Moore: What Does Kawhi Leonard’s Meeting Mean For the Lakers Title Odds?
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2).
- The Lakers have moved to +120 favorites to win the 2020 NBA Championship after reports of a potential meeting with Kawhi Leonard during free agency.
- Matt Moore assesses the value of betting the Lakers at such a low number.
The Los Angeles Lakers appear to have fallen so hard they crashed through the floor of the universe and are now in heaven.
To recap: LeBron James missed 20-plus games, the Lakers’ season fell apart in a failed messy trade negotiation, their President of Basketball Operations (a franchise legend) abruptly quit, they fired their coach, their former President of Basketball Operations (and franchise legend) slagged their acting general manager as a backstabber on national television, they traded everything that wasn’t nailed down or named Kyle Kuzma to the Pelicans for Anthony Davis, they may or may not have bungled when the trade was to be completed in order to get money for a max star, they traded the leftover floorboards and shelves and convinced Davis to waive his trade kicker to get max cap space.
(Deep, gasping breath)
And on Thursday reports began to circulate that they were back in the running for Kawhi Leonard.
Stephen A bomb about Kawhi seriously considering the Lakers pic.twitter.com/7vKijcsQXT
— Ryan Glasspiegel (@sportsrapport) June 28, 2019
Sources. Kawhi Leonard’s people plan on meeting with Lakers president Jeanie Buss and Magic Johnson next week when free agency starts. Will most likely be in LA
— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) June 28, 2019
Now, that whole Magic Johnson business touched off an entirely different set of sticky issues because you can’t have a guy quit the organization, go out and tamper with players because he’s no longer with the team, and then meet with players as part of a team’s delegation. Which led to some frantic backtracking.
Magic Johnson says he will help the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency in any way he can, but he is not permitted by NBA rules to be part of official team meetings with prospective free agents. Johnson said he has not been asked by the Lakers or owner Jeanie Buss to participate.
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) June 28, 2019
But still, the bigger point here is that the Lakers are now firmly on Leonard’s radar as a possible destination.
Flash forward to Friday night, when the Westgate Superbook, a notoriously conservative book, moved the odds on the Lakers from +250 to +120. The Westgate’s Jeff Sherman told Action Network’s Darren Rovell that the move was made to protect the book against the possibility of Leonard joining the Lakers, not because of a large bet put in.
That’s significant. If action alone had spurred the line movement, you could chalk it up to some rowdy Lakers fans with big pockets and elevated heart rates. The fact that it wasn’t action doesn’t necessarily mean that the Westgate has secret inside intel, but it is notable.
For example, various books — not the Westgate — moved last year on the Raptors’ odds to land Leonard in trade just days before the Raptors did, in fact, complete the deal.
Now, as far as the value, do not under any circumstances get in at this number. You don’t know what the rest of the roster will look like, you don’t know if Leonard will actually go through with the move, and beyond all that, as I noted after the Davis trade, LeBron teams in the first year of their new configuration start off slow.
The Lakers will probably struggle in training camp and into early November before picking up steam. You’ll be able to get them at a much better number than +120 at some point this season.
But it should be noted that the Lakers are still +350 at PointsBet. There’s value to be found if you shop around.
The big takeaway is that there’s suddenly considerable momentum towards Leonard joining a new superteam in LA with LeBron and Davis. We’ll have to wait until at least Sunday to know for sure, but don’t be surprised if more reports come out in the next 48 hours as we approach the Sunday 6 p.m. ET start of free agency.