Kevin Durant has taken immense heat by mimicking LeBron James’ departure from one franchise to another to grab an NBA title.
By leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder after winning an MVP and four NBA scoring titles, Durant has made the Golden State Warriors a massive betting favorite to win the Pacific Division, the Western Conference and the NBA title, in that order.
The official over/under victory total for the Warriors, who are coming off an NBA-record 73 regular-season victories before losing Game 7 in the NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers, is a league-best 66 ½ at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.
And book director Jay Kornegay is tempting bettors excited by this super team — which also has MVP Stephen Curry and sharp-shooting Klay Thompson — by setting a second over/under at 74 wins.
Should the Warriors finish the regular season at 75-7, a bettor would collect $550 on a $100 bet.
“The Warriors are clearly the best team on the planet. I have them 1-50 to win the division — I’ve never seen that in my 30 years in the business,” Kornegay said.
Golden State is a 2/7 betting favorite to win the Western Conference and 2/3 to regain the NBA title after claiming it in 2014-15.
Kornegay said searching for a flaw with Golden State equates to “splitting hairs.”
“Are there enough balls to go around? I believe this team has a good persona about it, that it’s a good group who don’t mind giving up some stats to win a championship,” he said.
Of course, Kornegay doesn’t mind fueling the debate given the amount of betting traffic on the Warriors.
“How will Thompson react to 13 points per game?” he asked. “Scoring isn’t just about winning. It’s also about endorsements and renegotiating contracts. I can’t say you can completely dismiss this. Team first is easy to say in October.”
The more legitimate debate has to do with Warriors Coach Steve Kerr’s interest in resting his starters during the regular season, given that the Warriors were worn down in the finals by the Cavaliers.
Jay Rood, race and sports book director at MGM Resorts, said Durant might struggle early in Golden State, after playing eight seasons with former Oklahoma City teammate Russell Westbrook.
“K.D. played with Westbrook so long [and] that telecommunication only happens by playing over and over and over,” Rood said. “I’m sure that’ll be there for the first 20 games, so maybe they lose five of those games.”
Oklahoma City’s title odds dropped from 8/1 to 30/1 with Durant’s departure, leaving the San Antonio Spurs the NBA’s third title choice (6/1), followed by the Clippers at 20/1 with an over/under wins total of 54 ½.
Kornegay wonders about the veteran Spurs: “Can [Pau] Gasol come in and be a difference? [Guard Tony] Parker has to stay healthy.”
Both Kornegay and Rood pointed to the Clippers’ health concerns as the top reason to be leery.
“The Clippers should be in contention, but it’s always something goofy with them — they don’t have the Patriots’ next-man-up mentality,” Rood said.
Kornegay added, “[Blake] Griffin is a great player, but his production is leveling off and that’s a concern...
“With [Chris] Paul, the bench needs to take some minutes off him for when the playoffs start. Can they upset the Spurs with all pieces rested? Yes. The Warriors? They’ll need luck … at least the [Clippers] have a bench in place. But Doc Rivers will have to work hard to manage that team.”
As for the Lakers, Kornegay set their over/under win total at 25 ½ this season.
“They’re still in a huge rebuilding process that’s still in the early stages and, while I’ve heard Lakers’ fans say the worst is over, there’s still a huge mountain to climb and they’ll suffer a lot of losses.
“I loved those old Lakers, but now? A good place to start is avoiding last place.”