In the midst of the 2018 NBA Finals, a prominent Las Vegas bookmaker shared behind-the-scenes thoughts on the process by which his outlet shared 2018-2019 title odds. In short, brick-and-mortar sports books in the desert aren’t allowed to deploy odds on where a player, specifically LeBron James, might sign in free agency, but one way around that is to weigh early championship odds in a specific way as to speculate on James’ next destination.
Now that the Finals have come to an end, though, there is even more interest in the 2018-19 season and what championship odds may include. On the heels of the four-game victory by the Warriors, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook released an updated list of complete odds and, while the Warriors are seen as the favorites to three-peat, a couple of interesting challengers are on their heels.
It comes as no surprise that the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers are near the top of the list, especially when factoring in the possibility that James could choose either in free agency. Following that pair of teams, the Boston Celtics have the scheduled return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward (plus a number of future-facing assets) but the No. 5 team on the list is based almost entirely on James.
After opening with 20-1 odds, the Los Angeles Lakers dipped to 12-1 and there is a great deal of speculation included there. The Lakers do have some present (albeit young) talent on the roster but this price reflects a great deal of salary cap room and the potential to lure James, Paul George and/or others to the country’s second-largest market.
Following Los Angeles, there is a significant drop to the Spurs at 30-1 and it is absolutely worth noting that the Cavaliers fell all the way to 50-1 after the conclusion of the Finals. Pretty obviously, Cleveland would represent significant value in the event that James elects to re-sign but, at least when reading between the lines here, that is not an expected outcome in the minds of the oddsmakers at the Westgate and, simply put, people in that line of work are often quite smart.
A lot can (and will) happen between now and the start of the 2018-19 season and these odds will slip and slide all over the place during free agency. Still, there is often value to be had in the early going and that is especially true if one can forecast the next franchise that will employ LeBron James.