With the balance of power in the NBA shifting even further West with news of LeBron James heading to the Lakers and DeMarcus Cousins joining the Warriors, a ripple effect has been free agency’s impact on the East. The upshot from Las Vegas: It’s the Celtics’ conference to lose.
The Westgate LV SuperBook posted odds to win each conference the day after James’ decision become known, installing Boston as the odds-on favorite to win the East at a prohibitive price of 5/8. To put that number in perspective, the Cavaliers were priced just a tick lower ahead of last season, at 1/2, for James to get back to the Finals for the eighth straight time.
After the Celtics, the 76ers opened at 2/1 odds to win the East, and the Raptors at 8/1. Everyone else is priced as significant longshots, with the Bucks and Wizards next on the oddsboard, each priced at 25/1.
The Celtics’ path of little resistance to the Finals also affects their odds to win the NBA title, of course. While bookmakers do not think Boston is the second-best team in the league, the 9/2 price to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy next June is second only the Warriors at 4/7.
The Rockets, however, are second-best in the league, according to the Westgate’s power ratings, “but being in the West, they have longer title odds,” oddsmaker Jeff Sherman told BetChicago.
Odds to win 2018-19 NBA title
Futures odds via Westgate LV SuperBook as of July 6; opening odds in parentheses, if changed.
|Golden State WARRIORS 4/7 (5/4)|
|Boston CELTICS 9/2 (8/1)|
|Los Angeles LAKERS 5/1 (20/1)|
|Houston ROCKETS 13/2 (7/2)|
|Philadelphia 76ERS 14/1 (7/2)|
|Toronto RAPTORS 60/1 (40/1)|
|Oklahoma City THUNDER 60/1|
|San Antonio SPURS 80/1 (25/1)|
|Utah JAZZ 80/1 (60/1)|
|Portland TRAIL BLAZERS 100/1 (80/1)|
|New Orleans PELICANS 100/1 (80/1)|
|Milwaukee BUCKS 100/1|
|Washington WIZARDS 100/1|
|Indiana PACERS 100/1|
|Miami HEAT 200/1 (20/1)|
|Minnesota TIMBERWOLVES 200/1 (80/1)|
|Denver NUGGETS 200/1 (100/1)|
|Detroit PISTONS 200/1 (300/1)|
|Dallas MAVERICKS 200/1 (300/1)|
|New York KNICKS 300/1 (100/1)|
|Los Angeles CLIPPERS 300/1 (100/1)|
|Charlotte HORNETS 300/1|
|Chicago BULLS 300/1|
|Orlando MAGIC 500/1|
|Cleveland CAVALIERS 500/1 (30/1)|
|Memphis GRIZZLIES 500/1|
|Phoenix SUNS 500/1 (200/1)|
|Brooklyn NETS 1000/1 (300/1)|
|Sacramento KINGS 1000/1 (300/1)|
|Atlanta HAWKS 1000/1|
Despite being rated No. 2 league-wide, Houston (13/2) is fourth on the Westgate’s futures board behind Golden State (4/7), Boston (9/2) and the Lakers (5/1).
“Future books are based on perception,” oddsmaker Ed Salmons said. “People want to come in and bet the Lakers with LeBron, so their odds are obviously going to be lower just because that’s how your books work. Cavaliers odds were always lower because LeBron played for them.
“If their team is essentially what they have now, the Warriors and Rockets are clearly well ahead of them,” Salmons added of the Lakers. “You could argue they’re the third best team (in the West).”
Betting on LeBron (and probably losing)
Fueled by the belief that LeBron was staying put in Cleveland, bettors made the Cavs one of the Westgate’s largest early liabilities in its NBA futures book, according to Salmons.
One bettor made what looks now to be a less-than-savvy four-figure bet on the Cavaliers to win next season’s championship at 50/1.
“We had a guy in here who wanted to bet Cleveland and was trying to bet to win almost $400,000. We gave him to win around $60,000,” Salmons said. “We had other bets on Cleveland. A lot of people thought (LeBron) was coming back to Cleveland.”
The Cavs’ odds after LeBron’s decision to move to L.A. are 500/1 to win the NBA title, and 200/1 to win the East.
Adjusting the Warriors’ odds
The Warriors, already less than even-money to three-peat, saw their odds shortened even further Monday night upon the Cousins signing. Golden State was priced at -110 before Cousins agreed to the one-year deal and was moved to 4/5 (-125) immediately after the news, 2/3 (-150) about a half-hour later and finally to 4/7 (-175) on Tuesday morning.
Thing is, the Warriors’ odds were even shorter last year, 5/12 on the eve of the 2017-18 season.
Like many NBA observers, Vegas bookmakers are dubious about Cousins’ effectiveness coming off a ruptured Achilles.
“I don’t think he’s going to be 100 percent when he comes back, no matter what point it is,” Sherman said. “… Obviously replacing JaVale McGee with Cousins is an upgrade. Who knows how his health is going to be, but you have to think they’ll give him enough time to be serviceable for what they need.”
While the Westgate’s moves on the Warriors’ odds were not prompted by betting action, South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews told BetChicago that his shop “had some play” on Golden State at -120 odds before making the price a more expensive -140.
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