2019 NBA Title Odds Forecast LeBron James Leaving Cleveland
Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports.
- The Cleveland Cavaliers are 30-1 to win next year’s NBA title. Those are just the eighth-best odds in the league.
- The 76ers, meanwhile are 7-2, tied with Houston for the second-shortest odds.
- Philly and Houston are thought to be contenders for LeBron James this summer, along with Cleveland and the Los Angeles Lakers (20-1).
The first odds for the 2019 NBA title are out, and they are downright fascinating.
With LeBron James’ free agency casting a massive shadow over the offseason before the Finals are even over, the possibility of James leaving Cleveland is creating a ripple effect through the futures board. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook released the odds Saturday afternoon.
Here’s a look, before we get to some takeaways:
- The big, glaring headline is that jump for the Sixers. Philadelphia is tied with Houston for the second-best odds, which invites all sorts of speculation about whether James plans to join the Sixers in free agency. The timing is odd, coming off not only the Sixers’ second-round gentleman’s sweep at the hands of the Celtics (who are notably behind them in odds), but in the wake of the Bryan Colangelo burner scandal that could very well result in Colangelo’s dismissal in the coming days. Of course, those odds shortening could also be the result of expected liability on the Sixers with their being the favorite to land James at other books.
- The Warriors staying as the favorite doesn’t even raise an eyebrow, though it’ll be interesting to see what happens this summer as they try to alter what has turned out to be a weak bench unit.
- The Lakers popping up at 20-1 also raises some alarms. Westgate oddsmaker John Murray told ESPN, “We like some of the younger players on the Lakers and think there’s a pretty good chance they get Paul George. They’d draw a lot of action and probably would have the third-best odds in the West behind Houston and Golden State if LeBron went there. Without him, they’d probably be in the 60-1 to 80-1 range.” Translation: The Lakers’ odds stand the highest chance to go either considerably up or massively down after the first week of free agency, depending on the decisions of George and James.
- The Cavaliers at 30-1 is the most shocking. There has been ample steam toward the idea of James staying, and, in case you’ve forgotten, they’re in the Finals and had an impressive showing in Game 1. This feels like a strong indication that the book believes James is gone-zo. The Cavs beating the Rockets or Warriors next year, let alone a full-strength Boston team, certainly feels like a longshot. But to be behind those other East teams, including Miami, speaks volumes. Murray told ESPN that the Cavs would drop to “around 500-1” if LeBron left in free agency.
- Speaking of the Heat, their 20-1 odds are … interesting. The idea of James returning to South Beach has been bandied about before, but there’s no real reason to believe that’s a possibility at this juncture. The Heat got run over as the 6-seed this year by the Sixers. Miami’s cap sheet is jammed, and it doesn’t possess a high pick through trade. So what on earth puts the Heat that high?
- Another under-the-radar line? The Spurs at 25-1. That somehow manages to seem too long for a franchise that’s been as good as it has been with Kawhi Leonard, and too short for a franchise that could possibly lose Leonard this summer. It’s a limbo number, which maybe isn’t that odd considering all the unknowns surrounding the Leonard situation.
- Finally, Boston’s 8-1 number is suspiciously long. The Celtics will likely return most of a team that reached the Eastern Conference finals without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, both of whom figure to be back next season. James’ decision should move either Houston or the Sixers (or both) back a step, so it’s honestly surprising Boston doesn’t have shorter odds, especially when you factor in the possibility of James heading West. That would open the door wide for Boston to reach the Finals, and the best chance of winning the Finals starts with getting there in the first place.
Maybe the biggest takeaway from these is what Murray told ESPN about how these lines will move.
“When you have LeBron in free agency, you have to be careful,” Murray told ESPN. “You’ve got Philadelphia, Miami, the Lakers and even Houston as potential destinations [outside of Cleveland]. We cut all of those teams’ odds down, and we’ll raise back up the teams he doesn’t sign with.”
So these odds don’t necessarily reflect where oddsmakers believe James will go, but they do show the probabilities books are keeping in mind based on all their information, and that alone is notable.
We’re sure to see these odds move rapidly over the summer, and we’ll keep you covered on the movement and the implications at The Action Network.
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