We’re not going to come out and say the Toronto Raptors have no chance of beating the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. It’s a seven-game series, Toronto has home-court advantage and Kevin Durant may or may not play for Golden State. But based on the below list of picks by people who get paid to follow the NBA ardently, it certainly doesn’t seem as if the Raptors have much of a chance.
Series odds (as of Tuesday, per Vegas Insider):
Warriors -270 (bet $270 to win $100)
Raptors +225 (bet $100 to win $225)
“It is hard to bet against a core that has been through this so many times, and beaten back so many challengers. The Raptors have the goods to take this, or to at least force Golden State to earn it with the rarest of wins: on the road, in Game 7. In fact, let’s go there.”
“The Warriors have obvious championship pedigree, and they easily could win this series and get their three-peat. But the uncertainty about Kevin Durant’s return — coupled with the Raptors having home-court advantage, arguably the best player in the series in Kawhi Leonard and the best defensive unit that Golden State has seen during its dynastic run — is enough to tip the scales in Toronto’s direction to say the Raptors will win their first championship.”
“This is an extremely tough call, especially with Durant’s status up in the air. Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry and the Raptors are a real threat, but the Warriors are still outstanding without Durant, have much more Finals experience and are very well rested for the first time in a while. The return of Durant could put a challenging defensive wrinkle in the middle of the series for Toronto. Stephen Curry has always played great against his dad’s old team, too. Leonard’s and Durant’s health will factor in the outcome.”
(ESPN published 20 of their experts’ predictions, and all but two picked the Warriors to win, with most predicting a series lasting fewer than seven games.)
“If Durant were ruled out for the series, I think I would pick the Raptors. This is a worse version of the 2016 Warriors team that lost to the Cavaliers, and I think this Toronto team could replicate some of what Cleveland did to give the Dubs trouble. Kawhi is on another level, and the Raptors have enough defenders to throw at a Durant-less squad. But I also think if Golden State is in serious danger of losing, KD will return and tip the balance of this series.”
“They haven’t missed a beat, or lost a game, since Durant went down in the second round. Stephen Curry has been devastating. Draymond Green looks like a DPOY again. KD’s absence will certainly be felt — the Raptors are stronger than any team Golden State has faced so far — but the Warriors’ talent and experience still wins the day, and the series.”
“I find it hard to contemplate how the Warriors can be as heavy as 3-to-1 favorites, as they nearly are in Vegas. There is, if nothing else, a lot of uncertainty about how well the Warriors can play against a top-level team without Durant — I’m sorry if I don’t regard the Portland Trail Blazers as a top-level team — and the Raptors are good enough that the Warriors will probably have to bring their A-game.”
Jalen Rose: Raptors, assuming Durant doesn’t play
The ESPN analyst picked the Raptors to win the series, unless Durant returns.
“I think they’re going to need his productivity up front,” he said. “I think the stout front line of the Raptors [is] able to hold it down.”
The “NBA on TNT” crew:
Shaquille O’Neal picked Golden State, saying the Warriors “play better when people doubt 'em.” Kenny Smith picked the Warriors, saying “everything points to Golden State,” and that Durant’s injury “gave them something to prove.” Charles Barkley picked the Raptors.
Drake: The Raptors