Sheridan: Sportsbooks Discounting The Underdogs In NBA Finals MVP, Title Markets

Written By Chris Sheridan on September 21, 2020
NBA Finals MVP odds LeBron Anthony Davis

No basketball will be played again until Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET, which means the summer of bubbleball is over with Autumn officially beginning on Tuesday at 9:31 a.m. ET. But we are only three games into the Eastern Conference Finals, which will not resume until Wednesday, and just two games into the Western Conference finals.

So there is a heck of a lot of hoops still to come before a champion is crowned.

For those who believe in the ability of the Nuggets to rebound from such a disheartening Sunday loss, take heart in this: Nikola Jokic is on the NBA Finals MVP board at DraftKings Sportsbook at +8000, and Jamal Murray is sitting at +12000. At PointsBet, Jokic is the only Nuggets player on the board at +5000.

For those who believe the champion will come out off the East, the wagering options are tantalizing, to say the least. Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat is +1400, Goran Dragic is +1800 and Bam Adebayo is +2200 at PointsBet, while at DraftKings the listings are Butler at +1200, Adebayo at +2200 and Dragic at +2600. Hero worshipers (get it?) can get Tyler Herro of the Heat at +10000 at DK.

And then we have the Celtics, who bounced back Saturday night to win Game 3 and cut Miami’s lead to 2-1. It was only Miami’s second loss of the postseason.

Jayson Tatum is +1300 at DraftKings, Kemba Walker is +4000 and Jaylen Brown is +5000. Sadly, there are no odds on Tacko Fall.

PointsBet has Tatum at +1000, Walker at +2200 and Brown at +3300, so you might say that the savvy shopper who has a strong belief in underdogs is best served by opening accounts with different books.

The longest odds of anyone belong to Michael Porter of the Nuggets at +100000 at DraftKings, and if you believe in crazy comebacks, changes to the Denver starting lineup and the overnight maturation of a kid who was All-Bubble material prior to the playoffs – that particular wager may be worth a flier.

But one thing to understand when assessing these odds is this: Lakers Nation has an uncommon impact on so many facets of the basketball world, from TV ratings to media coverage patterns to gambling odds. They skew everything, and that opens up opportunities for non-believers in the purple and gold.

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All Lakers, all the time

No matter that it was Anthony Davis, not LeBron, that sank the game-winning shot Sunday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

Never mind that there are four NBA teams remaining, not two. Or the fact that the Denver Nuggets are the kings of the comeback. The sportsbooks in the legalized US sports gambling marketplace are discounting all of it.

LeBron is the favorite to win NBA Finals MVP, and the Lakers are looking like a lock to win it all following a thrilling 105-103 victory over the Nuggets.

Sunday night and early Monday, DraftKings Sportsbook had James at -125 to be named Most Valuable Player of the Finals, followed by his teammate, Davis, at +225. By early Monday afternoon on the East Coast, the odds moved to James +120, Davis +170.

“We took some money on Davis, that’s for sure,” said Johnny Avello, head oddsmaker at DraftKings. “Look, Davis is going to get 30-plus points per game, and LeBron just wants to win. And in terms of the East, whether it’s the Celtics or the Heat, if they go against the Lakers they are going to be huge underdogs.

“Are we exposed (on the Lakers)? Yes. Did that have anything to do with where we set these lines? No,” Avello said.

At DK, nobody aside from James and Davis were lower than +1200 to win NBA Finals MVP.

At PointsBet on Monday morning, James was at -180 and Davis is at +325, with Tatum next at +1000.

Those lines held steady through the afternoon.

“It’s a reflection of the respect we’ve been giving the Lakers all season long,” said Andrew Mannino, senior sports content analyst at PointsBet. “We were showing that same respect to the Clippers and the Bucks, and without those two teams to challenge them, unless and until the action changes things, we’re protecting the Lakers. We are going to keep the prices short on them, because the Lakers winning is the most likely scenario.”

LeBron is still LeBron, right?

The Nuggets have now dropped to odds ranging from +4000 to +5000 to win it all, an enormous leap from the 8-1 odds they were carrying just a few short days ago. And they say the stock market is volatile, eh?

In the East, the Heat have shorter odds than Boston at every book except PointsBet, which lists both them and the Celtics at +575.

At DraftKings their already short odds have moved to -400. Need someone remind them that LeBron is 3-6 in the NBA Finals – a stat his detractors often cite when comparing him to Michael Jordan, who went 6-0 with the Chicago Bulls?

Then again, LeBron is LeBron. If you had to pick a member of the Lakers most likely to dominate a series, you would still pick him despite what we have been seeing from Davis. Or would you?

Again, there is a lot of basketball left.

And if you believe in comebacks the way folks in Denver do, now is probably the time to put your money on someone other than King James.

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