Most NBA predictions for the 2015-2106 season place the Los Angeles Lakers, the one mighty franchise with 16 championships and 60 playoff appearances in its proud history, somewhere near the bottom of the pack, missing the postseason for an unprecedented third year in a row. After all, the Lakers won just 48 games over the last two seasons combined, finishing last in the National Basketball Association Pacific Division both years.
Apparently, according to the people willing to put their money where their collective mouth is, those predictions are way off. According to a recent report on ESPN, Las Vegas bettors have already wagered more money on the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA Championship in the upcoming season than they have bet on last season’s runner-up, the Lebron James-led Eastern Conference champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Granted, the Lakers team that takes the floor in Wednesday’s season opener against the Minnesota Timberwolves represents a top-to-bottom revamp from the Lakers team that sunk to a franchise-record low 21 wins last year, with a healthy — albeit 37 year old — Kobe Bryant ready to start, along with rookie guard D’Angelo Russell, picked second overall out of Ohio State in the 2015 NBA draft.
Will a starting five, featuring three players with two years of NBA experience among them, a journeyman center and an aging superstar be enough to take the Lakers over the top this time around? The prospect seems dubious at best.
So, why are bettors at Las Vegas sports books plunking down more cash on the Lakers to win it all instead of putting their green on the Cavaliers, who have to be considered among the favorites to capture the NBA crown?
The answer appears to be pretty straightforward — and if the Lakers do pull off a miracle championship, that answer will cost the bookmakers of Vegas dearly. The answer is — the odds.
At the Westgate sports book, the Lakers are listed at 300-1 odds to win the NBA Championship. In other words, a wager of $100 would pay $30,000 if the Lakers actually win the title.
At other sports books, such as the MGM and Williams Hill, according to the ESPN report, the Lakers are listed at somewhat shorter but still expensive odds of 50-1 and 60-1.
At the Westgate, bettors have laid down 40 percent more cash on the Lakers than on the Cavaliers, with their relatively unexciting 2-1 odds — odds which are the same as at the other two sports books.
“The Lakers are the only team we have liability in the six figures on,” said Westgate SuperBook NBA oddsmaker Jeff Sherman.
The Lakers high betting total appears to be less an actual prediction that they will actually win the NBA Championship rather than wishful thinking by high rollers. According to ESPN, “sophisticated” bettors predict that the team once again won’t even touch the 30-win mark.
“You get more sharp play on the season wins, betting the Lakers under,” Sherman told ESPN. “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.”
[Featured Photo By Stephen Dunn/Getty Images]