Last season the Los Angeles Lakers began the season as both the favorites to win the Western Conference and the NBA Championship. The addition of Russell Westbrook to the tandem of Anthony Davis and LeBron James was simply too much for the oddsmakers to ignore. They opened the year +350 to win the conference and a ridiculous +500 to take home their second championship in three years.
However, to the disappointment of many, the Lakers never found their groove, faltered, and failed to even make the playoffs in what might have been the most disappointing season in the franchise’s history. Now with an offseason that has not produced any significant moves aside from a coaching change, the team seems to be heading into a season where questions still abound.
That’s not to say that the Lakers are not a popular early bet. As of mid-September, futures wagering volume at new online casinos in Australia on the Lakers has been brisk. The opening +2200 odds to Win the NBA Championship has been hammered down to +1800 as the betting action continues to be placed on Los Angeles.
What’s Making The Lakers a Popular Bet?
After a challenging 2022 season, the Lakers opened the year at 22-1 (+2200) underdogs to win the 2023 NBA Championship, far behind the favored Boston Celtics and defending champion Golden State Warriors, and trailing the crosstown Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets by significant numbers.
However, sometimes long odds have a trending effect. Despite the bookmakers not being sold on Los Angeles, the team’s popularity, rampant rumors, and fan faith seem to be factoring heavily on the odds, particularly in Australia, where these numbers are published and can be tracked.
The Lakers have recorded 11% of all individual bets and more than 13% of the total betting handle on championship futures. Both figures rank second to the Golden State Warriors among all teams, with the Boston Celtics commanding the third most action in terms of bets and handle.
How We Got Here
Last season the Lakers finished with a very disappointing 33-49 record. Worse, the team was a betting fan’s nightmare, covering the spread less than 43% of the time, putting them in the bottom five in the league performing against the spread. Worse, futures bettors were priced out before the action even began when the team missed the playoffs for the first time in two seasons.
The Russell Westbrook experiment went wrong in every way possible. Anthony Davis was injured and limited to just 40 games. Coach Frank Vogel, who steered the team to the 2020 Championship and enjoyed the support of management and key players, seemed to have lost the room. Towards the end of the season, it was evident that Los Angeles was playing a very uninspiring brand of basketball that often brought boos from the fan faithful in Los Angeles.
Despite all this, the world witnessed an incredible season by LeBron James, who, while limited to 56 games, played some of his best basketball at an age that many all-time greats were being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
There was a lot of speculation that the Lakers would move Russell Westbrook, who had exercised his player option to stay with the Lakers for the 2022-23 season. Rumors swirled even more, when Kevin Durant demanded a trade from New Jersey, and Kyrie Irving’s name started to be thrown around as a trade target. None of this has come to fruition, Durant has agreed to remain with the Nets, and Westbrook will likely be with the team when the season opens. Accordingly, odds at most online casinos were not impacted.
The team did, however, make several moves during the offseason. the Lakers hired Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Ham as their new head coach to replace Frank Vogel and signed LeBron James to a two-year, $97.1 million contract extension through the 2024-25 season. They also acquired Patrick Beverley from Utah in exchange for Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson and signed former Laker Dennis Schröder to a one-year deal.
Who Are the Favorites
After reaching the finals in the 2021-22 NBA Season, the Boston Celtics are currently the +550 favorites to win the 2022-23 Championship. This is despite the news that Boston coach Ime Udoka has been suspended for the 2022-23 season, which surprisingly had little impact on the odds. Assistant Joe Mazzulla is expected to take over as interim coach. However, there are rumors that former Lakers coach Frank Vogel may join the staff in a role to be determined. Udoka’s top assistant from last year’s team, Will Hardy, left Boston to become the new head coach of the Jazz.
Just behind the Celtics are the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers (both at +600). The Warriors opened last season at +900 to win the 2021-22 NBA Championship, representing the highest payout of an eventual NBA champion in the past five years. The 2018-19 Toronto Raptors had the highest payout at +1850.
The Clippers have been in the top 5 favored teams for the last five years but still have yet to reach the finals. This year they expect to have a healthy Kawhi Leonard after losing him to an ACL injury last season.
The New Jersey Nets +700, Milwaukee Bucks +800, Phoenix Suns +1200, Philadelphia 76ers +1500, Los Angeles Lakers +1800, and Denver Nuggets +1900 round out the top 10 favorites.