It’s almost absurd to predict the Los Angeles Lakers, propelled by the arrival of rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, will be a playoff team next year.
But his dad and hype man, LaVar Ball, is a walking, talking absurdity. He makes bold predictions with the belief he can speak them into existence.
“I’m going to tell you,” he said on NBA Draft night. “Lonzo Ball is going to take the Lakers to the playoffs his first year.”
Now, if LaVar Ball is willing to put his money where his mouth is, there are wagering opportunities waiting in Las Vegas.
Jimmy Vaccaro, a veteran oddsmaker at the South Point sports book, said on a VSiN show he would bet the hype man $500,000 that the Lakers do not make the playoffs. Vaccaro might have been joking. But at even money, LaVar Ball would be a fool to make the bet.
Ed Salmons and Jeff Sherman, the top oddsmakers at the Westgate, posted the proposition Saturday and made the Lakers big underdogs to reach the playoffs in the 2017-18 season. The “No” price opened minus-700, with “Yes” paying plus-500. Call it a long shot.
The Lakers just finished 26-56 and ranked 14th in the 15-team Western Conference. A 10-win improvement would not be enough to climb into postseason contention.
But would the addition of Paul George be enough?
The Indiana Pacers must deal George at some point — maybe as late as the February trade deadline — before he heads into free agency next summer. George wants to play for the Lakers, who will have about $50 million in salary cap space to sign George and another star.
“A lot has to happen to get George,” Sherman said. “If they don’t get him, the Lakers are not getting there.”
The Lakers would need to jump five non-playoff teams ahead of them in the standings — Denver, New Orleans, Dallas, Sacramento and Minnesota — and push out another team just to land the eighth spot in the West.
It’s not happening with Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Brook Lopez and Julius Randle leading the Lakers’ current roster. It might be plausible with George on the roster.
Still, the Timberwolves are more likely to take the jump, with the Westgate opening Minnesota as a minus-260 favorite to make the playoffs. Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins figure to end the team’s 13-year postseason drought.
The Lakers were among the NBA’s biggest winners during draft week, yet they need a lot more than Lonzo Ball to become a playoff team. Ball, the No. 2 pick from UCLA, could be transformational player, but he probably needs more than one year and surely needs a better surrounding cast.
Do you believe the hype man or the Vegas oddsmakers?
NBA propositions 2017-18 season
(Posted at Westgate sports book)
Will the Los Angeles Lakers make the playoffs?
No -700; Yes plus-500
Will the Minnesota Timberwolves make the playoffs?
Yes -260; No plus-220
Will the New Orleans Pelicans make the playoffs?
No -260; Yes plus-220
Will the Philadelphia 76ers make the playoffs?
Yes -125; No plus-105