<
>

NBA betting nuggets: Zest for Zion, Lakers love and notable line moves

A title for Zion Williamson and the Pelicans would be bad news for some sportsbooks. Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Zion Williamson's debut in January triggered a surge of betting interest on New Orleans at triple-digits odds, making a Pelicans championship the worst-case scenario for Caesars Sports.

In December, with Williamson out because of a knee injury and his rookie season in question, New Orleans' odds drifted to 500-1 at Caesars. The Pelicans were 250-1 when Williamson made his debut Jan. 22 after missing the first three months of the season. By February, New Orleans had been bet down to 100-1. Now, as the NBA prepares to resume its season, the Pelicans are 50-1.

"[They] would be very bad," Jeff Davis, director of risk for Caesars Sportsbook, told ESPN. "Kings, Suns, Spurs, Wizards and Lakers are also bad."

The NBA begins a frenetic finish to the regular season filled with handicapping quandaries on Thursday. To determine postseason seeding, each of the 22 teams in playoff contention will play eight games on neutral courts with no fans in Orlando, Florida. Some teams have more to play for than others, and motivations might vary, from making sure key players are rested for the playoffs to avoiding certain matchups in the postseason.

The Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks, the consensus title favorites, can quickly lock up the top seeds in the West and East. The Bucks own a four-game lead over the Lakers in the win column for the No. 1 overall seed, which, because of the lack of any home-court advantage, has little meaning.

"The tough thing is the eight games, they're going to be, for all intents and purposes, a lot like preseason games," said Jeff Sherman, vice president of risk for the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas. "So really from an incentive standpoint, you're probably going to see a few games with a lot of player resting."

While bettors and bookmakers try to figure out who's playing and for what, here's a look at the NBA betting market as the restart prepares to tip off.


Action report

• Most bets to win NBA title at DraftKings:

1. Lakers
2. Philadelphia 76ers
3. LA Clippers
4. Bucks
5. Boston Celtics

• Most money wagered to win NBA title at DraftKings:

1. Lakers
2. 76ers
3. Clippers
4. Bucks
5. Celtics

• The Lakers have drawn twice as much money and twice as many bets to win the NBA title as any other team at DraftKings.

• The SuperBook raised the LA Clippers' title odds to +325 recently, marking the longest they've been since the season tipped off in October. "The Clippers and Milwaukee aren't getting much [betting support]," Sherman said Sunday. "It's been the Lakers, especially the last few days. It's been consistent support for the Lakers, more so than any team."

• On Saturday, the SuperBook took an $8,000 bet on the Lakers to win the title at +275, followed by a $4,900 bet on the Lakers.

• The Lakers account for 33% of the money bet on DraftKings' odds to win the NBA title, nearly three times that of the Clippers.

• The best-case scenario for Caesars Sportsbook in Nevada would be the Magic winning the title. "The Jazz, Nets, Pacers, Bucks and Clippers are also very good," Davis said.

• Sportsbook PointsBet reported taking a $1,000 bet on the Pelicans to win the championship at 500-1 odds. "[We] had a bunch of sharp clients come for the Pelicans to win the West at +15000 odds," Patrick Eichner, communications director for PointsBet, told ESPN. "We have since rolled the price to +10000."

• "Over the last week or so, it's just been Sixers, Sixers and Sixers." -- DraftKings head of sportsbook Johnny Avello on the betting action on the book's odds to win the title.

• At BetRivers Sportsbook in Pennsylvania, more bets have been placed on the 76ers to win the title than have been placed on any other team. The 76ers account for 26% of the bets on BetRivers' odds to win the title.

• William Hill U.S. reported taking a $14,250 bet on the Bucks to win the Eastern Conference at -190 odds. It's the largest bet William Hill has taken on the odds to win the Eastern Conference, and it would pay $21,750.


Line movement

• Jazz vs. Pelicans (Thursday): Utah opened as a 1-point favorite, but the line flipped quickly, and New Orleans is now a 2-point favorite. "That's been a lot of money-driven support [on the Pelicans]," the SuperBook's Sherman said.

• Clippers vs. Lakers (Thursday): The consensus opening line was pick 'em, but with Clippers guard Lou Williams ruled out last week, the Lakers were 4.5-point favorites in the days leading up to tipoff. The total on the game dipped from 220 to 216.

• Magic vs. Nets (Friday): Orlando opened as a 2-point favorite. The line had grown to Magic -6.5, mostly because of multiple Nets players' opting out, including Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, Taurean Prince and Wilson Chandler.

• Suns vs. Wizards (Friday): Phoenix opened as a 3-point favorite before Wizards stars Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans were ruled out. The line was up to Suns -7 as of Monday. The total had dropped from 229.5 to 225.


Scoring

• Games averaged 222.9 points prior to the stoppage. The average over/under total was 222.0. Overs went 498-459-14 (52.0%) prior to the stoppage.

• Sherman of the SuperBook said that when he first opened lines on the opening games, he saw some early money on the unders. "Now, you're starting to see some over money come in after they're playing 12-minute quarters in some of these scrimmages, and you can see some of the results, and some of them are high," he said. "But they're obviously not playing with regular game intensity on the defensive end. People are starting to warm up to the overs at this point." Since Saturday, the scrimmages in Orlando have averaged 216.3 points.

• Read this: ESPN senior writer Kevin Pelton on what to expect in terms of offensive efficiency in the restart.


Odds and ends

• The Sixers had the best record against the spread at home (19-10-2 ATS) and the worst record against the spread on the road (9-23-2 ATS).

• The Oklahoma City Thunder enter the restart with the best road record against the spread at 23-8. Overall, the Thunder are one of two teams that covered the spread in 60% of games before the season was suspended. OKC is 40-24 against the spread. The Celtics, at 38-23-3 ATS, are the other team that covered the spread in at least 60% of games.

• FanDuel is offering a promotion for Thursday's Clippers-Lakers game that could result in an unusual point spread. For every 2,500 customers who bet on the Lakers, FanDuel will move the spread one point in the Lakers' favor. As of Tuesday afternoon, the Lakers were 4-point favorites over the Clippers. If 10,000 customers bet on the Lakers, the line on the game would be down to pick 'em at FanDuel. All bettors will get the final line.