Lake Show Layoff: Lakers Surging Past Bucks During NBA Hiatus As Favorites To Capture Title

Posted By Chris Sheridan on July 3, 2020 - Last Updated on July 27, 2020
Lakers Bucks LeBron Giannis odds

The Milwaukee Bucks are not the best anymore. Says who? A majority – but not all — of the big US sportsbooks who set gambling lines on these sorts of things.

An interesting thing happened during the pandemic of 2020 and the accompanying suspension of the 2019-20 NBA season. The Bucks went from being the consensus favorites to win the championship to the second choice behind LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers.

And yes, this despite the Lakers’ signing of J.R. Smith, who was last seen costing the Cleveland Cavaliers any shot they had at a championship with an epic fit of cranial flatulence during the final second of Game 1 in the 2018 NBA Finals.

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Bucks have an ‘easier path’ to NBA Finals

Looking at four major sportsbooks in the United States, two are now listing the Lakers as the favorites to win the NBA championship, one is listing the Bucks and Lakers as dead even, and a fourth still has Milwaukee with shorter odds than Los Angeles.

DraftKings Sportsbook had the Lakers at +240 to Milwaukee’s +250 on Thursday, BetMGM had the Lakers at +250 and the Bucks at +280; PointsBet had both the Lakers and Bucks at +250; and FanDuel Sportsbook was the outlier with the Bucks at +240 and the Lakers at +260.

We shall let the outlier explain first.

“The path to the Finals for the Bucks is much simpler in the East,” said Kevin Hennesey of FanDuel. “Our ratings have very little between the Lakers and Milwaukee. The easier path makes them more likely to win it all in our opinion.”

NBA futures odds

NBA Finals Winner

Game
09/06/2020
(Eastern Time)
(EST)
LA Lakers
Bet now
+250
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+260
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+250
Milwaukee Bucks
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+250
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+240
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+250
LA Clippers
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+333
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+320
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+300
Houston
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+1400
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+1700
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+1200
Toronto
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+1800
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+2000
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+2000
Boston
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+2000
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+1800
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+1600
Philadelphia
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+2000
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+2000
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+2000
Denver
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+2500
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+2700
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+2500
Miami
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+3000
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+3300
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+3000
Utah
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+3300
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+3300
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+4000
Dallas
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+4500
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+3800
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+4000
Oklahoma City
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+8000
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+8500
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+10000
Portland
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+8000
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+16000
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+15000
Indiana
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+10000
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+13000
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+8000
New Orleans
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+10000
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+10000
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+12500
Brooklyn
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+15000
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+19000
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+20000
Memphis
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+20000
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+21000
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+15000
Orlando
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+30000
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+25000
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+25000
San Antonio
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+30000
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+21000
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+50000
Washington
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+30000
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+25000
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+100000
Phoenix
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+50000
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+25000
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+100000
Sacramento
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+50000
Bet now
+25000
Bet now
+25000

Bettors loving the Lakers, Clippers not so much

The change in odds in favor of the Lakers has happened while the NBA has been on hold for three-and-a-half months and numerous players have been sickened by coronavirus. The league and the players’ union issued a joint statement Thursday announcing that in tests conducted of 344 NBA players between June 24 and June 29, an additional nine players have tested positive for the coronavirus. Twenty-five of 351 players have tested positive since testing began on June 23.

The Lakers have not had any public problems with anyone falling ill from coronavirus, but they still will not have Avery Bradley for the playoffs and may not have Dwight Howard, who is debating whether to play or sit out.

The betting public does not care.

At DraftKings, the Lakers have accounted for a whopping 30% of total bets and 29% of total handle since June 1, while the Bucks (with 13 percent of all bets) are tied for third (behind the Sixers). Denver and Boston are right behind at 9% of total handle. Strangely, the Los Angeles Clippers (+333 to win the title) did not crack the top 10 of DK’s teams most wagered on since June 1.

“They (the Clippers) are certainly a quality team, but maybe the bettors just don’t think they can beat all of the other top West teams. The betting base has been enamored with the Lakers and Bucks, and the Lakers are projected to be the conference winner,” said Johnny Avello, head of the DraftKings book.

Searching for teams with value

DK has taken 2% of its handle and total bets on the +15000 Portland Trail Blazers, who are an interesting flyer bet because of the matchup problems they can cause with both Jusuf Nurkic and Hassan Whiteside playing center. Let’s not forget, they went to the conference finals last season before becoming this season’s biggest underachievers, and Damian Lillard has been vocal about promising he will not just be going through the motions when the season resumes in Orlando.

“If Portland wins, that would be a significant loss for our book,” said Andrew Mannino of PointsBet, which has Portland at +30000 with about 5% of all action. “A lot of bettors are shying away from the short priced favorites, and are wagering on the teams with long odds.

The neutral court factor will likely be significant, and one of the great unknowns in the NBA playoffs is how the players – and the gambling and basketball-viewing public – will react and respond to the previously unheard of notion of playing the games in empty arenas.

Another big unknown is whether any of the players will test positive while in Orlando, and what type of confluence of events might cause the NBA to pull the plug on the whole idea. But assuming that the season goes forward as planned, there are innumerable questions about how certain teams will perform. First and foremost, will there be teams that had nice things going in January and February but may have been hurt by the layoff through the spring and early summer?

Teams that could be considered somewhat worthy value bets at this point include the Sixers (around +2500), who are healthy and whole yet still inexperienced and prone to being written off as too undisciplined to be considered legit title contenders. There is also the Heat (around +3000), who are the only NBA team to have gone undefeated against the Bucks during the regular season; and the Nuggets (around +2500) if Nikola Jokic can successfully recover from coronavirus and make good use of his new slimmed-down frame.

All of the books are exposed on the Brooklyn Nets, who have been decimated by coronavirus (Kevin Durant, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan) and injuries (Kyrie Irving) and may not even make it to the postseason.

But when it comes to picking a favorite, the bettors are speaking with their wallets.

“There has been a lot of money put on the Lakers lately,” Avello said. “Why the change now? Well, with all of this time off, there is a belief that LeBron has had plenty of time to rest, and he will have the energy and the ability to sustain that energy for an extended period of time.”

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