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Is there value in NBA betting before Lebron James makes his move?

Lebron James

Lebron James

The NBA world is waiting on the decision of one man — a decision that will completely change the betting landscape of the 2018/19 NBA Championship.

LeBron James is the biggest free agent in this year’s NBA free-agent market as his four-year deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers is about to expire.

The betting odds on the NBA futures are interesting in big part because of James’ impending free agency. Whatever team lands him stands to see their betting odds shorten for the NBA title.

But in the midst of uncertainty regarding who LeBron will play for, what should punters be doing?

At this point, the Boston Celtics appear to be the best bet. That doesn’t mean that the Celtics will land LeBron, but the C’s could benefit from a LeBron change-of-scenery, even if they don’t get the star themselves.

A look at the current Ante Post betting odds for the 2019 NBA title suggests that there is little faith that LeBron will actually stay with Cleveland. Currently, the Cavaliers are +2500 with Bovada in NBA title futures.

Those odds are pessimistic odds about the franchise’s 2019 title aspirations and can only be taken to mean that the general opinion is that LeBron will leave the Cavs.

Here are the top-five favorites for the NBA title as of mid-June at Bovada. An examination of them suggests that many think that LeBron will join the Los Angeles Lakers, an opinion that is well supported by NBA scribes around the country.

Team 2018/19 NBA Championship odds
Golden State Warriors +140 at Bovada
Houston Rockets +450
Philadelphia 76ers +450
Los Angeles Lakers +600  at Bovada
Boston Celtics +700 

With Golden State, Houston, Philly, and Boston you can understand why they would be in the top-5 for NBA title favorites even if there weren’t any LeBron James sweepstakes to consider. Each of those teams currently has a roster and/or coach that can stand alone without adding LeBron.

However, the LA Lakers have head-scratching odds at +600 to win the NBA title. After all, they are a team that failed to make the 2018 playoffs. Even if you project improvement with their young talent there’s still nothing in Los Angeles right now that would suggest an improvement from below average in 2017/18 to core contender for 2018/19.

Keeping in mind that betting odds reflect opinion, the only way the short odds on the Lakers make any kind of sense is if the ‘average’ opinion out there is that LeBron is going to sign with Los Angeles.

But if you are among those that see LeBron heading to Los Angeles, then a bet on the Lakers right now might not be the greatest move to make. The odds actually already partly reflect a LeBron-in-LA-LA-land scenario: the Lakers’ odds would probably only shorten a little if they actually landed LeBron.

But there is a different angle to look at. If LeBron left Cleveland for the Lakers then the Eastern Conference teams would have a lighter load to deal with during both the regular season and the Eastern Conference playoffs next year. LeBron leaving would be good news for both Philly and Boston – even if they don’t land him.

Of the two, the latter looks much better to bet on. Firstly, there’s some buzz that LeBron would be a good fit in Boston. But also the Celtics have the longer odds, they were good in the 2018 playoffs even with two missing stars, and their head coach Brad Stevens just doesn’t make many mistakes.

If you got LeBron going to the Lakers, anywhere out west, or to Boston and you are looking to bet before July 1st’s free agency then take the Celtics now in NBA Ante Post. They are a team whose odds might shorten a lot next month.

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