The Highlights

  • The Lakers vaulted themselves back into relevance by signing LeBron James, and also cleared the path for the Celtics, their biggest rivals.
  • Boston is now the prohibitive favorite to win the East. The Celtics’ 2019 NBA title odds sit at 7-2.
  • The Celtics have the length — and maybe the talent — to compete with the Warriors, should they meet in next year’s Finals. 

It’s a rare day when the Los Angeles Lakers help out the Boston Celtics, but Sunday was such a day. In a simple press release, LeBron James’ agency, Klutch Sports, announced that the 14-time All-Star will join the Lakers on a four-year deal.

James then got on a plane and went to Europe with his wife on a couple’s trip and left us all to deal with the hoopla and the fallout while the Lakers went about the business of building a contender by signing JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson.

In doing so, the Lakers obviously vaulted themselves back into NBA relevance. The league’s premier franchise has its latest iconic player. The Lakers are the big winners, no question. A team that had fallen onto literally the worst stretch of its entire existence is back under the warm lights.

But in snagging James, the Lakers have also cleared the path for their bitter rivals. The Boston Celtics made out like gangbusters on Sunday.

A CLIMBABLE MOUNTAIN, LEVELED

The Celtics were likely going to be the favorites to win the East no matter what this fall. They finished with a better record than the Cavs without Gordon Hayward for the entire season and Kyrie Irving for half. But the odds would have been tight had James stayed in the East.

A Sixers team with James might have been the favorite, barely. Now? You can expect the Celtics to be heavy chalk to go to the Finals. Boston also has a real shot to establish a stranglehold on the conference for years to come.

The Sixers will improve from last season, but getting worked in five games by Boston (again without Irving and Hayward) doesn’t inspire confidence they can actually beat Boston.

Toronto will likely be underrated. The Raptors have fresh blood at head coach and the same core that has averaged 53 wins the past five seasons. Toronto’s entire problem was not being able to get past James. Without him looming, they too have to feel more confident.

But Boston has by far the most talent and now a much clearer path. Even if another team makes a real run, the Celtics will likely wind up with the 2-seed. Boston doesn’t have to worry about what Toronto ran into, winning the top seed and somehow still playing James in Round 2.

All of this means that the Celtics’ 7-2 odds to win the title via Westgate are actually surprisingly soft. I’m reluctant to back any non-Warriors team, but the Celtics have matched up well with Golden State. They have the length to use a switch-heavy scheme, and Irving has obviously been a huge thorn in the Warriors’ side. If the Celtics are the dominant team in the East, with a legit chance to match up with Golden State, they might actually be a real team to invest in.

Either way, be on the lookout when the conference-title odds come out, and if Boston isn’t a favorite by a huge margin, jump on it.

The throne is empty, the King is gone. Boston’s ready to storm the gates. All thanks to the Lakers.

Credit:

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Celtics F Jayson Tatum

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