David PurdumESPN Staff WriterClose
- Joined ESPN in 2014
- Journalist covering gambling industry since 2008
Thanks to the Los Angeles Lakers’ struggles in the bubble, there is no clear-cut favorite to win the NBA championship entering the playoffs, for a change.
Some sportsbooks have the Milwaukee Bucks as the team to beat, while other bookmakers still have the Lakers pegged as the favorites, and in Las Vegas, the LA Clippers can be found atop the odds to win the championship.
It’s the first time there hasn’t been a clear-cut title favorite heading into the playoffs since 2015, the beginning of the Golden State Warriors’ run. The Warriors were the overwhelming favorites in each of the past five postseasons, with odds never longer than +175.
This season, though, the favorite’s odds — whether it be the Lakers, Bucks or Clippers — are about +250 on average.
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“We bumped the Lakers up to 3-1 [to win the title], which is the highest we’ve been in a while, and we made the Clippers the favorites at 11-4,” Jeff Sherman, vice president of risk at the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, told ESPN.
At one point, before the league suspended play because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Lakers looked to be distinguishing themselves from the Bucks and Clippers. But LeBron James & Co. were unimpressive since the restart, going 3-5 in Florida.
Some of the Lakers’ performance can be chalked up to their situation: They were locked in to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference — and No. 2 overall — early in the restart, and coach Frank Vogel experimented with different lineups in the games that had less meaning.
However, the Lakers finished the seeding games with the second-worst net efficiency rating.
Dallas Mavericks in their first-round series, which tip offs Monday.