Lakers, Celtics Most Popular Bets to Win NBA Championship
What year is it, 1988? The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers are the most prestigious franchises in the history of the NBA, bar none. The Celtics have raised 17 championship banners in their history, while the Lakers are right behind them with 16 hanging in the rafters. For comparison, the next-best franchise (Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors) have won 6 apiece.
The Celtics and Lakers may well be the two most popular franchises in the sport, as well. At least, betting trends may indicate as much. According to ESPN, the Celtics and Lakers are easily the most popular bets among the betting public to win the 2018-19 NBA championship.
The Lakers have gotten the most bets to win the title at sportsbooks across Las Vegas, while the Celtics aren’t far behind. Most books have the Celtics tabbed with the second-best odds to win the championship this season at 5/1, while the Lakers are down around 12/1.
As of this week, of the hundreds of bets that have been placed, the Lakers have 18 more bets than the Celtics to win it all. Both teams have attracted more than 3 times as many bets to win the title this season as the third-best team, the Houston Rockets.
Jeff Sherman, the manager at the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, said, “After the Lakers and Celtics, there’s a very wide gap.” Jeff Stoneback, the director of the MGM sportsbook, said, “It’s all Lakers and Celtics.”
The Golden State Warriors, who have won the title in 3 of the last 4 seasons, aren’t a particularly popular betting option. This presumably has everything to do with the fact that the Warriors will enter the season as one of the heaviest, if not the heaviest, title favorites in league history. The Warriors are sitting around -200 to win the championship at most sportsbooks. As you can imagine, there are not many bettors out there eager to wager $200 just to win $100 back.
However, there are some bettors out there. Westgate has said that it took two separate bets worth $10,000 on the Warriors to win the 2018-19 title shortly after they swept the Cleveland Cavaliers in last season’s Finals in June. MGM reportedly took a 6-figure bet on Golden State to make it 3 straight championships sometime over the summer.
FanDuel recently said that about 45 percent of the bets they have taken at their new sportsbook on the 2018-19 NBA championship have been on the Celtics. FanDuel operates the sportsbook at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, just across the river from New York City. They say their biggest liability thus far is bettors taking the New York Knicks to win it all at 500-to-1.
Stoneback added, “If you take away that big bet, though, the Celtics would have more money.” Stoneback said that Boston is the most popular betting option at MGM’s Borgata in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
It’s easy to understand why bettors are so bullish on both the Celtics and the Lakers. The Celtics came to within a game of making it to the NBA Finals last season. They managed to do so without both Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, who missed the entire postseason due to injury. Both players are now healthy and back in the fold alongside All-Star center Al Horford and a couple of high-upside young players in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
The fact that LeBron James left Cleveland over the summer likely means we will have a non-Cavs team reach the Finals out of the Eastern Conference for the first time since 2014. The Celtics are the odds-on favorites to win the Eastern Conference, though the Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors are not far behind.
LeBron left Cleveland to join the Lakers, which has many believing this is the year Los Angeles makes it back to the postseason for the first time since 2013. James has led his team to the playoffs every year since the 2005-06 season. The Western Conference is relatively stacked, but most believe the Lakers have enough talent to crack the top-8. The Lakers are listed at -400 to make the playoffs.
Whether they are good enough to actually win the championship remains to be seen. The Lakers will still presumably have to go through the Golden State juggernaut just to get to the Finals, where they could face yet another series against the Celtics.
Either the Lakers or the Celtics was in the NBA Finals in every year of the 1980s. The Celtics won 3 titles in that span while finishing as runners-up twice. The Lakers captured 5 championship trophies during that same span and lost in the Finals another 3 times.
James’ former team is looking like a potential liability for some books. Some bettors placed futures bets on the Cavs to win the 2018-19 title at 50-to-1 odds before LeBron announced that he was leaving town to join the Lakers. Sherman said, “When all the speculation was going around [regarding LeBron], we took some action on the Cavs. We took a $2,000 bet and a $1,000 bet on them at 50-to-1. Now, they’re 500-to-1.”
Needless to say, I don’t think those title bets on the Cavaliers will be paying out this year.
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