Las Vegas books Lakers, LeBron James as playoff-bound

ByDavid Purdum ESPN logo
Monday, August 6, 2018

LeBron James has reached the playoffs in 13 straight seasons, including eight consecutive appearances in the Finals. Oddsmakers at the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas believe he'll be back in the playoffs again this season, James' first with the Los Angeles Lakers.

The SuperBook on Sunday opened betting on NBA season win totals and pegged Los Angeles at 48.5 wins in the rugged Western Conference.

The two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors opened at 62.5 wins, the most of any team and eight wins more than any other Western Conference squad. The Houston Rockets are next at 54.5 wins, followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder at 50.5.

The Boston Celtics top the Eastern Conference with 57.5 wins, followed by the Philadelphia 76ers and the Toronto Raptors, each at 54.5 wins.

The Lakers are one of seven Western Conference teams with a win total listed in the 40s. The Utah Jazz are at 48.5, followed by the Denver Nuggets (47.5), New Orleans Pelicans (45.5), Minnesota Timberwolves (44.5), San Antonio Spurs (43.5) and Portland Trail Blazers (41.5).

"We felt in the tougher Western Conference, we made a number [on the Lakers] that is competitive with other similar teams," SuperBook oddsmaker Jeff Sherman told ESPN in an email. "Our expectations are the public will bet over, but sharps will be more inclined to bet under if we went higher."

When James joined the Miami Heat in 2010, the team improved by 11 wins. The Cleveland Cavaliers improved by 20 wins after getting James back for the 2014-15 season.

The Lakers went 35-47 last season and finished 12 games out of the postseason. The arrival of James immediately changed expectations. His teams have averaged 52.2 wins during his 15 seasons. But it has been a rocky stretch for the Lakers, who last won more than 45 games in the 2010-11 season, with a roster that featured Kobe Bryant and Luke Walton, the team's current coach.

"We've seen the impact LeBron has had in his prior free-agency moves, although that involved staying in the Eastern Conference," Sherman said. "With the more competitive Western Conference, his impact wouldn't be as drastic as what we've seen prior. We figured about 10-12 wins, plus the young players growth to get to the number we set."

The Rockets reportedly are poised to sign veteran forward Carmelo Anthony, but Sherman said adding Anthony will have no impact on Houston's odds.

"We actually boosted the [Oklahoma City] Thunder's number with the return of [Andre] Roberson and the subtraction of [Anthony]," Sherman said.

The SuperBook posted the Cavs at 30.5 wins. With James, Cleveland went 50-32 last season, reaching the Finals.

The New York Knicks opened at 29.5 wins, ahead of only the Chicago Bulls (27.5), Sacramento Kings (25.5) and Atlanta Hawks (23.5).

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