Clippers Rate Best in West, but Bettors Prefer Lakers

A couple of hours after an earthquake shook Las Vegas on Friday night, Kawhi Leonard’s freeagency decision rattled the NBA world. Leonard defied most media insider predictions by ditching Toronto and picking the Los Angeles Clippers.

An aftershock hit in the form of a trade, with the Clippers sending two players and a pile of future first-round draft picks to Oklahoma City for All-Star forward Paul George.

Most sportsbooks were shut down for business at the time. When the betting windows and phone apps opened Saturday morning, the Clippers were made NBA title favorites for the first time in history, moving from double-digit odds to 3/1.

But the betting public still considers the Clippers the second-best bet in L.A.

“The Lakers are by far the most supported team since the trade happened over the weekend,” Westgate SuperBook manager Jeff Sherman said. “People are not running to the window to bet 3/1 on the Clippers. It has been all Lakers money so far.”

LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers are the second choice on the odds board at 9/2, yet Sherman said he power rates the Clippers as 3-point favorites over the Lakers on a neutral floor. (Of course, when the teams meet it will always be on the same Staples Center floor.)

The Lakers’ starting lineup, as of today, figures to be James, Danny Green, DeMarcus Cousins, Kyle Kuzma and Davis. The second unit would include Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Kentavious CaldwellPope, Avery Bradley, Quinn Cook and Jared Dudley.

ESPN analyst Brian Windhorst called the Lakers’ odds “laughable” during an interview with VSiN.

“I would almost say you should never bet on the Lakers because you’re never going to get a good price,” Windhorst said. “There’s no way 4/1 is appropriate. To survive the West is going to take a lot. There’s just no weaklings. The depth of the West after the free-agency period is amazing.”

The Clippers’ starting five projects to be guards Patrick Beverley and Landry Shamet and forwards Leonard, George and Montrezl Harrell. Depth will be a concern for both L.A. teams, especially when the stars take nights off for load management, the league’s new buzz phrase. In fact, oddsmakers will often power-rate the top teams in the West much differently in the regular season than in the playoffs, when the stars take no nights off. Sherman said he expects Utah, Denver and Houston to rate higher than the Clippers and Lakers in many regular-season games because the Jazz, Nuggets and Rockets will prioritize winning and the chase for postseason home-court advantage.

In a playoff series, however, the L.A. teams would be favored over all other teams in the West.

“It’s a totally different power-ratings perspective once you get to the postseason,” Sherman said.

Utah might hold the most futures value outside of L.A. VSiN host Jonathan Von Tobel bet the Jazz at 30/1 odds after they traded for veteran point guard Mike Conley, and those odds have since dropped to 14/1.

Ten All-Stars have changed teams in the past month, and two went to Brooklyn. But with Kevin Durant expected to miss next season, the Kyrie Irving-led Nets are posted at long-shot odds of 40/1 to win the championship.

Peering further into the future, the Westgate posted a prop on the Nets to win the 2020-21 NBA title, with “Yes” at 12/1 odds and “No” at -3,000.

The Westgate also offers a prop on the Lakers to win the championship by 2021-22, with “Yes” at 2/1 odds and “No” at -250.

The NBA title pecking order for Eastern Conference teams in 2019-20 is headed by Milwaukee (9/2), Philadelphia (8/1) and Boston (25/1). The Celtics essentially traded Irving for former Charlotte point guard Kemba Walker, but Boston suffered a costly subtraction when veteran forward Al Horford left via free agency for the 76ers.

Philadelphia lost JJ Redick, its top perimeter shooter, to New Orleans and Jimmy Butler took his talents to Miami. Milwaukee lost Malcolm Brogdon to Indiana but retained the rest of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s supporting cast. The futures value in the East, Sherman said, is with Philadelphia.

“The easier path is going to be in the East,” Windhorst said.

But the NBA champion Raptors, who got the cold shoulder from Kawhi, were basically eliminated after the July 5 earthquake. Leonard’s decision caught almost everyone — bettors and so-called media insiders — by surprise.

A Saturday morning Twitter post by Sherman said it best: “Since July 2, we sold one ticket on the Clippers at 16/1 … for $10 … that’s all folks.”

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