Rockets’ Plan to Beat Warriors: Shoot Lots of 3’s

james-harden-three-pointerAs it stands right now, nobody in the Western Conference is expected to beat the Golden State Warriors. In fact, as you can see in our NBA futures, the Warriors are a -450 favorite to win the West.

But one of the few teams that could give Golden State (50-9) a scare is the Houston Rockets (42-19), who are basing their fortunes on three-pointers.

As of now, the Rockets rank second in the league in points (115.0) behind the Warriors (118.2). They also average 40.4 three-point attempts per game, which easily leads the league over the second-place Cleveland Cavaliers (33.7), and is on pace for an NBA record. So it’s little surprise that Houston GM Darryl Morey thinks the team’s hopes of beating Golden State hinge on the three.

“We want to win the title, and obviously that’s probably going through the Warriors at some point,” Morey said on SiriusXM NBA. “And we absolutely figured the only way we’re gonna beat ‘em is with a barrage of 3-pointers and it’s probably going to be a 124-120 affair if we’re going to get past them.”

It’s often said that jump-shooting teams can’t win a championship, which Golden State disproved with their 2015 title, and nearly did again last season. In this new era, nobody is more equipped to take down the Warriors than Houston and their stable of outside shooters.

When the Rockets defeated Golden State 132-127 in double overtime on Jan. 1, they made 14-of-41 three’s, versus the Warriors’ 12-of-44 shooting. Neither of these are great percentages, but the extra six points that Houston got from long range proved to be the difference.

What’s particularly tough about the Rockets is that most of their rotation players are outside threats, from point guard to power forward:

– Point guard James Harden takes 9.3 three’s per game and makes 34.9%.
– Shooting guard Eric Gordon attempts 9.2 three’s a game and makes 38.1%.
– Backup shooting guard Lou Williams takes 9.3 three’s per game and hits 50.0%.
– Small forward Trevor Ariza takes 7.1 three’s per game and makes 34.9%.
– Power forward Ryan Anderson attempts 6.9 three’s a game and makes 40.1%.
– Backup point guard Patrick Beverly shoots 4.3 three’s per game and hits 38.0%.
– Backup forward Sam Dekker attempts 2.7 three’s a game and makes 33.1%.

Center Clint Capela is the only Houston player who averages heavy minutes and doesn’t shoot from distance. But beyond him, every other Rocket in the top eight of minutes played must be accounted for beyond the arc.

Recently brought over from the Los Angeles Lakers, Williams is a new addition who fits in nicely with Houston’s shoot-heavy approach.

“We wanted to make sure our spacing was clean throughout the whole game, that we always had shooters in the game,” Morey explained. “And Lou gives us that. So now in our rotation, every player on the floor except for obviously the 5 is able to shoot the 3-point shot well and attack the basket well.”

Up until this season, one of the Warriors’ biggest advantages had been their large number of players who can handle the ball and play multiple positions. But thanks to the Rockets’ ability to shoot the three from so many different spots, they can match up with Golden State as well as anybody.

The last chance that we’ll get to see regarding how these teams fare against other is on March 28. From there, it’ll be up to fate to decide if the Warriors and Rockets meet in the postseason. Golden State seems locked into the one seed, while Houston firmly holds the No. 3 spot. This means that both teams would meet in the Western Conference Finals if it happens.

Assuming the basketball gods do pair the Rockets and Golden State in the postseason, all of the lines will have the Warriors heavily favored. Furthermore, the experts might only pick Houston to win a game or two. However, based on what we’ve talked about regarding the Rockets’ three-pint shooting acumen, don’t be surprised if Houston can give the Warriors a run. But they’ll have to make it there first…

Golden State: Best Odds to Win 2017 NBA Championship

stephen-curryThe Cleveland Cavaliers capped off the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history by erasing a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Championship. There were many heroes during Cleveland’s improbable Game 7 victory over Golden State, but none greater than LeBron James, who recorded a triple-double (24 pts, 11 rbs, 11 ast) in the final contest.

Based on the Cavs’ victory, you’d think that they would be favored to win again in 2017. But that’s not the case in Vegas or through online sportsbooks, including our own at GTBets, which favor the Warriors winning their second title in three years.

Golden State was heavily favored to repeat coming into this season, and they did little to dissuade this notion after rumbling out to a NBA-record 73-9 regular season mark. The postseason was a different story, though, as the Warriors dealt with injuries to Steph Curry, Andre Igoudala, and Andrew Bogut. The latter sprained his knee in Game 5 and was forced to miss the rest of the Finals.

But with a strong core in place that includes Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Igoudala, oddsmakers like Golden State to reclaim their throne next season.

What about Cleveland Winning the 2017 NBA Championship?

lebron-james-benchWhile the 2017 NBA Futures may not foreshadow back-to-back titles for the Cavs, they certainly have a good chance. We put them at +275 odds of winning right now, which is just slightly less than Golden State’s +210 odds.

Like the Warriors, Cleveland returns core pieces of their championship run, including LeBron, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and Iman Shumpert. JR Smith is the biggest free agent that Cleveland has, but he could very well re-sign with them. That said, we’ll largely see the same Cavs team defending their title next season.

Other Teams that could Win

While Golden State and Cleveland are the two frontrunners, there are several other teams that are in the running for the title. As long as the Oklahoma City Thunder (+700) retain Kevin Durant, they have a good chance to win. They had the Warriors down 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals, before Golden State stormed back to win.

thunder-vs-spurs-bettingAnother team that will be hungry for the title is the San Antonio Spurs (+500), who had an impressive 67-15 record before losing to Oklahoma City in the semifinals. The LA Clippers (+1500) are yet one more Western Conference team that’s considered a serious contender right now.

The Eastern Conference contenders include Miami (+2000), Boston (+2500), Toronto (+3000), Chicago (+4000) and Atlanta (+5000). Miami is interesting here because, prior to an injury to Hassan Whiteside, many thought they could give Cleveland a serious run.

How Free Agency will Impact 2017 NBA Futures

hassan-whitesideThe NBA Futures being offered right now are very tentative because free agency and offseason trades are bound to impact teams. Durant will be the biggest free agent, and while he’s expected to re-sign with Oklahoma City for at least one more year, he could also test the waters. If Durant moves somewhere else, expect that team’s championship odds to improve dramatically.

Whiteside and Andre Drummond (Detroit) are two other prizes on the free agent market. Odds are that they’ll both re-sign with their current teams, but don’t be surprised if one or both looks for a max deal.

DeMar DeRozan is also favoring his current team, the Toronto Raptors, but he could easily opt for a max deal elsewhere. Mike Conley (Memphis), Al Horford (Atlanta), Dwight Howard (Houston), and Bradley Beal are other big-time free agents who could affect a team’s odds of winning the championship.

2017 NBA Championship Odds to Win
Golden State +210
Cleveland +275
San Antonio +500
Oklahoma City +700
LA Clippers +1500
Miami +2000
Boston +2500
Toronto +3000
Chicago +4000
Atlanta +5000
Houston +5000
New Orleans +5000
Minnesota +6000
Washington +7000
LA Lakers +7500
Milwaukee +7500
Portland +7500
Memphis +8000
Charlotte +10000
Dallas +10000
Denver +10000
Detroit +10000
Indiana +10000
New York +10000
Orlando +10000
Utah +10000
Philadelphia +12500
Sacramento +15000
Phoenix +20000
Brooklyn +25000