The NBA season tips off this week, and the betting action at the Westgate SuperBook is shaping up as expected. More money has been bet on the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA title than on the Cleveland Cavaliers. And the sharp money is backing the Sacramento Kings.
Coincidentally, analysts are calling for a record NBA season for Las Vegas sportsbooks' profits.
The Cavaliers are 2-1 favorites at the Westgate, MGM and William Hill books, followed closely by the defending champion Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs. The Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder are the only other teams with single-digit odds title at most sportsbooks.
The Warriors and Spurs have attracted the most money to win the title at the SuperBook, followed by the Los Angeles Clippers and Chicago Bulls. The Lakers, at 300-1, are next in terms of money wagered.
"Lakers are the only team we have liability in the six figures on," Jeff Sherman, assistant manager and NBA oddsmaker, at the SuperBook said.
Approximately 1.4 times more bets have been placed on the Lakers to win it all than the Cavs. The action on the Lakers at the Westgate can be attributed to the lofty 300-1 odds. Other books have the Lakers listed in the 50-1 to 60-1 range and still face significant liability.
"They are our biggest loser," MGM vice president of race and sports Jay Rood said of the Lakers, who finished 21-61 last season, 24 games out of the playoffs.
The betting acumen of those backing the Lakers to win the NBA title is, well, questionable. For example, sophisticated bettors have been betting the Lakers to win less than 29.5 games. The Lakers' over/under is down to 28.5. At William Hill, 68 percent of the money on the Lakers' win total is on under 29.
"You get more sharp play on the season wins, betting the Lakers under," Sherman said. "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."
The Kings have attracted the most one-sided action on the Westgate's season win total. The Westgate opened the Kings' win total at 30.5 in late September. In three weeks, it was bet up to 35.5, the largest move either way on the SuperBook's win totals.
"It's been one-way support [on the Kings]," Sherman said. "All over bets."
Other popular season win total bets at the Westgate:
• New York Knicks under: New York's win total opened at 31.5. It's been bet down to 29.5.
• Minnesota Timberwolves over: Minnesota's win total opened at 25.5. It's been bet up to 28.0.
In contrast, the Cavaliers' season win total opened at 56.5 at the SuperBook and remained there heading into the opening week.
"When we first put it up at 56.5, we tried to temper it a little bit, just based on you have [Kevin] Love coming back from injury; you have Kyrie Irving supposed to be out until January," Sherman explained. "Initially, we took a couple of over bets and got it 57.5. Then, with LeBron having his back injection last week and injuries piling up on that team, we eased it back to 56.5. We're a little bit long on the over right now, but we just don't want to keep it sitting there too high, because that entire team is just built for the playoffs. Basically, the regular season is going to be the preseason to them. It doesn't matter whatever [playoff] seed they get. They are the most talented team in the East. I wouldn't put much stock into what they do in the regular season."
The Cavaliers, Spurs, Warriors and Thunder are tightly bunched at the top of Sherman's power rankings to start the season. A fully healthy and motivated Cleveland team would be favored over any other team on a neutral floor, Sherman said.
"Even Houston is creeping up on them," Sherman added.