LeBron James is taking his talents to Los Angeles, and while that’s major news throughout the sports world, in Las Vegas it has sportsbooks scrambling to readjust their 2018-19 NBA Finals odds.
Sportsbooks had taken a possible LeBron signing into account for multiple teams in their NBA futures, including the eventual winning Los Angeles Lakers. Prior to James’ Sunday announcement, the Westgate SuperBook had LA at 8/1 to win the championship next June.
Had James not committed to Los Angeles and stayed in Cleveland or signed elsewhere, the Lakers were going to be listed at 100/1. But with him reaching a four-year, $153.3 million contract to play in purple and gold, those odds today stand at just 7/2 (+350).
Despite James joining Los Angeles, the Golden State Warriors, winners of three of the last four NBA Finals, remain the heavy favorites at 10/11. The Boston Celtics join the Lakers with the second-shortest odds (7/2).
The Houston Rockets (7/1) and Philadelphia 76ers (14/1) round out the top five.
West is Best
The Western Conference was already thought to be supremely superior to the East. James’ addition only further tilts the power.
But unless the Lakers make additional moves, with San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard the primary target, Los Angeles will struggle to get to the Finals, so say the experts.
Championship contenders? No. It’s not yet clear the Lakers will even be better than last season’s Cavaliers, who did play the Warriors close in two games but still got swept by an average of 15 points per game in the NBA Finals,” ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton wrote.
Leonard wants to join LeBron, but the Spurs will demand a premium for their franchise star. If the Lakers figure out a way to bring Kawhi to the team, odds would be expected to shorten to around 2/1 to 3/1 on the Lakers winning their first title since 2010.
William Hill reports there’s a lot of money on the Lakers in 2018-19. In fact, Nevada’s largest sports betting operator says more money has been wagered on Los Angeles than any other team.
The Celtics are next, followed by the Cavs, the latter a bet that now seems very unlikely of paying.
‘Believeland’ Back to Cleveland
With LeBron again leaving town, the odds on the Cavs reaching their fifth consecutive NBA Finals are slim.
“Thank you Northeast Ohio for an incredible four seasons. This will always be home,” James said on social media.
Those Ohioans are left with a Cavaliers team that the experts in Las Vegas give little to no chance of bringing the city another title next year. With James’ departure, Cleveland’s odds have ballooned from 12/1 to 500/1.
Unlike James’ first time departing Cleveland, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert took a classier route in thanking the superstar for delivering the city its first major professional sports title in 52 years.
“LeBron, you came home and delivered the ultimate goal. Nothing but appreciation and gratitude for everything you put into every moment you spent in a Cavaliers uniform,” Gilbert said in non-Comic Sans font.