LeBron James Signs: Los Angeles Lakers’ NBA Odds Improve

Los Angeles Lakers Finals Bets - LeBron James NBA Title Odds

The LeBron James signing sent LA Lakers’ odds to 7-2, while the Cleveland Cavaliers’ odds now sit at 500-1.

Lebron James agreed to a four-year, $153.3 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, causing Las Vegas sportsbooks to lower the Lakers’ odds of winning the 2019 NBA Title to 7-2. At present, only the 2-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors have better odds to win next year’s NBA Finals.

The WestGate SuperBook, Las Vegas’s largest sportsbook, originally changed the L.A. Lakers’s odds to 9-2 when news was announced Sunday evening that LeBron James had signed with the Lakers. AFter a “respected wager” was made on the Lakers, the WestGate lowered the odds a second time to 7-2, according to Jeff Sherman, the SuperBook’s assistant manager.

The Golden State Warriors are odds-on favorite to win the title, with money-line odds of -110. Though LeBron James gives the Lakers a much better chance to win the NBA’s Western Conference and the NBA Finals, he is still one superstar against a Warriors team stacked with superstars.

Los Angeles Lakers 2018-19 Roster

The Los Angeles Lakers were a 35-win team in 2018. Their two rookie stars, Lonzo Ball and NBA Rookie of the Year Kyle Kuzma, gave the team a young core to build around, but hardly a championship-ready team. Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart are solid veterans, but both likely would be traded if the Lakers can swing a deal with the San Antonio Spurs for Kahwi Leonard.

Ivica Zubac’s contract just became guaranteed, though it is possible he might be included in a blockbuster deal later in the summer. For the time being, he is a cheap center on a team that will need some inexpensive players.  Moritz Wagner (25th pick), the team’s rookie 1st round draft pick, signed a contract this week and should be on the roster, but Wagner likely will not receive a lot of playing time on a team preparing for a deep playoff run. Rookies Isaac Bonga (39th pick) and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (47th pick) might play in Europe before joining the Lakers roster.

Forwards Lance Stephenson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and center JaVale McGee, all three veterans, signed contracts in the 12 hours after LeBron James signed, so they are indications of the types of players Lakers’ GM Rob Pelinka and President of Player Operations Magic Johnson plan to sign to the roster.

Who Will Lakers Put around LeBron James?

Veterans like Julius Randle and Isaiah Thomas probably will not be back. Reports have Julius Randle somewhat disgruntled with his minutes in the second half of the 2017-18 season and likely to bolt in free agency (Note: Randle was released and signed with the Pelicans). Isaiah Thomas would sit behind Lonzo Ball at point guard if he were to stay, so he is almost certain to head out of town in free agency.

In short, the Lakers’ roster is a work in progress only a day into free agency. If Los Angeles is able to acquire Kahwi Leonard, that would make the roster around LeBron much more formidable. Whether the Spurs plan to trade Leonard to another team in the conference is another matter.

On the other hand, Leonard has let San Antonio know he plans to leave for Los Angeles in the 2019 offseason — either to sign with the Lakers or the Clippers. The Lakers would be Leonard’s first choice, while they also seem to have a better package to trade the Spurs. Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma dominate trade rumors.

2019 NBA Finals Futures Odds

Among the remaining teams, the Boston Celtics also has 7-2 odds. The Celtics got to the 7th game of the Eastern Conference Finals with their two perennial All-Stars, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Haywood, out for the season with injuries. If 2018 rookie Jayson Tatum and 21-year old, 2nd-year star Jaylen Brown can mesh with Irving and Haywood in 2019, they should be a top contender to win the Eastern Conference.

The Houston Rockets, led by NBA MVP James Harden and All-Star point guard Chris Paul, are 7-1 favorites to win the title next year. It was the Rockets who came closest to dethroning the Golden State Warriors in 2018. Had it not been for a quad injury to Chris Paul in the waning moments of Western Conference Finals’ Game 5, the Rockets might well have knocked the Warriors out of the playoffs.

Cleveland Cavaliers 500-1 Odds

The Cleveland Cavaliers, on the other hand, had their odds adjusted to 500-1 in the wake of the LeBron James departure. The Cavs have the same odds as the Brooklyn Nets and the Sacramento Kings — at the very bottom of the pile. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert did not give his public thoughts on the James departure, as he did when LeBron James left for the Miami Heat in 2010.

The Sporting News did say that Dan Gilbert was ready for LeBron James to leave town. An unnamed Cavaliers executive was quoted by Travis Durkee of the Sporting News saying, “Excuse me, I can’t wait until he leaves, because I’ll get my team back.

Lebron James sent a message via Instagram to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ fans, stating, “Thank you Northeast Ohio for an incredible 4 seasons. This will always be home.”

Lakers Greats Welcome LeBron James

Meanwhile, Lakers greats took to social media to welcome LeBron James to the fold. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tweeted, “I am sure the Lakernation is rejoicing. The acquisition of LeBron James means that the Lakers are just a smidgen away from being real contenders. Congrats to @MagicJohnson & @LALakersLive et al. Cross your fingers for news from San Antonio.”

Kobe Bryant simply posted, “Welcome to the family.”

Now that the LeBron James signing is over, the rest of NBA free agency can play out. Paul George already resigned with the Oklahoma City Thunder, which ended talk that Paul George would join with LeBron James and Kahwi Leonard for a LA Lakers superteam. Demarcus Cousins got calls Sunday from the Lakers, as well as his current team, the New Orleans Pelicans.

2018 NBA Free Agency Scorecard

DeAndre Jordan, who famously jilted the Dallas Mavericks to resign with the L.A. Clippers three years ago, signed a one-year deal with the Mavericks. Carmello Anthony accepted a $27 million option to remain with the OK Thunder, as he likely would not have collected as much cash on the open market.

The Kahwi Leonard trade is the biggest potential news in free agency remaining. The question now remains whether Leonard’s status is resolved as part of 2018 free agency or 2019 free agency, when his contract ends and a huge class of free agents come free. Several sports news companies reported that LeBron James had told Lakers president Magic Johnson that his signing with the Lakers was a “long term play”, so he required no other big splash signing to make his decision.

Still, if the LeBron James-led Los Angeles Lakers are to be a serious contender for the 2019 NBA Finals with the Golden State Warriors, it would seem that the Lakers need another veteran All-Star or two to join the roster. Only if Lonzo Ball, Kuzma, and the rest of the young roster accelerated their development would the Lakers provide any real competition to the Warriors. A third option is a midseason trade, which appears to be increasingly likely. If Leonard is serious about leaving the Spurs in 2019, then the Lakers might see how much their young core improves, then trade assets in midseason, when their value might be higher — and Kahwi Leonard’s time with the Spurs is shorter.