The 2015-16 NBA regular season is over. Just like that, a brilliant 20-year run is in the rear view mirror for Kobe Bryant, the Warriors are off to defend their title and a bunch of bad teams have to figure out how to get better. Before the playoffs hit, let’s reflect on what just went down on Wednesday night and what’s to come in one of our favorite leagues.
The Black Mamba more than delivered in his final game, as he overcame an ugly 0-5 start to finish with 22 makes on 50 shots, totaling an insane 60 points and at one point late in the game scoring 17 straight points to lead the Lakers to a win at home over the Utah Jazz. Utah was playing for nothing and it’s debatable if they were even trying at times, but there’s nothing anyone can do to take away from this awesome performance from one of the greatest NBA players ever.
The game meant very little in the end, as the Jazz had been eliminated from playoff contention less than an hour earlier (Rockets beat the Kings to nab the 8th seed), while Los Angeles was out of the playoff equation arguably months ago. Still, Kobe exceeded expectations as he drove his tired body to the limits and then some. He looked old and done for much of the past few seasons, but it was fairly remarkable how he made it all the way through one last season. The payoff was worth it, as we got one last truly vintage performance from The Black Mamba, who goes down as the third-leading scorer in league history, just behind Kareem and Karl Malone.
Where does the Mamba go from here? Acting, game analysis, franchise management or even coaching are all possibilities. All we know for sure is he retires a five-time NBA champ and as one of the more thrilling and potent scorers the league has ever seen. Here’s a nice video montage to leave Mamba properly:
Mr. 400 and 73
Two huge accomplishments for the Warriors on Wednesday, as Stephen Curry eclipsed 400 three-pointers (402, to be exact) en route to 46 points as Golden State won their 73rd game of the year. Curry’s individual accomplishment obviously set a new single-season record (no one else other than Curry has ever even hit 300 three’s in a season), while the team broke the Chicago Bulls’ record for wins during the regular season. It’s all in a year’s work for the defending champs, who had a truly remarkable run.
Golden State broke tons of records this year and in the process never lost to the same team twice or dropped back to back games. They also tied for the second best home record in league history (39-2) and went in showdowns with the Thunder, Spurs, Cavs, Heat and Clippers, only lost one game (to the Spurs in San Antonio). Golden State will look to repeat as NBA champions starting in round one, where they’ll take on the team they beat in the Western Conference Finals last year, the Houston Rockets.
NBA Finals Odds
Speaking of the Finals, Vegas points to Golden State as the obvious favorite to run away with the title. Teams who beat just about everyone like they did tend to have little difficult in the playoffs, and the rate of success for teams winning even 62 games is pretty alarming.
Of the top-50 NBA regular season records ever (62-20 or better), 23 of those teams went on to win the NBA Finals. Of the teams that won 65+ games, just the 1973 Celtics and 2009 Cavaliers failed to finish the job. Of course, the San Antonio Spurs join that list this year (67 wins), so something has to break a bit. Golden State joins an elite class of teams that have won 69+ games, however, and while the list is short, those teams have all won titles.
Naturally, the Warriors open with strong 1/2 odds to win it all. Here is the rest of the field and their odds to win the 2016 NBA Finals:
- Spurs (19/5)
- Cavaliers (4/1)
- Thunder (15/1)
- Clippers (40/1)
- Raptors (50/1)
- Heat (75/1)
- Celtics (80/1)
- Hawks (100/1)
- Hornets (125/1)
- Blazers (175/1)
- Pacers (200/1)
- Pistons (250/1)
- Rockets (250/1)
- Mavericks (500/1)
- Grizzlies (1000/1)
If your team isn’t in the race for the league title or you don’t like their odds, now may be a good time to shift your focus to next year by looking at the top draft prospects. Ben Simmons is still likely the favorite to be the #1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, but Duke swing man Brandon Ingram has gained steam in the past month. Buddy Hield also inflated his draft stock considerably with an awesome 2015 season, one that was especially impressive during Oklahoma’s run to the Final Four. One of the top international prospects to track, of course, will be none other than Dragan Bender.
The Philadelphia 76ers likely lead the way to earn the top pick when the draft lottery rolls around, but the Lakers, Suns, Timberwolves and Pelicans also could have a good shot at landing the first pick in the draft.
Overall, it’s been an amazing 2015-16 NBA season and a ton of fun. There is a lot to reflect on and look forward to, but with the playoffs just getting started this weekend, we’ll not turn our attention that way. Have a though on Kobe, the Warriors or something else? Feel free to hit up the comments section below!