How did this happen? One minute we’re watching the Golden State Warriors add to their jewelry collection and raise a new banner into the rafters, and the next we’re a month away from the 2016 All-Star game in Toronto, staring directly at the halfway point of the 2015-16 NBA season. In a league that places an emphasis on pace, we’ve gotten fairly used to the speed of the game. But we’ll probably never grow accustomed to how quickly the seasons fly by.
And yet, with the NBA season nearly halfway over, we feel as if enough time has passed that we can thoroughly assess where the league stands; specifically, in the form of a midseason report that analyzes the Eastern and Western Conferences to determine — based on the odds — which teams are poised to make a run at a championship. Therefore, as we get closer to the halfway point of this NBA season, here’s a look at the five teams most likely to capture the 2016 championship.
5. Los Angeles Clippers
Despite the recent absence of Blake Griffin, the Los Angeles Clippers continue to strut their stuff. With Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan leading the way, the Clips have won nine straight games, are 25-13 on the year, and hold the fourth-best record in the Western Conference. If Doc Rivers’ club can play this well without No. 32 in the lineup, imagine the possibilities when he returns to action. That could be scary for the rest of the NBA.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
Like the Alabama Crimson Tide during Monday night’s national championship game, the Oklahoma City Thunder are finally starting to roll. Behind its leading scorers, Kevin Durant (26.6 PPG) and Russell Westbrook (25.4 PPG), OKC is the No. 2 highest-scoring team in the NBA at 108.7 points per contest and currently finds itself in the third spot out West with a 27-12 mark. We figured the Thunder would eventually find a rhythm under first-year head coach Billy Donovan. We just didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.
3. San Antonio Spurs
It might be time to start giving the San Antonio Spurs better odds of winning the whole thing. After all, through their first 40 games, the Spurs have gone 34-6, are a perfect 22-0 on their home floor, and have won nine straight games, becoming just the fifth team in NBA history to put together this kind of streak in six consecutive seasons. So, we just have one question: Where is the love?
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
The beast in the East resides in Cleveland. The Cavaliers are 27-9, hold a 15-1 mark on their home floor, and are winners of their last eight contests. Even with a depleted roster for much of the first half of the season, LeBron James and Kevin Love did more than hold down the fort. They did work. Now that this group has superstar point guard Kyrie Irving back in the lineup, we should finally see just how good this team can truly be. Our best guess can be described in one word: dominant.
1. Golden State Warriors
The champs are still here. What more can you say about the Golden State Warriors? They’re 36-2 in their first 38 games, they’re dropping 114.4 points per game (first of 30), and they haven’t been beaten in 18 games at Oracle Arena. Plus, the Dubs have a player like Stephen Curry firing on all cylinders. It’s really not fair. Which is why, unless this team happens to slip up, it’d be impossible to bet against Golden State.
Odds courtesy of sportsbook.ag.