Las Vegas oddsmakers believe if the NBA world could get their dream matchup, a Finals between the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors and 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, the smart money would be on this year’s likely champs.
Up 2-0 on the defending title holders, the Bay Area team seems impossible to beat. Sportsbooks in Nevada give the Cleveland Cavaliers little to no chance of hosting another victory parade, with the current series line at Cavs +1000, Warriors -2000.
A $100 bet on LeBron James’ team would return $1000 should the remarkable upset occur for a second straight year. It’s worth mentioning that the Cavs were down two games to none during this time last year, before winning the final four of five.
A $100 bet on Golden State returns not even lunch money at just $5.
That’s why some, like NFL running back LeSean McCoy, are putting much more cash on the Warriors than a measly $100. Fortunately, the football star’s $200,000 wager came before the start of the series when Golden State was only favored at -260.
But the Bulls?!
While there’s been arguments made that LeBron is the best to ever play the game, currently competing in his seventh-straight NBA Finals, the general consensus is that Jordan remains the GOAT.
Heck, the league even admits it. On his official NBA.com bio, MJ’s resume states, “By acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time.”
But Las Vegas oddsmakers say that doesn’t mean he played on the best basketball team in the history of the game.
Led by Jordan and a very talented sidekick Scottie Pippen, the 1995-96 Bulls went 72-10 during the regular season, a record that stood until the Warriors eclipsed it by a game last year. The Bulls, however, won the NBA Finals, while the Warriors lost to the Cavs.
The Warriors added Kevin Durant, went 67-15 this year, and are a perfect 14-0 in the Playoffs. Assuming they win two more and grab the championship, perhaps going undefeated in the postseason, the conversation must occur: who’s better?
ESPN asked seven Las Vegas bookmakers to put odds on the hypothetical series. Five of the six took the Warriors, with one saying it would be even money.
The Westgate SuperBook, which Casino.org frequently cites, put the opening series price at Chicago +300, Golden State -360.
Different Game, Different Rules
The SuperBook hypothetically listing the Bulls at +300 is quite a surprising underdog position for Jordan’s Bulls. Cleveland, certainly not in the same discussion as the 1996 Bulls, was only a +200 underdog before the start of the 2017 NBA Finals.
“Today’s game is played at a pace unlike in the 1990s,” Westgate’s Jeff Sherman explained in his reasoning to ESPN.
Matthew Holt, COO at CG Analytics, said the divergence in rules is more to blame for the Warriors’ favoritism. “In the no hand-check era, the Warriors’ current roster is much better suited.”
However, could such an epic showdown really take place, the line would likely shorten in the Bulls’ favor, as there would be presumably less fans willing to bet against MJ than this Warriors team.
Game three between the Cavs and Warriors is Wednesday night at 9 pm ET.