Even though the Boston Celtics failed in the Eastern Conference finals, it’s hard to look at them and not feel like they should be favorites to make the 2019 NBA Finals.
The oddsmakers in Las Vegas, however, apparently feel differently.
The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook on Saturday released opening odds for the 2019 finals, and the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets unsurprisingly rank first and second, respectively. But it’s who opened with the third-best odds that will leave some scratching their heads — especially Celtics fans.
Here’s the complete list:
That’s right: The Philadelphia 76ers are favorites to win the Eastern Conference in 2019, despite getting overwhelmed by the Celtics in the second round this postseason. Oh, and the lowly Los Angeles Lakers somehow are tied with the Miami Heat for the fifth-best odds.
There’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for all of this, however.
“When you have LeBron (James) in free agency, you have to be careful,” Westgate SuperBook oddsmaker John Murray told ESPN’s Ben Fawkes. “You’ve got Philadelphia, Miami, the Lakers and even Houston as potential destinations (outside of Cleveland). We cut all of those teams’ odds down, and we’ll raise back up the teams he doesn’t sign with.”
So, what will happen if James leaves the Cleveland Cavaliers this offseason?
If he heads to Houston, the Rockets will leapfrog the Warriors and become the favorites to win it all, assuming they retain impending free agents Chris Paul and Clint Capela, Murray told ESPN. But if James bolts for Los Angeles, things could get awfully interesting in the Western Conference.
“We like some of the younger players on the Lakers and think there’s a pretty good chance they get Paul George,” Murray said. “They’d draw a lot of action and probably would have the third-best odds in the West behind Houston and Golden State if LeBron went there. Without him, they’d probably be in the 60-1 to 80-1 range.”
Furthermore, if James lands with any western team this offseason, the Celtics will jump the Sixers and become favorites in the East, per Murray.
If James eventually teams up with Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Co., it would be foolish to not make Philly the favorites to represent the east in the finals. Still, with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward set to rejoin a talented, supremely coached Celtics team next season, people should be wary of betting against Boston.
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