There has been no shortage of big-name player movement during the NBA’s offseason. Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Jimmy Butler are just a few of the high-profile players that will be wearing a different uniform when the NBA’s regular season gets underway in October.
For the first time in several years, there also will not be a consensus betting favorite with regard to the NBA title. The Golden State Warriors have reigned supreme over the league for the last handful of seasons, but the offseason departures of Durant, Andre Iguodala and DeMarcus Cousins coupled with the long-term injury to Klay Thompson means the Warriors won’t be among the championship favorites when the new season begins.
In anticipation of the upcoming campaign, Caesars Sportsbook has released projected win totals for all 30 teams. 7 teams have projected win totals north of 50, with the Milwaukee Bucks (57) pacing the rest of the league. The Bucks, who won 60 games and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, are the odds-on favorites to represent the conference in the NBA Finals this time around. The Philadelphia 76ers have the second-highest projected win total among Eastern Conference teams at 54.5.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Clippers are expected to be the best team in the Western Conference. L.A. was one of the big winners of the summer after landing Leonard and George within minutes of one another earlier in July. Doc Rivers’ squad opened with a projected win total of 55.5 for the upcoming season. The Utah Jazz (52.5), Houston Rockets (52) and Denver Nuggets (52) are just behind L.A.
The other L.A. team, the Lakers, made a big move of their own by landing Davis in a blockbuster deal with New Orleans. The Lakers won just 37 games a season ago, but Caesars has them tabbed to win 51.5 in 2019-20. The Lakers have failed to crack the 50-win plateau in every season since 2010-11, but oddsmakers like that dry spell to come to an end soon.
While the Lakers are not necessarily among the teams with the highest projected win totals next season, that hasn’t stopped bettors from flocking to them. ESPN reports that nearly 6 times as much money has been wagered on the Lakers at Caesars Sportsbook in Las Vegas than any other team ahead of the upcoming season. As a result, the Lakers have been installed as +300 favorites to win it all in 2020 by Caesars despite the fact that 6 teams have higher projected regular season win totals. The Clippers, meanwhile, are favored at a number of other sportsbooks with slightly better odds.
Caesars oddsmaker Alan Berg told ESPN’s David Purdum,
“I think the Clippers should be the favorite, but sometimes you have a better number on teams on the basis of liability, which is the case with the Lakers. Two of the tougher numbers to make were the Clippers and Laker.s How are they going to attack the regular season? Will Kawhi play anywhere near 82 games? Will LeBron or Davis? Load management is likely to play into the regular season for these two squads.”
Leonard was limited to 60 games during the regular season as a member of the Toronto Raptors last year. The Raptors took a cautious approach with the superstar, as he has battled a number of leg injuries in recent seasons. The decision paid off, as a fresh Leonard ultimately led the Raptors to the franchise’s first-ever NBA title earlier this summer.
James, who will turn 35 in December, sustained the worst injury of his career last winter in his first season with the Lakers. LeBron played just 55 games during the season as a result, while played a big role in the Lakers missing out on the playoffs. Davis, meanwhile, has played more than 70 games in just 2 of his first 7 seasons in the NBA.
Berg also said that the new-look Warriors combined with the rest of a topsy-turvy Western Conference proved challenging from an oddsmaking perspective. He said, “The West is drastically improved with the Clippers, Lakers, Jazz, Blazers and Nuggets all looking like better teams in 2019. The addition of D’Angelo Russell makes the Warriors a tough out night-in, night-out, but will Curry be able to carry this club all year with his injury history? He’s played so many games the past five years.”
Golden State, who has appeared in the NBA Finals in each of the last 5 seasons, opened at 47 wins at Caesars. The reigning champion Raptors, who lost Leonard and Danny Green this offseason, opened at just 45 after winning 58 regular-season games in 2018-19.
The Charlotte Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers bring up the rear. Both Eastern Conference also-rans project to win 24 games next season.
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