followed by the Celtics at 7/1 and Lakers at 14/1. As free agency played out, the 76ers became more of a long shot while the Celtics and Lakers were deemed stronger contenders.

When it became known that LeBron James was going to sign with the Lakers on July 1st, we saw the Celtics and Lakers pass the Rockets in terms of odds to win with the Celtics and Lakers at 7/2 and Rockets moving to 7/1.

After the overreaction to LeBron signing with the Lakers attenuated, people came to their senses and so did the odds, reaching a new equilibrium where the Lakers’ odds to win diminished and Houston’s improved, currently settling in with the Celtics at 5/1, Rockets at 7/1, Lakers, Toronto Raptors and 76ers at 12/1.

Betting the odds to win the 2019 NBA championship

So how might one approach betting on the odds to win the 2019 NBA championship? That all depends on whether you think anyone has a chance of beating the Warriors. If you, like most sane people with eyes, ears and a brain, think the Warriors are going to win the 2019 NBA title then you should bet the Warriors to win.

But -190 or -200 odds (having to bet $190 or $200 to win $100, respectively) might be a bit too much juice for many bettors and some might consider taking a flyer on a team with better value, such as the Celtics at 5/1 or Rockets at 7/1. But they say the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior and the NBA oddsmakers have gotten it right the past three seasons, correctly predicting the favorite and runner-up for the last three NBA Finals. Based on that trend, taken together with the Warriors current roster, a wager on any other team aside from the Dubs seems like a sucker bet.