The new NBA season will see LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers attempt to defend the title they wrested from the clutches of the Golden State Warriors in 2015/16.
Trailing 3-1 through four finals matches, the championship seemed certain to be heading to the west coast for the second successive season, before a James-inspired Cavs rally re-routed the trophy to Ohio.
After adding seven-time NBA All-Star Kevin Durant to a roster already bursting with talent, the bookies reckon the Dubs will serve their Cleveland foes the dish best served cold next spring, making Steve Kerr’s side, whose regular season return of 73-9 broke a long-standing record to become the best in the competition’s history last term, 83/100 favourites to win a second title in three years.
Odds of 7/2 make the Cavs second favs, with the Spurs of San Antonio 7/1 shots in third. To emphasise the hopelessness of the field, the Boston Celtics, fifth in the Eastern Conference last time around, are the next shortest priced franchise at 20/1.
It’s 33/100 about Golden State reaching the finals and 1/2 says Cleveland will do the same in what seems almost certain to be another two-horse tussle to win basketball’s most prestigious prize. Based on averages from the previous ten campaigns, here’s what the duo, or any of their rivals, must do in order to make the showpiece.
Competition is far stiffer in the west, where a minimum of 60 wins are required from 82 regular season outings compared to 56 in the east.
Home court wins required stand at around 31 on the eastern seaboard, creeping up to 33 in the west, while it’s 27 road victories needed on the Pacific side of the divide, dropping down to 26 on the less-competitive Atlantic half.
Post-season, would-be finalists from either coast can only give up four fixtures over the three series they must win to book a spot in the last two.
The difference in team requirements is clear, but the margins in discrepancies between star players of potential finalists are tighter.
During the regular campaign, an east-based finals-maker needs a player averaging around 24.4 points-per-campaign, exactly the same average of a western rival.
However, there is a need for a player to average more rebounds-per-game in the west, but more assists-per-game in the east.