The start of a new NBA season brings with it fresh, boundless optimism. Before the ball goes up in the air for Game No. 1 of 82, everybody's undefeated and everybody dreams of hoisting the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy come season's end ... even if those visions are more hopeful hallucinations than plausible premonitions.
And yet, some brave folks decide not to let the grim realities of roster construction, talent shortfalls and brutal competition harsh their collective mellow. They support their squads and love their longshots, and that's how we wind up with this, from ESPN.com's David Purdum: At the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, "More money has been bet on the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA title than on the Cleveland Cavaliers."
The Cavaliers are 2-1 favorites at the Westgate, MGM and William Hill books, followed closely by the defending champion Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs. The Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder are the only other teams with single-digit odds title at most sportsbooks.
The Warriors and Spurs have attracted the most money to win the title at the SuperBook, followed by the Los Angeles Clippers and Chicago Bulls. The Lakers, at 300-1, are next in terms of money wagered.
"Lakers are the only team we have liability in the six figures on," Jeff Sherman, assistant manager and NBA oddsmaker, at the SuperBook said.
Approximately 1.4 times more bets have been placed on the Lakers to win it all than the Cavs.
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This is ... well, not to be too mean, but there's a saying that comes to mind. Something about fools, money and parting.
This year's Lakers club figures to be interesting, but mostly insofar as it ought to be fascinating to see how a 37-year-old Kobe Bryant making a comeback back after three straight season-ending injuries handles what could be his final NBA season, and whether a team seemingly composed mostly of ball-hungry guards can produce something more compelling than decent per-game scoring averages on unimpressive shooting percentages. Winning doesn't seem likely to be a significant part of the deal.
We discussed this a bit last month, after rookie guard D'Angelo Russell said the Lakers "will most definitely be a playoff team." Despite what appear to be some legitimate improvements to the overall talent level of Byron Scott's club — the addition of 2015 lottery pick Russell, the return of Bryant and 2014 lottery pick Julius Randle, the import of defensive spine Roy Hibbert and forever-gunning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, etc. — it would take a nearly unfathomable collection of serendipitous events for L.A. to crack the top eight in the Western Conference after going a combined 48-116 over the last two seasons. It would probably take an act of Congress to get this year's Lakers club to the Western Conference finals, and either a deal with the devil or some "Angels in the Outfield"-type stuff (depending on how warmly you view the Lakers, I guess) to get them further than that.
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It seems much wiser to wager on the Lakers winning fewer games than their over/under season, posted at 28.5 victories at Westgate, than to make any bet on a championship run that seems tantamount to crumpling your dollar bills into small paper balls and shooting Kobe-style fadeaways into a garbage disposal. The return on that investment, however, isn't nearly as enticing as what you'd get if, by a heaven-and-earth-shaking string of miracles, the Lakers do manage to return to the promised land, which explains the heavy betting, according to Purdum:
The action on the Lakers at the Westgate can be attributed to the lofty 300-1 odds. Other books have the Lakers listed in the 50-1 to 60-1 range and still face significant liability.
"They are our biggest loser," MGM vice president of race and sports Jay Rood said of the Lakers, who finished 21-61 last season, 24 games out of the playoffs. [...]
"You get more sharp play on the season wins, betting the Lakers under," Sherman said. "But then you have the more general public saying, 'let me take a shot at 300-1 on them.' Right, now the Lakers are third in ticket count in the entire NBA. They've got more tickets than Cleveland, more than Golden State."
We're going to guess that one of those tickets does not belong to Turner Sports commentator Charles Barkley:
— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) October 26, 2015
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It's not out of the realm of possibility that the Lakers could wind up surpassing the Sacramento Kings if things again turn bad quickly in the capital city, but for now, this does appear to be the state of play in the Golden State: the Lakers need just about everything to go right just to get back to respectability this season. It could happen; I'm just saying I wouldn't bet on it, even at 300-to-1.
Hat-tip to FTW.
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