The Golden State Warriors entered the 2018/19 Finals as huge favorites, despite questions regarding other-worldly small forward Kevin Durant’s availability for the series. Golden State, in their 5th Finals appearance in as many years, entered tip off of game one as (1.31) favorites to secure their 3rd straight Larry O’Brien Trophy. Durant’s nagging calf injury proved to be more serious than previously believed. This, combined with the Raptors stellar play, allowed Toronto to jump out to a 3-1 series lead. Betting lines would proceed to swing exponentially into Toronto’s favor, pegging the Raptors as (1.14) favorites to win it all.
Whether it was pressure from the front office, media, fans, or just a will to compete, or a combination of each, Durant decided to give things a go in game 5. Ultimately this was a horrendous decision on his part. An already impaired Durant flashed his skill set early in game 5, scoring 11 points in 12 minutes, only to rupture his Achilles in the second quarter. Golden State would go on to gut things out for a 106-105 victory in game 5.
Yet the emotional damage of losing KD would be too much to overcome for a Warriors’ team already in a hole. With game 6 going back to Oracle, an already defeated Golden State team suffered yet another major blow in what would prove to be a closeout game for the Raptors. The Warriors would go onto lose yet another All-Star to injury. Guard Klay Thompson tore his ACL in the 3rd quarter, clouding his availability for next season.
Toronto went on to complete their bid to shock the NBA and betting world alike. Capturing the Raptors first NBA title in franchise history. Many wouldn’t have backed the Raptors initially prior to game 1. Yet if you were brave enough to pull the trigger on a wager, you are likely still bathing in all the glory, and money to come along with it.
In a series full of surprises, the least stunning thing to occur was Kawhi Leonard capturing series MVP honors. A (4.00) favorite to land the award, Leonard landed his second NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award of his career.
Kawhi doesn’t show emotions. We thought that was just his personality, but maybe it’s just because he dreaded the cold weather of Toronto. An NBA title was not enough to stop the Finals MVP from an inevitable one-and-done campaign with the Raptors. Kawhi would proceed to jump ship to his hometown of Los Angeles, joining the up-and-coming Clippers.
A Kawhi-less Raptors team has essentially no chance of reaching the NBA Finals this upcoming season. Holding (34.00) finals odds at the moment, Toronto would have to make a drastic move at the trade deadline to reassert themselves amongst the league elites. For now, expect the Raptors success to be more on par with the DeMar DeRozan days rather than the Kawhi Leonard era.
It seems as if the days of the Warriors running through the league with ease may be coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be good. Kevin Durant decided to take his ruptured Achilles to Brooklyn, joining the Nets. To make it seem as they were not left empty-handed in Durant’s departure, the Warriors made an unlikely, and quite simply odd move, acquiring All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell.
In what seems more like a future trade piece rather than a franchise cornerstone, Russell will at the very least keep the two-guard seat warm while Klay Thompson rehabs from his ACL injury. In addition to losing KD, the Warriors depth has taken a hit in losing DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Iguodala, and Sean Livingston, just to name a few. If Thompson can return to his pre-injury form after the all-star break, and Russell can learn how to play in a non-go-to option role, the Warriors may still be a worthy of a throw-in bet at (15.00). It wasn’t that long ago that Klay and Steph Curry were hoisting championship trophies without Durant’s help.