Vegas: 2018 Warriors would be favored over Jordan’s Bulls

With free agent DeMarcus Cousins joining a Golden State Warriors team that has won three of the past four NBA titles, it seems a fait accompli that they will again take home the championship next June.

Instead, talk around NBA circles has shifted to how Golden State would fare in hypothetical matchups, like against an Eastern Conference All-Star team.

If we’re already going there, though, let’s take it a step further: How would the Warriors fare against an all-time great team?

Given Vegas oddmakers’ penchant for making a line on anything, we asked six of them how this year’s Warriors squad would fare against Michael Jordan‘s 72-10 Chicago Bulls team that won the 1995-96 title, along with whether this year’s Warriors team was better than the 2016-17 version, which went 73-9.

“We would rate this version of the Warriors about four points better than the 73-win team,” Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook director and oddsmaker John Murray told ESPN. “If he’s healthy later in the season, Cousins maybe adds a half-point to their power rating.”

Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading at William Hill, thought the two teams were more evenly matched. “On paper, [next year’s Warriors team] is better,” he wrote to ESPN. “That doesn’t mean it will translate to the court. They are probably [rated] a point higher.”

“The biggest difference is having Kevin Durant at the small forward spot instead of Harrison Barnes,” added Murray. “Barnes missed so many open looks in that 2016 Finals and now all those shots go to Durant, which makes this version almost unbeatable.”

Four of the six said they would favor the 2018-19 Warriors team against Jordan’s Bulls, from as high as -9.5 at the Westgate to as low as -3 at CG Technology and the Wynn. Murray set the Westgate’s hypothetical seven-game series price as Warriors -1000 and the Bulls +650.

Chris Andrews, sportsbook director at South Point, had the line at pick ’em, and Bob Scucci, director of race and sports for Boyd Gaming, was the lone bookmaker to favor the Bulls, noting that Jordan always found a way to win.

Several bookmakers commented on the difficulty of comparing eras, including how the new pace-and-space era of the NBA would contribute to the mismatch, along with different rules and the increased value of the 3-point shot.

“For example, Dennis Rodman wouldn’t be able to space the floor and wouldn’t be able to stay in front of pretty much any Warriors on a switch, so he’d be useless,” Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management at CG Technology, told ESPN. “I still think Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen would get theirs.”

The 1995-96 Bulls went 46-33-1 against the spread during the regular season. (Two games had no line, according to game archives at sports betting website Covers.com.) The Warriors went 40-39-3 against the spread during the 2016-17 regular season, but only 34-47-1 ATS last season.

Golden State cashed tickets at Westgate as a -200 favorite to repeat last season and opened the 2018-19 season as a +120 favorite. The Warriors have already been bet to -180, since the 2018-19 title odds opened in early June.

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