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Can you name the last Western Conference team to reach the Finals from outside of the Pacific Division? Here's a hint: only four of its players are still in the NBA, and only one figures prominently in the championship discussion. It was the 2014 San Antonio Spurs

Ever since, the Golden State Warriors have dominated the conference, with the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns taking brief stints atop the league. The Clippers have the NBA's third-best total record in that span. And the Kings are... also around! The Lakers and Warriors have won more combined championships than the entire rest of the West combined. It isn't especially close.

Sometimes it feels like you could disregard the rest of the conference and just send the Pacific's best straight into the Finals. This year might not be an exception. All three of the Western Conference favorites at Caesars Sportsbook come from this division, and that group does not include the team that employs LeBron James and currently sits at No. 5. You can bet on any Pacific Division Team to win the championship at +155. Just as the Eastern Conference is defined largely by the big markets in the Atlantic Division, the West will likely come down to the glamorous markets of the Pacific. That makes predicting where they'll fall against their expected win total much more fun. The stakes are higher here than anywhere else. All five of these teams are desperate to win here and now.

All odds via Caesars Sportsbook

*Pythagorean Wins represent the number of games a team would be expected to win based on their point-differential

Golden State Warriors

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2021-22 Pythagorean Wins


2022-23 Win Total Line


The pick: Under 52.5

There's a path to the over if you really want it. They were 27-6 on Christmas. Then Draymond Green got hurt, and Stephen Curry after him. The trio of Green, Curry and Klay Thompson played only 22 possessions together last season. In that sense, there's a chance the under is an overthought pick. If the Warriors are healthy they're probably going to be very, very good.

But there were troubling signs even before the Green-Jordan Poole brouhaha ruined Golden State's vibes. Curry, Green and Thompson are now in their mid-30s. They're coming off of a long playoff run, and their season is going to start with jet lag. The Warriors just played two preseason games in Japan against the Washington Wizards. That might not sound especially important, but Matt Moore pointed out a great stat on his Buckets Podcast: NBA teams that travel to Asia in the preseason have a record of 15-8-1 towards the under on their preseason win total. Since 2013, that record is 10-3-1. It makes intuitive sense. NBA players operate on fairly rigid routines and schedules. Throwing off their internal clocks like that can cause meaningful issues.

The roster changes were more meaningful than they appear. Gary Payton II was, at least on a per-minute basis, arguably the best defensive guard in basketball last season. Golden State still managed to rank 12th in defense during Green's two-month absence last season. Payton was the catalyst behind that stretch defensively, and while Donte DiVincenzo has been a strong 3-and-D guard in the past, he was largely bad on both ends of the floor last season coming off of the ankle injury that ended his 2021 postseason. Without Payton, the Warriors have no true perimeter stopper. Otto Porter Jr. is a less significant loss, but starting-caliber forward minutes are rare, and the Warriors now have 20-25 fewer.

In theory, the youngsters are going to pick up the slack. Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody and James Wiseman may one day grow into great NBA players. But history suggests that young players tend to struggle when initially given significant minutes. That is especially true defensively, while experience is paramount in Golden State's motion offense, specifically. The Warriors will be comfortable with growing pains. They want their young players to be ready for May and June. But that won't help their win total much in October and November.

Wiseman is an especially important cog here. The Warriors are probably going to spoon-feed him minutes. He was, for the most part, bad as a rookie. But more importantly, his presence, combined with that of Kevon Looney, means that Green will play most of his regular-season minutes at power forward. That's not the end of the world. The Splash Brothers allow for lineups with multiple non-shooters. But remember, Golden State's 15-5 stretch to end the 2020-21 season came with Green playing center almost exclusively because Wiseman was out. Last season, Green-at-center lineups outscored opponents by 10.9 points per 100 possessions compared to just 4.6 when he played power forward, according to Cleaning the Glass. There's a reason every iteration of the Death Lineup came with Green as the lone big man. The Warriors become the Warriors when they aren't burdened by a traditional center.

So, yes, if Golden State gets a healthy season out of all three of its aging stars, there are a number of paths to the over here. But realistically, this is not going to be a team that cares all that much about the regular season. The Warriors want to keep their older players fresh and get their younger players some seasoning. That might be their best path to a championship, but it makes it far likelier that they finish under the projected win total. 

Is this the best way to bet on this team? Maybe

I wouldn't bother with play-in odds for Golden State. Their worst-case outcomes, barring unforeseeably poor injury luck, are too good for them to slip out of the top six. If you support the Warriors, though, there's some value in their divisional odds (+195) and No. 1 seed odds (+300). I wouldn't advocate either, but if you disagree with what I wrote above, there is obviously a path to the Warriors being a regular-season juggernaut. If that's what you expect to happen, there are some options for better payouts. 

Phoenix Suns

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2021-22 Pythagorean Wins


2022-23 Win Total Line


The pick: Under 52.5

We usually have to do a bit of speculating when it comes to measuring team chemistry, but the Phoenix Suns have saved us some time by dumping all of their skeletons neatly onto the front lawn. DeAndre Ayton, who tried to leave for Indiana over the summer, told us on media day that he and Monty Williams hadn't spoken since their dustup in the middle of Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals. Jae Crowder wants a trade so badly that the Suns didn't even make him come to training camp. Their owner got suspended for a year and now plans to sell the team. Draymond Green punched Jordan Poole at practice and the Warriors still don't have the worst vibes in their own division.

But there are some concerning basketball trends here as well. Only three point guards aged 37 or higher have ever started 50 or more games in a season: John Stockton, Steve Nash and Jason Kidd. That's obviously fine company to keep, but it's worth noting that they topped out at 13.4 points per game. Paul's scoring already saw a decline last season. It's likely to continue moving in that direction. His defense became an issue in the first round against New Orleans. His health has been an issue for 15 years.

It's even fair to wonder how much longer he'll be able to maintain his historic excellence as a clutch table-setter. Phoenix had a patently absurd +33.4 net rating in the clutch last season, which lapped the entire field with Milwaukee in second at +15.9. Paul teams tend to be excellent in the clutch. He's led the Suns, Thunder and Rockets to the NBA's best clutch net rating in separate seasons. But if Paul is running out of gas and the Suns aren't quite so dominant in clutch games? Well, their regular-season record probably tumbles a bit. The Suns went 33-9 in games that included NBA-defined clutch minutes last season. We can say relatively comfortably that they won't be 24 games above .500 in such situations again because only three other teams have ever done that: the 2006 Mavericks, 2013 Heat and 2016 Warriors.

There are real depth questions here as well—though we won't get a complete picture until we know what Crowder is traded for. Cam Johnson sliding into the starting lineup deprives the bench of its primary scorer. Cameron Payne's shooting percentage plummeted after he became one of the league's feel-good comeback stories in 2021. Dario Saric replacing JaVale McGee has a ton of upside. Saric-led lineups, particularly those in which he played backup center, were dominant for Phoenix in his first two Suns seasons, but you just never know what someone will look like coming off of a torn ACL. There will be more of a burden on Bismack Biyombo now that McGee is gone, especially if Ayton misses time or is eventually traded.

This is the sort of pick that could look very stupid very quickly. Maybe the Dallas series was a COVID-induced anomaly and the Suns go back to destroying everyone once the regular season starts. But rarely does so much go so wrong for a team in such a short period of time without it proving somewhat sustainable. Unless Kevin Durant comes riding in on a white horse after a Brooklyn collapse, Phoenix appears to have taken a meaningful step backward.

Is this the best way to bet on this team? No

Whatever you're taking with Phoenix, do it with conviction. If you think they're the same team they were last regular season, go ahead and take their No. 1 seed odds at +550. They finished eight games ahead of the field last year. If you're more pessimistic, as I am, consider their play-in odds at +250. The Western Conference is so deep this season that even a minor slip could push a contender out of the top six. 

Los Angeles Clippers

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2022-23 Win Total Line


The pick: Over 51.5

The Clippers are 59-21 in games Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have both played since 2019. Yes, yes, I know what you're thinking. "But Sam, they never wind up playing a full season together!" Yes, I'm well aware. But they're both starting the season healthy. When they've been healthy together, they win at roughly a 60-win pace. However, Leonard has an 18-11 record as a Clipper in games without George. That's roughly a 51-win pace. Paul George has a 31-24 Clippers record without Leonard. That's roughly a 46-win pace. If the Clippers have just one of their best players on the floor, they play at roughly the level they'd need to in order to hit this over. When they have both? They zoom past this number.

And of course, those records are with previous rosters. The 2022-23 Clippers are arguably the deepest team in recent NBA history. You could argue that there are legitimately 11 starting-caliber players on this roster: Leonard, George, Nic Batum, Robert Covington, John Wall, Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris, Ivica Zubac, Luke Kennard, Terance Mann and Norm Powell. No team in all of basketball is as well-equipped to survive injuries. The Clippers just won 42 games without getting a single minute from Leonard and just 31 games out of George. Imagine what they would've looked like with just 50 games of each? That's how big the margin of error is here.

The players they've added since the trade deadline should be extremely additive from a stylistic perspective. The Clippers ranked just 18th in fastbreak points last season, but with Leonard a season prior, they ranked 26th. Leonard teams tend to be fairly slow. Wall injects sorely needed pace. Powell does so a bit as well, especially in the half-court as a scorer attacking closeouts. Covington eliminates the need for a traditional backup center, though they can always find a burlier option in February if necessary.

The last time the Clippers had a healthy Leonard, they posted one of the greatest shooting seasons in NBA history. They've since landed the pure point guard critics have been begging them to add for three years and secured more wing depth than any team West of Toronto. There's way too much risk here to make championship bets, but the Clippers are going to be a great regular season team.

Is this the best way to bet on this team? Yes

Again, I'm shying away from playoff bets with the Clippers. Aside from the injury risk, I just want no part of a small-ball roster in a conference that features Nikola Jokic until I've seen their theoretical solutions for him up close. The No. 1 seed doesn't seem especially likely either. These Pacific Division teams are probably going to beat up on each other a bit, and the Clippers have never cared all that much about seeding. If you like the Clippers this season, this is the safest way to profit from them. The risk is too great elsewhere.

Los Angeles Lakers

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2022-23 Win Total Line


The Pick: Under 44.5

The preseason has actually looked fairly promising for the Lakers thus far. Anthony Davis is making jump shots and had 28 points in 21 minutes of game action against Golden State. Kendrick Nunn looks like his old self. Everyone is raving about the job Darvin Ham has done since taking over. While championship contention is still almost certainly off of the table so long as No. 0 is wearing purple and gold, it's beginning to seem as though, if everything else goes right, this team might be pretty good.

Here's the problem: everything else probably isn't going to go right. LeBron James has played four seasons in Los Angeles. One of them included a four-month stoppage. In the other three, he's missed 27, 27 and 26 games. Yes, some of those injuries were flukier than others, but that's not really the point. Flukes happen. Younger LeBron could play through them. Older bodies take longer to recover. Davis, who turns 30 during the season, has played just 90 games over the past two seasons.

This season's roster has been more thoughtfully constructed than last season's roster was. It still has only six players making more than the minimum salary. It is largely devoid of big wings aside from James, as such players tend to cost more than the minimum. Thomas Bryant is their presumptive "stretch-five," yet the idea that he can consistently make 3-pointers is based on a limited 56-game, 112-shot sample spread across two seasons. Dennis Schroder, Lonnie Walker and Kendrick Nunn largely do the same things, which overlap significantly with what Russell Westbrook theoretically provides. Just because the group is better than last year's doesn't mean it makes sense.

There are trades that could fix some of these issues. The proposed deal with Indiana for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield is one such example. But now that the Lakers are entering the season without having made a trade, it's worth asking how much of an impact such a deal would even have on their win total. If things go badly enough to make them desperate, it means they're likely starting at a deficit. Turner and Hield, or any other possible additions, wouldn't have a training camp to integrate themselves onto the roster. They'd have to do it on the fly.

The best-case scenario for this version of the Lakers is probably below 50 wins. We've seen what the worst-case scenario looks like. One is substantially likelier than the other.  

Is this the best way to bet on this team? Yes

I'll admit, I'm sorely tempted to grab the Lakers missing the playoffs at +210. That covers the same basic ground as the under here, but with a higher payout. Still, that places too much reliance on James and Davis being injured for one specific week (the play-in round). I'd rather just bet the long game on the under. And if you're a Lakers optimist? Honestly, there really isn't much on the board for you aside from the over. The Lakers are such a public team that their championship and Finals odds are always somewhat deflated. Right now, the Lakers are +1600 to win the championship. That's better than the Grizzlies, who won 56 games last year, and the Heat, who came one win short of the Finals. You're just rarely going to find good value when betting on good things to happen for the Lakers. 

Sacramento Kings

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2022-23 Win Total Line


The Pick: Over 33.5

The argument against Sacramento is, essentially, that their (likely pretty good) offense won't be enough to buoy their (possibly quite bad) defense. This is a reasonable point based on a cursory glance at the roster. Davion Mitchell is probably the only legitimate positive on that end of the floor. Domantas Sabonis has never been optimized defensively as he's played next to Myles Turner, but his upside is relatively limited defensively. De'Aaron Fox has strong defensive tools he hasn't utilized. The two new guards, Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk are below-average. The rest of the veterans are largely just fine.

But the Kings, almost literally, have nowhere to go but up. They ranked 27th defensively a season ago. Mike Brown, a defensive specialist, figures to at least coax the best possible defense out of his uninspiring personnel. At the bottom, the right coach can make a pretty significant difference. Is Brown worth two points per 100 possessions defensively? If so, last year's Kings would have ranked 21st, not 27th.

If Sacramento can get to something like 21st, their offense should be able to lead the way here. Lineups featuring Fox and Sabonis ranked in the 80th percentile offensively in their small sample together last season, according to Cleaning the Glass. It's a sensible pairing. Give arguably the NBA's fastest guard one of its best screeners and good things are going to happen. Fox averaged just under 29 points in those 15 games. Aside from last season's Kings, Sabonis has never played for a team that finished a season with below 34 wins. Those two alone should guarantee a relatively high offensive floor. The shooting around them raises the ceiling significantly.

Good offense and bad defense are usually the formula for a .500 team. The line here isn't 41 wins. It's 33.5. Vegas is building in such an enormous cushion for Sacramento dysfunction that it's giving up far too many wins on this total. Sacramento may not be a playoff team, but with this roster, anything less than 34 wins would be a colossal disappointment. 

Is this the best way to bet on this team? No

I strongly prefer taking the Kings at +120 to make the play-in round to their over on the win total line. The Kings are probably the 11th-best team in the Western Conference. It's true that only 10 teams reach the play-in stage, but remember, there is virtually no risk beneath Sacramento. The Jazz, Rockets, Thunder and Spurs are all aggressively tanking. It would be virtually impossible for the Kings to finish below No. 11. To get into the top 10, they'd only need one of the 10 teams above them to suffer significant injuries. That happens every year. I don't know who it will be, but one of the 10 teams we currently expect to be in the playoffs or play-in this season won't make it because of bad injury luck. When they don't, if the Kings themselves are healthy, they'll jump right in.