NBA Win Total Odds: Analyzing the LA Lakers’ Over/Under In Orlando

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Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured (L-R): LeBron James and Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a look at the over/under for wins in the eight “seeding games” in Orlando for all 22 participating teams before the NBA playoffs begin.

We tip off today with a look at the Western Conference leading Los Angeles Lakers. You can find more on the season resumption dates, schedules and odds to make the playoffs here.

Los Angeles Lakers Orlando Resume

Record 49-14
Win Total 5.5 games

The big picture with this is to wait until the very last minute in the hopes the number comes down for a number of reasons, and then take the over.

On the surface, the Lakers have nothing to play for. They are three wins away (or two wins and a loss from the Clippers, etc.) from securing the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. They have very little reason to overexert themselves.

However, this isn’t just the top team in the West. It’s LeBron James’ team, and it’s likely that James will want to make a statement. There are so many eyes on this resumption of play should it happen, and James has been under closer examination than the usual spectral microscope he’s always under given both the social climate and his position as the face of the league and outspoken leader.

James is going to Orlando to win a title, but it also affords him the ability to send a message on multiple fronts. He can speak from a massive pulpit on social issues no matter the outcomes of these games but he can also illustrate why he’s the game’s best player even at this age.

There’s reason to believe that after a three-month layoff, the Lakers may go full-bore or at least full-regular-season-bore.

Now, there are specific circumstances working against them. Avery Bradley has announced he will not play in Orlando. Dwight Howard is at least on the fence if not unlikely to attend.

Bradley’s absence is maskable. The Lakers have both positional flexibility on the wings and replacement options. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope moved into a bigger role as the season went on and had his best pro season. Danny Green is a proven veteran who can shoot and defend. Alex Caruso can play at point guard (where Bradley had been starting) or next to any of those options.

The Lakers can also shift to a bigger lineup, moving LeBron James effectively to point guard (his role on the team anyway), alongside one of the wings, with Kyle Kuzma next to Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee.

Howard’s absence, however, is more significant. JaVale McGee is always a mixed bag when it comes to his balance of offensive contribution and defensive liability. Howard was able to provide both the alley-oop finisher, screen setting, and rebounding of McGee with better defense.

Without Howard, the Lakers may have no choice but to play more lineups with Davis at center, an idea that is awesome in theory and yet something Davis has sought to avoid over his career. He gets banged up and is often uncomfortable for long stretches at the 5. Having to only fill in backup minutes there is one thing, but the Lakers are also short on alternatives beyond those two.

Zhong Zhi/Getty Images. Pictured: Caris LeVert #22 of the Brooklyn Nets, Dwight Howard #39 of the LA Lakers.

The Lakers went 13-1 straight up and 7-7 against the spread without Bradley this season, 0-1 SU and ATS without Howard.

But the big thing with the Lakers is their identity. They had the third-best defensive rating in the regular season behind the Bucks and Raptors. They are a defense-first, veteran squad let by James’ brilliance and Davis’ exceptional talents.

The floor for the Lakers isn’t purely decided by James and Davis the way a lot of sloppy analysis suggests. It’s decided by the combination of what those two provide and how the rest of the team augments them. Lob finishers like McGee, 3-and-D threats like Green and KCP, spark plug guards like Caruso.

It’s also their entire model of basically wearing down teams.

The Lakers are low variance. They rank 23rd in 3-point attempts per 100 possessions. This is both a help and a hindrance. It helps in that if the Lakers have a cold night from 3-point range in a strange, stilted environment, they can still win. It hurts in that they are susceptible to the math problem, in which opponents that shoot a volume of 3’s can outpace them.

Which brings us to the schedule.

I would identify the following games as near-locks for a win, based on matchups, if the Lakers pursued a full effort against them: Thunder, Pacers, Nuggets, Kings.

Oklahoma City has a lower 3-point rate than the Lakers, and while their defense is excellent, the Thunder are largely trying to beat the Lakers using a similar formula. The Pacers are dead last in 3-point rate, with Victor Oladipo’s status for joining the team in Orlando uncertain, and while Indiana has Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, Davis trumps both of them.

The Nuggets have struggled with combatting the Lakers’ lob frequency and lack the size necessary to combat the Lakers’ frontcourt. No one can guard James, but the Nuggets really can’t guard James. The Kings are simply outmatched.

That leaves four games I would consider coin-flips for the Lakers: Raptors, Clippers, Jazz, and Rockets. Those teams all have high end talent, perform well on both ends of the floor, and have shown an ability to beat or play the Lakers close.

This puts the Lakers right on the edge of that 5.5 line (almost as if the bookmakers know what they’re doing).

When you throw in the possibility of the Lakers resting after securing the top seed, the under definitely gains value.

However, the Lakers will be favored in every non-Clippers match up. The more profitable approach instead of betting the over/under is likely to play it game by game. The Lakers went 16-11 (59%) vs. teams over .500 ATS this season. That allows for you to fade them if James is out.

This is a key component. In games where Davis did not play, the Lakers went 6-2 straight up and ATS. In games where James sat, they went 2-1 straight up and ATS, and 1-0 ATS and straight up without either one. So if just LeBron is out, the Lakers went 1-1, and if just Davis is out, 5-2.

There’s a huge letdown effect with those guys out, but there’s enough on/off-court evidence to suggest that James has a disproportionate impact relative to Davis.

If Davis sits, betting the Lakers is a wise move. If James sits against  a quality opponent with stakes on the line, it is right to fade the Lakers.

If you’re still more compelled to go towards the win total of 5.5, I lean slightly over, trusting them to win six of the eight. But paying close attention to the Lakers’ intentions towards the finish of games after they secure the No. 1-seed is crucial to betting them effectively.

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