Moore: Best NBA Title Betting Approaches After Clippers Land Kawhi Leonard, Paul George

Credit:

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Forward Paul George looks on at the pre-game ceremony during the 2019 NBA Playoffs.

  • Kawhi Leonard and Paul George teaming up has rebalanced the Western Conference and the NBA as a whole.
  • Matt Moore (@HPBasketball) analyzes the 2020 title odds by taking 100 betting units and walking through the best ways to allocate that amount.

I’ve said this so many times that I’m not even able to process the meaning of it, but it does bear repeating …

And the NBA was never the same again.

Late Friday night the Los Angeles Clippers reshaped the entire narrative of their franchise and the landscape of the league.

Kawhi Leonard is a Clipper. Paul George is a Clipper. The LA Lakers do not have a clear third star after putting all their eggs in the Kawhi basket. The Raptors do not have an MVP candidate. And the Thunder face a stormy future.

So, where should you put your money down for the 2019-20 title in light of this news? Let’s take $100 and see how we can get the best position.

Some guidelines:

  1. Instead of putting it all in on one team, let’s allow for injury, variance, and drama, and try to put together three-team combos.
  2. We need to get a list of teams that we think can win 55 or more next season to qualify. Let’s make that list: Clippers, Lakers, Rockets, Warriors, Jazz, Nuggets, Bucks, Sixers. Apologies to the Blazers, who made the conference finals, but will be without much of the team that got them there, and Jusuf Nurkic for most of the season.
  3. Let’s set up most of our positions with a loose version of the following structure: (1) One of the LA teams, (2) one of the established contenders pre-trade and (3) a longshot.
  4. We need one representative from each conference, given the top-heavy nature and the grueling nature of the West. The better teams may be in the West, but they have to go through one another.
  5. We’re using the best numbers available at three sportsbooks to get top value.
  6. The returns on these are lower because they’re multiple position bets, but you’re also staking
  7. The net numbers are including return of winning bet amount minus lost bets. So net $200 means you won $100 on your $100 of bets.

Here are the odds, and the best positions from where we stand now (if you want to lock up your money for 11 months.)

POSITION 1: THE MVP TRIANGULATION

Let’s go by the theory that the best players win.

  • $50: Clippers at +320 to win $160, net $180
  • $35: Bucks at +600 to win $210, net $180
  • $15: Rockets at +1400 to win $210, net $140

You’re essentially betting on Leonard, George, Giannis Antetokounmpo, or James Harden to win the title. You’re not getting the juicy return on the Rockets you would get on a bigger bet, but you’re using the No. 2 team in the West over the past two seasons as your hedge, which isn’t bad.

Here’s a different permutation using the other LA team:

  • $50: Lakers at +600 to win $300, net $300
  • $30: Sixers at +700 to win $210, net $170
  • $20: Rockets at +1400 to win $280, net $200

LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, or Harden to win the NBA title with an upside of winning $200 off the $100 bet and a low side (as long as one wins) of $70. Pretty good.

I’d also wait on the Lakers side of this bet because if you believe in their long-term value, that number may get lower if they start off rough in November. You can also mess with the numbers a little and get the Warriors in with Stephen Curry if you want to go that route.

In case you missed it, the Rockets provide great value here. This team won 65 games in 2018 and were on a 60-win pace after the All-Star Break in 2019 and only lost to the Warriors.


POSITION 2: THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM SWING

Let’s bet on LeBron, the Warriors, and the East favorites.

  • $40: Warriors at +1300 to win $520, net $500
  • $30: Lakers at +600 to win $180, net $140
  • $30: Bucks at +600 to win $180, net $140

You’re only getting 40% return here, but this is your position: the Warriors are criminally underrated. Klay Thompson will likely be back by the end of the season, and they will still have Steph Curry and Draymond Green.

They’ll have the core that won 73 games, outside of Andre Iguodala, and there’s a good chance D’Angelo Russell is swapped for components to strengthen that core (or another star).

That’s the big swing. The other two net you 40% return on investment if either LeBron (three titles, Davis) or Giannis (best team in the East last year) win the title.

You’re banking against the Clippers and on the conventional wisdom outside of this moment when the Clippers’ hype is hottest. Remember that George is coming off shoulder surgery and Leonard’s leg was bothering him even during his impeccable playoff run.


POSITION 3: FADE THE HYPE

  • $50: Bucks at +600 to win $300, $250 return
  • $30: Sixers at +900 to win $270, $230 return
  • $20: Jazz at +1600 to win $320, $260 return

So we fade both LA teams here. The Lakers have no depth, LeBron at 35 and Davis who is always injured. We fade the Warriors, with Klay Thompson’s injury and no real depth. We load up on the east with 130% return or better and we take the Jazz who don’t have the star power but have as much collective talent and coaching as anyone, at a great number.

The risk here is you may have to take out a bigger position midseason on the Clippers if they look dominant or if LeBron comes back in Terminator mode.


POSITION 4: CALIFORNIA DREAMING

  • $50: Clippers at +300 to win $150, net $150
  • $30: Lakers at +600 to win $180, net $140
  • $20: Warriors at +1300 to win $260, net $200

Screw the East! Let’s load up on the California teams.

Now under this construct, you can just go to DraftKings and take the California teams prop they have available at +115 for $215 net, but if you don’t use DK, this is a construct that gets you a winning position on the two biggest name teams and Golden State as your outside hedge.

You’re still getting 40% return in your worst outcome of a win, and you’ve got three awesome teams to load up on.


POSITION 5: THE CLIPPER STAKE

  • $70: Clippers at +300 to win $210, $250 net
  • $20: Sixers at +900 to win $180, $120 net
  • $10: Nuggets at +2500 to win $250, $170 net

You might just go the full way with the Clippers here, but if you want a little bit of insurance, this gets you 150% return on a Clippers ticket, with the Sixers as potentially the best team in the East if the Bucks take a step back and the Nuggets as your longshot.

The Nuggets were one game from the Western Conference Finals with the best center in the conference and a young core getting better. It’s a longshot, but it’s built in as a stab to bring back return.

You can also switch that up for the Warriors or Rockets, and take a slight loss, but enough to take the sting off.

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