Two months ago, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was talking about the monumental undertaking his team was about to begin. Golden State had won the last two championships, of course, and was favored to make it three in a row. But Kerr had worries about fatigue.
Those worries all came to the fore over the last two weeks, with the Warriors falling to the Raptors in six games in the NBA Finals and, just as worrisome, two of his three best players — Kevin Durant (ruptured Achilles) and, now, Klay Thompson (torn ACL) — suffering major injuries that will keep them out for much of next season.
For fans of NBA betting, that should torpedo any confidence in what the franchise might do in 2019-20, despite having been listed as a No. 2 choice to win next year’s championship in just-released NBA futures odds.
Thompson Injury's Impact on Golden State Win Totals & O/U Betting
It was possible to imagine the Warriors regrouping next season, maybe even re-signing Durant as they moved out of their old building, Oracle Arena in Oakland, and into their new place across the Bay in San Francisco, the Chase Center.
Thompson’s injury ended that daydream, though. The 2019-20 season for the Warriors went from one of possible championship contention to one with playoff contention in some doubt.
Still, expectations are likely to be inflated, their win total perhaps in the mid-to-upper 40s (the early line at PointsBet is 46.5). It’s hard to see how they could do much better than 44 or 45 wins in a difficult Western Conference with Durant either leaving in free agency or missing most of the season, as well as with Thompson – who plans to re-sign with Golden State – out nine months, at minimum and possibly out for the year.
Bettors would be wise to find those inflated over/under offerings and take advantage with the under. Thompson is an underrated part of the Warriors’ machine, a guy who was overlooked for the All-NBA team this season. But he is one of the best-two way guards in the NBA and has long provided presence that will be missed.
Consider what Green said about him after Game 6:
“Without Klay it’s tough. It takes some shooting off the floor, so spacing is not quite there. Obviously one of our best defenders. Probably the guy that got the most heart on this team. It’s not really the most popular opinion, but as a guy who’s been with Klay for seven years, I don’t know many people with as much heart as Klay.”
Ultimately, the Warriors could not pull through the barrage of injuries this postseason — Durant, Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins (also a free agent this summer). But those injuries did not just cost them the 2019 championship. They will cost the team dearly next year, too.
Curry A Sleeper Golden State Warriors Prop Bet
If there is a bright side, it’s that the Warriors still have Steph Curry healthy and ready to take on an enormous burden next season. The last time Curry played a full season without Durant was 2015-16, and that season, he averaged 30.1 points and led the league in scoring. That was with Thompson averaging 17.3 shots per game and Curry taking 20.2 per game.
Look for Curry, then, to be a strong candidate to lead the league in scoring. His chief competition will be James Harden, who has won back-to-back scoring titles, but Harden averaged 24.5 shots per game this year. Give Curry, a more efficient scorer than Harden, that kind of shot volume and he will be a good choice to sit atop the scoring chart in 2019-20.
The Warriors will be hard-pressed to come up with other options in free agency this summer. Signing players will be a difficult task considering the team is over the luxury tax threshold. Teams below the tax will have a salary-cap exception to offer free agents worth $8.6 million. Taxpaying teams only get a $5.3 million exception, though.
Golden State, then, won’t have the money to sign replacements for Thompson and Durant. That puts still more of an onus on Curry.
Why Things Fell Apart for the Warriors
Kerr’s team had gone to the Finals four years in a row and his players had played 83 playoff games going back to 2015. That didn’t include Durant, who joined the team in 2016, but it did include four of the Warriors’ Top 5 players—Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala—in total minutes played.
Those guys played a full extra NBA season’s worth of playoff games before this postseason even got started. Kerr rightly feared fatigue.
“When you win the second one, total exhaustion sets in,” he said. “Winning the third one is the hardest thing of all. With the Spurs we never won back-to-back, [with the] Bulls we did. But Year 3 was brutal. We barely survived. I think that experience as a player has helped me as a coach because I know what these guys are going through.”
The Warriors, of course, did not survive this year’s postseason. They lost to Toronto, lost Durant to a torn Achilles tendon and, in Game 6, lost Thompson to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. This is a terrible situation for the Warriors, but also raises some obvious flags for bettors as they start to jump on futures bets.
Kerr’s team should be getting more rest next spring. Far from being part of a dynasty, the 2019-20 Warriors are barely looking like a playoff team, let alone a championship contender, no matter what the odds say.