What Does The LeBron Signing Mean For Kawhi Leonard?
Now that the Lakers have acquired the talents of King James, the question on everyone’s mind this offseason is what the LeBron signing means for Kawhi Leonard. Leonard, the brightest young spot on an aging Spurs roster, has made no secret of his disdain for playing for one of the best coaches and most successful franchises in recent NBA history, and his favored destination has been openly declared to be Los Angeles.
Without Leonard, of course, the Lakers are immediate contenders with James running the show (on the floor and only on the floor, for once). However, if the Lakers were able to give up enough young talent to actually score Leonard for this season, you can be sure that the odds boards at Bovada, SportsBetting, BetOnline, and all the various Las Vegas books would knock a few hundred points off the current Lakers title odds, which sit at a not-unreasonable +350.
The rub is that it will be extremely difficult – and potentially irrevocably destructive – for the Lakers to actually get Kawhi this year. Leonard will be a free agent after the upcoming season, so there’s a very good chance that LA will sign him as LeBron’s marquee running mate for the 2019-2020 season (when LBJ will be 36 years old) if they can’t land him earlier, but for the here and now, the Lakers might not be willing to give up their young talent (Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, etc.) and draft picks. If they did, such a deal could turn out to be a very shortsighted move that cripples the franchise sooner than later.
Still, should LA land Kawhi, the Lakers will rocket up the boards past the Celtics, with whom they generally share the number-two spot re NBA championship odds for this season. In other words, if you believe that Magic Johnson and company will get the Kawhi trade done – and if you believe that such a trade will make the Lakers unstoppable – you should go ahead and place a futures wager on the Lakers right now, as you’ll get the maximum payout for your bet.
Before you do that, though, consider: Without Leonard, the Lakers – given their current roster – are in no better position to win the title than were the Cavaliers, whom the Golden State Warriors dispatched remarkably easily in a clean sweep despite the King playing the best playoff basketball of his storied career. Given that reality, LA’s odds are fairly inflated right now, and will likely settle back to a more general Cavs-type level of +600 or so once the season gets underway. If missing out on Leonard this year is the more realistic outcome (and it seems to be), then it’s probably best to wait a while before laying down any cash on the Lakers, as your payout potential should at least double before tip-off of the 2018-2019 NBA season.
Should the Lakers succeed in convincing the Spurs to cough up their own centerpiece, of course, the landscape would change further, and the Lakers odds to win the title would get shorter. That’s clear. But it wouldn’t necessarily make for a smart wager, as the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors are still going to be the best teams in the league, and the new-look Lakers would still need to defeat one or both of them in a playoff series to even get to the Finals, where they’d then have to face a team like the Boston Celtics or the Philadelphia 76ers (or some under-the-radar club that themselves beats one or both of those teams).
Even with LeBron, there are at least a pair of objectively better ball clubs in both the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. That is to say that the savvy bettor – given the addition of Leonard to the Lakers roster – would be even more reticent to put up big bucks for a relatively meager payout.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, right?
The real story here is that LeBron makes the Lakers a contender for a decent playoff run, but not yet a title, and the addition of Kawhi (with the subtraction of the other valuable players that such a trade would necessitate) wouldn’t necessarily improve their actual chances to win (despite improving their odds on the betting boards). Indeed, given Kawhi’s apparent attitude, it’s not remotely a given that his and LeBron’s playstyles would mesh at all.
Beyond all that, one thing is for certain: LeBron’s move to Los Angeles is actually good for parity in the NBA, as crazy as that sounds. When he was playing in the East, LBJ’s teams were a foregone conclusion for a Finals appearance, and he took them there (between the Heat and the Cavs) for a mind-boggling 8 years in a row. Every other team in the East was considered an also-ran in the age of James, even before the start of the season. Thankfully, that’s no longer true, and though the overall talent out West has gotten even more lopsided with the arrival of LeBron to LA, there are a handful of special clubs coming up quickly on the other side of the divide.
As for parity in the West, that’s improved, too. With the Lakers joining the Golden State/Houston fray, there are now three immediately obvious heavy-hitters on that side. And though the Dubs (who most bookmakers both online and in Vegas peg at about -110 to win it all this season) are still the overwhelming favorites (and match up favorably against any conceivable super team contrivance, LeBron-led or otherwise), stronger competition throughout the playoffs – in both Conferences – should be every basketball fan’s primary takeaway here. LeBron’s move is great for the NBA.
LegalSportsBettingSites.com knows it just might not be great for the casual bettor who believes the Lakers title hype.