FOX sports betting analyst
In November, the Los Angeles Lakers were an afterthought in the NBA Finals odds market. LeBron James & Co. were able to win the title with odds well over +10000.
Fast forward to May 9, four games into the second round of the NBA playoffs, and it’s a whole different story. The Lakers have risen to second pick in most sports betting, behind only the Boston Celtics.
And that creates quite a liability issue for bookmakers.
Some of these bookies chimed in about how bad things could be for the books — and how good for the bettors — if the Lakers turn this into a championship run.
The Long Climb
If FOX bet The Lakers, who first released NBA championship odds in June 2022-23, were +2500. After LA’s 123-109 season-opening loss at the Golden State, FOX Bet took the Lakers to +3500. Three weeks into the season, the Lakers looked dismal at 2-10 as their slide down the ratings board continued.
“They hit their top price of +15,000 at the end of November,” said FOX Bet trader Tieme Wesselink.
In layman’s terms, that’s 150/1, which means a $100 bet would net out $15,000. Yet the Lakers hardly looked like a team that could bring home such a ticket.
Still, some punters stayed loyal and took fliers about LA, and the Lakers slowly found their way into the playoffs. Los Angeles finished the regular season 43-39 and was back at its opening +2500 odds to win the title.
Then LA survived the play-in to become No. 7 in the West. This was followed by a 4-2 win in the first round of the series over the No. 2-seeded Memphis Grizzlies. And now the Lakers lead the reigning NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors, 3-1 in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Crazy, Los Angeles is now +350 to win the NBA championship. Only the Boston Celtics (+160) have lower odds.
“The Lakers are now at the top of the Western Conference (teams) market on their remarkable turnaround,” Wesselink said. “Their bubble championship season was unexpected, but a final run this year would top the surprise playoff run of 2020.”
And a Lakers title would mean a lot to Wetter.
“The Lakers represent our biggest burden in the NBA Finals market,” Wesselink said. “The 76ers are our second-worst finish, but our adhesion with the 76ers is 30% less than with the Lakers.”
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Similar refrains elsewhere
The SuperBook operates in a few states, but its flagship remains Las Vegas, which has long been a big market for Lakers weather thanks to its proximity to Southern California. Customers didn’t hesitate to fire even after the Lakers’ dismal start.
“The Lakers are one of our biggest, if not our biggest, drains each season,” said SuperBook CEO John Murray. “Of course, our customers have been counting on it throughout the season. We got as high as 200/1 in November and wrote a bunch of small tickets at those odds. The largest was for $333.”
But do the math there. That one ticket, if cashed out now, would result in a profit of $66,600. And as Murray noted, there are multiple tickets to these long-shot opportunities out there. A SuperBook customer bet $1,250 at 40/1, a potential profit of $50,000.
When the playoffs started four weeks ago, Murray said the book wrote a series of tickets for the Lakers +1200. Granted, they don’t pay out nearly as much as November’s plane tickets. But now consider that the Lakers are the +300 second pick in the NBA Finals market.
“The Lakers are obviously our biggest liability,” Murray said.
At WynnBet, Los Angeles has +300 to win the title, behind only the Celtics who are +145. Both teams are trouble spots behind the counter, although for WynnBet – which operates in Massachusetts – the Celtics are a much bigger problem, thanks to a boatload of bets on the hometown team.
The Lakers are WynnBet’s second biggest signing, just ahead of the Phoenix Suns. WynnBet accepted a $100 bet on the Lakers to win it all at +20000 (bet $10 to win $2,010 total).
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It’s not just the standard NBA championship futures market that has sports betting with the Lakers behind the eight. For example, FOX Bet is keen to avoid a specific NBA Finals matchup.
“As for the exact bottom line that the Lakers will beat the 76ers, it has been backed up to +9000,” Wesselink said. “And to get to the finals, the Lakers vs. 76ers matchup was backed up to +5000 up until a few weeks ago.”
Needless to say, FOX Bet does not want to enter a Lakers Sixers championship series. Especially when that streak ends with LeBron James lifting another trophy.
Patrick Everson is a sports betting analyst at FOX Sports and a senior reporter at VegasInsider.com. He is a respected journalist in the field of national sports betting. He lives in Las Vegas, where he enjoys playing golf in 110 degree heat. Follow him on Twitter: @PatrickE_Vegas.
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