It’s an interesting time of year in the sports betting realm. Both pro and college football have a firm grasp on the betting public’s attention, and postseason baseball undoubtedly enjoys its fair share of action as well.
Yet somewhat under the radar, the NBA suddenly pops up in mid-October. For approximately the subsequent two weeks (depending on how long the World Series goes), it’s a sports betting fan’s (and sportsbook’s) delight — all three major sports are playing meaningful, wagerable games.
The pigskin will continue to draw plenty of attention all the way through Super Bowl LIII on the first Sunday in February. But this coming NBA season will hold no shortage of interest. Specifically, the movement of three prominent pieces on the league’s chess board – LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and DeMarcus Cousins – has led to some interesting futures props in New Jersey sportsbooks.
And not to be forgotten in all the offseason-moves-centered hype is a team that stood pat, but that returns a star who missed all but the opening minutes of last season – an already formidable Boston Celtics squad that stands to get even better with a healthy Gordon Hayward.
Even the NBA itself is combining the anticipation with its increasing embrace of the new legalized sports betting landscape – along with new partner MGM Resorts, it’s running an NBA Pick ‘Em: Team Win Totals contest that awards a cool $1 million to those who can specifically predict each team’s number of victories.
Ahead of roundball season, let’s examine how some of what’s transpired this offseason is reflected in current lines:
Los Angeles Lakers
- FanDuel Sportsbook: +950 to win Western Conference/ +1100 to win NBA Finals
- 888sport: +700 to win Western Conference/ +800 to win NBA Finals
- BetStars: +900 to win Western Conference/ +900 to win NBA Finals
Never underestimate the power of the King. LeBron’s second exit out of Cleveland drew relatively less fanfare than his first one back in 2010, but it’s had a seismic effect on the way the Lakers are viewed by the oddsmakers. Los Angeles’ triple-digit numbers for both their conference and NBA title chances are especially striking when compared to other playoff teams.
On all three Garden State sportsbooks cited above, the Lakers check in with markedly better odds to be crowned champs than 2017-18 playoff teams like the 76ers, Thunder, Jazz, Raptors, Spurs and Trail Blazers. Make no mistake – despite the fact the Lakers offered reason for optimism with their play at times last season, there’s no way they come close to sniffing these odds without LeBron in the fold. This was a 35-47 team last season that returns three-fifths of their starting five and that arguably downgraded by swapping out Brook Lopez for JaVale McGee at center.
James’ massive effect on a team has been proven countless times (by comparison, a now LeBron-less Cavaliers squad is a whopping +55000 to win it all), but whether it’s enough for the type of line movement the Lakers have seen makes for a healthy debate.
- FanDuel Sportsbook: +320 to win Eastern Conference/ +1800 to win NBA Finals
- 888sport: +375 to win Eastern Conference/ +1700 to win NBA Finals
- BetStars: +375 to win Eastern Conference/ +1600 to win NBA Finals
The Raptors went from regular-season juggernauts to LeBron patsies – again — by the time their 2017-18 campaign wrapped up. Yet another postseason collapse made their 59-23 regular-season record seem hollow. They then made what could potentially turn out to be a move that’s has a neutral effect at best and could even represent a downgrade at worst – swapping out DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard.
If he’s 100 percent right physically, Leonard is arguably an elite difference-maker, especially on defense. But whether he’ll hold up for an entire season is anyone’s guess, regardless of how much due diligence Toronto undoubtedly performed before trading for him. Meanwhile, the Raptors essentially return the same cast – sans DeRozan – that fell short. That includes a 32-year-old Kyle Lowry that saw a drop of more than six points per game last season.
Irrespective of those factors, Toronto checks in with considerably better Finals odds than fellow 2017-18 playoff teams such as the Thunder, Jazz, Heat, Pelicans and Trail Blazers, and with the same chances as a promising Sixers squad. Toronto’s current numbers are clearly based on the health of one player, and like those of the Lakers, are fodder for plenty of discussion.
Golden State Warriors
- FanDuel Sportsbook: -330 to win Western Conference/ -160 to win NBA Finals
- 888sport: -286 to win Western Conference/ -200 to win NBA Finals
- BetStars: -330 to win Western Conference/ -180 to win NBA Finals
Outside of LeBron, the Warriors likely made the most headlines this offseason with their acquisition of DeMarcus Cousins. Many cried foul at Golden State’s apparent quest to ensure no other team hoists the Larry O’Brien trophy for about the next decade. The validity of those complaints could probably be debated until next June’s Finals. However, it says plenty about the oddsmakers’ faith in the Warriors’ Big Four of Curry, Thompson, Durant and Green that they’re comfortably the odds-on favorites to repeat, even though Cousins’ exact return date from his Achilles injury remains firmly up in the air heading into the season.
- FanDuel Sportsbook: -110 to win Eastern Conference/ +600 to win NBA Finals
- 888sport: -106 to win Eastern Conference/ +525 to win NBA Finals
- BetStars: -115 to win Eastern Conference/ +600 to win NBA Finals
Which team has the most potential to serve as the NBA’s savior from those dastardly Warriors? It’s the boys in green from across the country, which admittedly might need a good dose of the luck of the Irish to topple Golden State. However, while they’re not quite on the Warriors’ level with respect to securing an NBA championship in the eyes of the sportsbooks, the Celts are perceived as the highly likely favorites to emerge as the potential dragon slayers out of the Eastern Conference.
The numbers are driven not just by Boston’s remarkable, deep playoff run last season with a short-handed squad, but by the reinforcements they get back this season. The returns of a presumably healthy Kyrie Irving and Hayward arguably make the Celtics the deepest unit in the Eastern Conference. Moreover, the books also appear to be projecting a true breakout season for phenom Jayson Tatum, whose learning curve was undoubtedly accelerated by a large margin in the 2017-18 campaign while filling in for Hayward.
Boston’s talent and potential coaching advantage over the Warriors is such that they could be one key Golden State injury away from making those current Finals odds a bargain.
Northeast teams hold plenty of regional interest
Of particular interest to Garden State bettors are the three teams within closest proximity. That includes the former home-state Nets, as well as the neighboring Knicks and 76ers. Of the three, only the latter has anything resembling bright prospects heading into the season. Nevertheless, here’s a look at where the trio of clubs stands in the eyes of the oddsmakers:
- FanDuel Sportsbook: +21000 to win Eastern Conference/+55000 to win NBA Finals/32.5 projected wins total
- 888sport: +10000 to win Eastern Conference/ +40000 to win NBA Finals/31.5 projected wins total
- BetStars: +15000 to win Eastern Conference/ +40000 to win NBA Finals/31.5 projected wins total
The Nets are projected to only bump up last season’s win total by four, although Brooklyn returns its impressive core of young players and has added reliable veteran Ed Davis to serve as an important part of the second-unit frontcourt rotation. While they have the misfortune of playing in the same division as the 76ers, Raptors and Celtics, the Nets could surprise a la last season’s Lakers and push for a win total in the upper 30s if the likes of D’Angelo Russell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and promising big man Jarrett Allen can stay healthy.
New York Knicks
- FanDuel Sportsbook: +21000 to win Eastern Conference/+50000 to win NBA Finals/29.5 projected wins total
- 888sport: +5000 to win Eastern Conference/+30000 to win NBA Finals/29.5 projected wins total
- BetStars: +10000 to win Eastern Conference/+30000 to win NBA Finals/29.5 projected wins total
Think the crosstown Nets with a slower pace and you have the Knicks, who also have some solid under-30 talent, especially if Kristaps Porzingis is able to return at some point. However, considering that’s far from certain, New York will have to rely on much surer propositions such as Tim Hardaway, Jr., Trey Burke and Enes Kanter, as well as ninth overall pick Kevin Knox. The Knicks also added what could turn out to be one of the better under-the-radar free agents of the offseason in Mario Hezonja, but the oddsmakers don’t see them having made a net improvement of even one full win. Porzingis’ potential season-long absence is certainly a factor in that assessment.
- FanDuel Sportsbook: +320 to win Eastern Conference/+1800 to win NBA Finals/53.5 projected wins total
- 888sport: +300 to win Eastern Conference/ +1400 to win NBA Finals/54.5 projected wins total
- BetStars: +375 to win Eastern Conference/ +1600 to win NBA Finals/53.5 projected wins total
The 76ers naturally carry the highest expectations of the three teams coming into the season. The books project a slight improvement in their win total as Philly returns their entire first unit from last season’s 52-win squad. A full season of health from Joel Embiid and Dario Saric could certainly push them closer to the 60-win mark, and Philadelphia should also benefit from the offseason acquisition of veteran Wilson Chandler to back up Robert Covington. Another x-factor will be the health of 2017 top overall pick Markelle Fultz, who was limited to 14 games during his rookie campaign due to a shoulder injury. The Celtics still represent a major roadblock to a division title for Philadelphia, but a playoff spot seems all but assured if key pieces avoid the injury bug.