With the NBA schedule being released this week, folks all around the world — especially in Los Angeles — are going to be looking at four games in particular: Clippers vs. Lakers.
We already know that one of the games will be held on Christmas Night, and the other three are going to be national spectacles given that these two teams are more or less co-favorites to win the NBA championship in 2020.
From a wagering standpoint in the legalized U.S. sports gambling market, one of the more interesting prop bets is being put out there by DraftKings Sportsbook.
Who will have the higher scoring average: LeBron or Kawhi?
It is more or less a tossup, with James a slight favorite at -139 and Leonard listed at +115.
Last season, James averaged 27.4 ppg in 55 games for the Lakers, while Leonard averaged 26.6 for the NBA champion Toronto Raptors while playing in 60 games.
“I think it will be about even. I think they’ll both be right around 24 points,” Rich Paul, James’ agent, told TheLines. “They both have a lot of support around them, so it’s going to be close.”
— Chris Sheridan (@sheridanhoops) August 11, 2019
James will be surrounded by an impressive supporting cast, most notably Anthony Davis but also including Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, Avery Bradley, DeMarcus Cousins, Quinn Cook, Jared Dudley and Troy Daniels — all except Kuzma were brought in during the offseason.
Leonard will be running with a second superstar, Paul George, along with two of the best bench players in the NBA — Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, plus defender extraordinaire Patrick Beverley, ex-Sixers Wilson Chandler and Landry Shamet, ex-Laker Ivica Zubac, along with new addition Maurice Harkless.
More ways to bet on Lakers vs. Clippers
The Clippers are -200 to finish with more wins than the Lakers (who are +155), and the Clippers are -139 vs. the Lakers’ +115 to go further in the playoffs.
There is a slight variation in where each team’s win total is projected, with FanDuel Sportsbook listing the Clippers at 54.5 and the Lakers at 51.5; whereas DraftKings has the Clippers two wins higher at 56.5.
In Las Vegas, the Westgate Superbook has put up a prop bet on whether the Lakers will win a title next season or in 2020-21. “Yes” is +175 and “No” is -210.
The fact of the matter is this: The balance of power that had been shifting westward for the better part of the past decade has tilted even more in that direction during this momentous offseason, which is why value bets such as the Indiana Pacers at 50-1 are worth taking a look at.
But back to the glamour teams in El Lay.
The Lakers and their preeminent superstar have been in the news this month because of the new Rich Paul rule, which stipulates that any NBPA certified agent must have a college degree. Clearly, there is an establishment mentality that is reacting adversely to the roles being taken on by Paul, Jay-Z and other non-traditional folks entering the player representation business, and whether you want to look at this as a racial issue is up to you. But clearly, Paul has a target on is back — which comes with the territory when you roll with LeBron and become the CEO of what is basically now a Fortune 500 company that isn’t going away once LeBron hangs up his sneakers.
Paul also represents Davis and Kantavious Caldwell-Pope of the Lakers, and there appears to be a hot/cold relationship between Team LeBron and the Lakers front office and ownership. But at a certain point, it behooves everyone to co-exist peacefully.
As for the Clippers, there was tremendous backlash from other NBA owners after Leonard and George teamed up to join forces, which led to the subsequent trade of Russell Westbrook to the Rockets … leaving the once-mighty Oklahoma City Thunder an extreme outlier in championship odds (+20000).
If the NBA schedule-makers smile on us, we will have the first Clippers-Lakers tilt as part of an opening night doubleheader (just a thought, but can we please have Milwaukee-Philadelphia as the opener of that doubleheader?).
Whatever the case, there are going to be four Lakers-Clippers games that will capture the nation’s attention for good reason. Lines are already posted on the Christmas quintuple header, and folks who are looking for bigger payoffs when it comes to the two Los Angeles teams may want to take a look at the MVP odds.
James is +550; Leonard is +650 and George is +900 at DraftKings, while James is +750, and Davis and Leonard are both +950 at FanDuel.
The bottom line is this: It’s an exciting week for NBA fans of all 30 teams because the schedule is coming out. And let’s face it — until college football season begins and the FedEx golf playoffs get down to the final two weeks, there is only so much exhibition NFL action you any sports fan can handle.
So stay tuned …. and good luck.