The Lakers and Nuggets: Two Teams with Different Paths to the Western Conference Finals
The NBA playoffs are in full swing, and the Western Conference has been full of surprises. The Lakers and Denver Nuggets have emerged as top contenders, each with +300 championship odds at Caesars Sportsbook. But the paths that these teams have taken to get here have been vastly different.
The Denver Nuggets were expected to be a contender from the start of the season. Led by two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, they eventually captured the one-seed in the Western Conference. But it hasn't been an easy road. The Nuggets had to fight through injuries and COVID-19 protocols throughout the season, with key players like Jamal Murray and Will Barton missing significant time. Despite these obstacles, the Nuggets have continued to find ways to win.
On the other hand, the Lakers have been a bit of a surprise this season. They entered the season with the eighth-shortest odds at 18-1, but quickly found themselves in a hole. They lost 10 of their first 12 games, and their championship odds only got worse from there. At some sportsbooks, their odds to win the championship reached as high as 200-1 around Thanksgiving. At their highest point, the probability of them missing the playoffs was as high as 75%, with odds reaching -300.
But the Lakers didn't give up. Led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis, they fought back into playoff contention. They finished the season with a 42-30 record, good for the seventh seed in the Western Conference. In the playoffs, they knocked off the Phoenix Suns in the first round, and are now one win away from facing the Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals.
One of the key factors in the Lakers' resurgence has been the play of their role players. Players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso, and Kyle Kuzma have all stepped up in big moments, providing valuable contributions on both ends of the floor. Additionally, the Lakers' defense has been dominant, holding opponents to just 98.6 points per game in the playoffs.
The Nuggets, on the other hand, have relied heavily on Jokic throughout
the playoffs. He's been nothing short of spectacular, averaging 31.4 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game. But he's also gotten help from his teammates. Michael Porter Jr. has been a revelation, averaging 20.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game in the playoffs. And Monte Morris has provided a spark off the bench, averaging 11.4 points per game while shooting 58.6% from the field.
As the Lakers and Nuggets prepare to face off in the Western Conference Finals, it's clear that both teams have the talent and the determination to win it all. The Lakers have proven that they can overcome adversity, while the Nuggets have shown that they can rise to the occasion. It promises to be a thrilling series, one that could come down to the wire. With both teams having equal championship odds, it's anyone's guess who will come out on top. There's no doubt that the upcoming event will be an unpredictable and exciting experience.
The Lakers' extreme popularity is no secret, and this has created an added twist in the world of sports betting. Even when the Lakers carry long odds, they are still a popular choice among bettors, which poses a significant liability for sportsbooks. This is especially true when the Lakers are in contention for a title, as they are now.
The combination of factors has led to a scenario where if the Lakers win the championship, all sportsbooks would incur a significant overall loss, despite winning bets on the other 29 teams. This is a testament to the Lakers' popularity and their passionate fanbase. No matter how long the odds may be, people will always bet on the Lakers.
Jeff Sherman, the head NBA oddsmaker and VP of risk management at SuperBook, compared the Lakers to Tiger Woods and admitted that people will always bet on them. Despite this, he emphasized the need to maintain perspective and adjust odds in relation to other teams. It's a perplexing situation, but one that requires constant evaluation and adaptability to stay on top.
Despite this, sportsbooks have to be
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careful not to set odds that are too favorable for the Lakers, as this could result in significant losses if the team were to win it all. The key is to find a balance between the Lakers' popularity and their actual chances of winning, and to adjust the odds accordingly.
In the case of the current NBA playoffs, the Lakers' odds have shifted significantly from the beginning of the season, when they were considered a long shot. But even with their improved chances, the risk for sportsbooks remains high due to their popularity and the potential for a net loss if they win it all.
As sports betting continues to gain popularity and more states legalize it, the issue of liability for sportsbooks will only become more pronounced. But for now, the Lakers remain one of the most popular and polarizing teams in the NBA, and their success (or lack thereof) will continue to affect the world of sports betting.
The Lakers' midseason moves were certainly unusual for an eventual NBA champion. They made the bold decision to trade away Russell Westbrook and other players, and in return acquired D'Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, and Mo Bamba. These moves brought in two new starters and depth that helped the team weather lengthy injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
"Finding a team that barely makes it to the playoffs but still has the potential to go further is not a frequent occurrence in the NBA, but there seems to be a bit more balance now," revealed Caesars' head NBA trader David Lieberman in an interview with ESPN. "It's plausible to identify such teams, and this year both the Lakers and the Heat fit that criteria," he added with a tone of uncertainty and excitement.
The NBA has always been considered a league dominated by star power, and the playoff format, which is best-of-seven, has generally favored the top teams. However, oddsmakers entered the season braced for unprecedented balance, with more teams having a realistic shot at making a deep playoff run.
According to SportsOddsHistory.com, only
four times in league history has a long shot of 15-1 or longer won the championship, which is easily the fewest of the four major professional sports. But the increased parity in the NBA this season has given hope to teams that were not considered contenders at the beginning of the season.
The Lakers' midseason moves certainly paid off, and they are now just one win away from the Western Conference Finals. The team's depth has been crucial in allowing them to overcome injuries to their star players, and it has made them a more well-rounded team overall.
As the playoffs continue, it will be interesting to see which teams are able to take advantage of the increased parity in the league. The Lakers and the Heat may be examples of teams that were able to capitalize on the opportunity, but there are sure to be other surprises as well.
In conclusion, the NBA playoffs have been full of surprises and unexpected turns. The Denver Nuggets have emerged as the current favorites to win the championship title, while the Los Angeles Lakers have made a strong comeback after a rocky start to the season. The Lakers' extreme popularity and long odds make them a significant liability for sportsbooks, and a championship title for them would result in significant losses for bookmakers.
The increased parity in the NBA this season has given hope to teams that were not considered contenders at the beginning of the season. The Lakers' midseason moves to acquire depth and new starters have paid off, allowing them to overcome injuries to their star players. This season has demonstrated that even lower-seeded teams can make a deep run in the playoffs, creating a more unpredictable postseason.
As the playoffs continue, it will be interesting to see which teams are able to take advantage of the increased parity in the league and emerge as contenders for the championship title. The NBA playoffs are always full of surprises, and this year is no exception, making for an exciting and unpredictable postseason for fans and bettors alike.