It took both the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers seven games in their conference finals to advance to the NBA Finals.
This indicates that these titans of the league may be especially vulnerable in their quest for a championship compared to prior years, but they both made it nonetheless.
This is the fourth straight season that these two teams will be meeting in the NBA Finals. They’re extremely familiar with one another.
Despite the fact that their journeys to yet another NBA Finals were very nearly derailed, one of these squads will again hoist another Larry O’Brien Trophy.
The common sentiment is that this current Cavaliers incarnation features the weakest supporting cast LeBron James has ever had at his deployment since this streak of Cavs finals appearances began.
When coupled with the looming superstars on the Warriors they’ll face, Vegas assumes it’s a recipe for a lopsided series.
The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas opened with the Warriors being a -1,000 favorite to win the NBA Finals. This makes the Warriors the largest Finals favorites in 16 years, which is pretty remarkable given some Finals matchups during that span that didn’t seem very even on paper before the series began.
The Cavaliers opened as a +650 underdog in the series. James has never been that big of an underdog in an NBA Finals.
For some perspective, the Cavaliers were +360 underdogs against the San Antonio Spurs in 2007 during the first Finals appearance for James.
James had previously been lauded for elevating uninspiring supporting casts to collective greatness before famously joining the Miami Heat back in 2010, and 2007 was perhaps his most impressive feat in that regard.
James led the Cavs with 13.7 Win Shares during the 2006-2007 regular season. Only 4 other players on the Cavs had more than 4 Win Shares, and nobody but James had more than 7 Win Shares.
For James to carry a team to the Finals with his main supporting cast consisting of players like Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Anderson Varejao, and Drew Gooden was nothing short of remarkable.
The 2018 Cavs were drastically remade with the flurry of trades they pulled off during the regular season, so it’s a bit harder to use the Win Share metrics of their current supporting cast to really tell the full story.
However, it’s worth noting that James had 14 Win Shares during the 2017-2018 season, and the Cavs as a team had 50 wins in both 2006-2007 as well as 2017-2018.
That indicates that James is basically more responsible for his team’s success in this previous regular season than he was in 2006-2007.
James has traded youth for experience compared to then and is continuing to play fantastic basketball after accumulating this many miles.
It makes sense that they’re even bigger underdogs now compared to 2007 because as great as that 2007 Spurs team was, they didn’t have four superstars like the Warriors do.
It’s a 50 win Cavs team that similarly leans on James for success like back then, although this time at least he has a star cohort like Kevin Love. However, Love is still in concussion protocol and his status for Game 1 remains unclear.
While it seems odd at first that this is the biggest underdog James has ever been in the Finals, some added contemplation actually gives the concept strong credence.
The shift from basking in the greatness James recently exhibited to even get his team this far to objectively assessing his chances against this Warriors squad is necessary.
The Warriors are 12-point favorites in game 1 in Oakland. That is tied for the largest spread in an NBA Finals game since 1991.
The Los Angeles Lakers were 12-point favorites in game 1 against the Philadelphia 76ers, which has some of its own coincidental connections to this 2018 series.
Regardless of point-spread advantage, Beckett’s NBA betting record suggests that choosing against the Warriors could be the smart choice because of potential payouts.
Allen Iverson carried another squad that people tend to include in the debate of worst supporting casts to ever make a Finals appearance.
The 76ers actually defeated that Lakers in that opening game, which became famous for Iverson hitting the corner 3-pointer and stepping over current Cavs coach Tyronn Lue as Lue was sprawled on the court.
Although the Warriors haven’t really put together a dominant stretch over 48 minutes this postseason yet, the allure of what they’re capable of on both ends of the court makes it easy to understand the willingness of Westgate to favor them like this.
That reality combines with James not having as solid of a supporting cast as he’s had his last three Finals appearances with the Cavs to really justify this Westgate opening.
What James has done this postseason is incredible, but it might not be enough to curtail the type of firepower the Warriors feature when they play to their ability. It should be a compelling series, but the Warriors opening as such overwhelming favorites is well deserved.