As is the case in most industries, being the first to market gives companies an edge over their competitors. In the sports betting industry, a rush to be first with certain wagers can open up operators to liability in certain markets. Especially when it comes to wagers in one of the most volatile major leagues: the NBA. Yet, last week Pointsbet, an online sports book in New Jersey, released NBA win totals.
A sportsbook posting season win totals in any sport before its draft and free agency is rarely seen. To do so in a league like the NBA, where one player can swing a team’s power rating wildly, is unheard of. It has created an interesting scenario, with so many teams’s futures linked to one another. The injuries to Golden State stars Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson have also altered the NBA landscape.
There are so many “what-if” scenarios it is almost impossible to pin down how many wins a team can realistically project to. Specifically, there are six teams that are intrinsically linked to one another, creating quite a conundrum when it comes to setting season win totals.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS AND NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
These two teams are a perfect example of why operators would be wise to wait for certain dominoes to fall in the offseason before posting win totals. Prior to the trade of Anthony Davis this past weekend PointsBet posted the win total for Los Angeles at 51.5 wins. Since the acquisition of Davis the Lakers are now posted at 53.5 wins. As sharp bettors will know, the difference between 51.5 and 53.5 is massive, and there was some very good value in betting Los Angeles over its win total of 51.5 when these were posted. After all, the Lakers were considered the favorite to land Davis this offseason.
New Orleans, on the other hand, enters a very intriguing offseason. The franchise now holds two of the top four selections in Thursday’s draft, and have a young core to build around in Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart. The trade of Davis has bumped their win total from 31.5 to 33.5 wins, and there still could be some value in betting New Orleans over that adjusted total. There are multiple reports stating that the Pelicans are very interested in trading the Lakers’ pick, and if that were to turn into an established young star this New Orleans team, even as currently constructed, will push for 40 wins and a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
TORONTO RAPTORS AND LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
It has been assumed that the long-term home of Kawhi Leonard will be either Toronto or Los Angeles. The team that does not land Leonard faces massive repercussions, and a a huge adjustment to its win total. Toronto’s win total was originally hung at 53.5 wins, and has since dropped to 52.5. Should Leonard decide to move on from the Raptors that decision changes the entire direction of the franchise. Kyle Lowry, in the last year of his contract, becomes an asset that could be moved either in the offseason, or prior to the trade deadline next year. The same could be said of Marc Gasol. With just one decision, Toronto could go from defending a title to rebuilding around Pascal Siakam. Does that sound like a 54-win team?
As for the Clippers, it is almost the exact same scenario. Jovan Buha of The Athletic has reported that should Los Angeles strike out on Leonard or Kevin Durant the plan is to remain patient, acquire assets and develop young talent. There is no denying the Clippers have an intriguing nucleus of youth in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Landry Shamet and Montrezl Harrell. That group, along with Lou Williams and Danilo Gallinari won 48 games and the eighth seed in the Western Conference last season. PointsBet originally posted the Clippers with 51.5 wins and it has since been dropped to 49.5. If Leonard chooses Toronto then Los Angeles should not be expected to improve by two or three wins.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS AND NEW YORK KNICKS
Can it get any worse for the Knickerbockers? All season long, for some unknown reason, fans and pundits alike penciled in New York as the recipient of the top overall pick in Thursday’s draft. They fell to the third overall selection. Kyrie Irving was supposed to team up with Kevin Durant, and bring the Knicks back to relevance. Now, Durant is mending his ruptured Achilles and Irving seems to be debating signing with the Lakers or Nets. Even if Durant decides to sign with New York this offseason, he is expected to miss the 2019-2020 season. Thus, the Knicks’ win total has seen a precipitous drop in its win total at PointsBet from 37.5 wins to just 30.5.
Golden State’s potential at a successful season lies solely on Durant’s decision. Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported that Golden State plans to offer five-year max deals to both Durant and Klay Thompson. Thompson is all but guaranteed to return to Golden State, and should Durant decide to latch on for the long haul, that would put the Warriors in a precarious financial situation for next season. With both stars on the books that puts $155 million of luxury tax at the feet of Joe Lacob. Filling out the remaining roster will be an insane challenge, and the fallout from a lack of depth played out for the Warriors in the NBA Finals against Toronto. Should Golden State land both Thompson and Durant the long-term future may be bright, but the prospect of competing next season will be bleak. Despite that, PointsBet has moved from the original 46.5 wins to 47.5 wins hung on the Warriors. It is hard to imagine a scenario where losing Kevin Durant could improve a team’s title chances, but that is exactly what is unfolding in the Bay Area.