NBA training camps are less than two weeks from starting, and Vegas oddsmakers are busy figuring out the public's appetite to bet on who makes the NBA playoffs. After a busy offseason that saw the East get even more top heavy, and the West more wide open, here are the opening playoff lines, with last season's Western Conference finalists, the Warriors and Rockets, the heaviest favorites (-10000) to play into April:
The Rockets lost Trevor Ariza to a massive one-year offer from Phoenix, but they added the husk of Carmelo Anthony and re-signed Clint Capela, so it's not a huge surprise they're put right alongside the two-time defending champion Warriors.
The same goes for the second tier of favorites, according to Bovada. The Celtics (-5000) will have Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving back from injuries that kept them out of Boston's surprising run to within one game of the Finals in the spring. And the Toronto Raptors (-5000) added two-time Defensive Player of the Year and—when healthy—a top-five player in Kawhi Leonard to a squad that won a franchise-record 59 games last year. That's a steep return after dealing DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl to the Spurs, and if they play up to their new infusion of talent, they'll be Boston's biggest obstacle to come out of the East.
After that it's the Sixers (-3000) and their dynamic duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, followed by the trio of middling talent in the talent-depleted East: Indiana, Washington and Milwaukee, the latter of whom finally added a coach, Mike Budenholzer, who might get them into the contention their talent seems to suggest.
However, it's the Lakers and their newest star, LeBron James, who are listed with worse-than-expected chances of making the playoffs: Bet $450 to make $100. Both the Oklahoma City Thunder (-900), who re-signed Paul George over the summer and dropped Carmelo Anthony, and the Utah Jazz (-600) who return the same team that made it to the Conference semifinals, are more of a lock to make the postseason according to betters. LA's slightly surprising chances according to Vegas comes despite the fact LeBron has been to the last eight NBA Finals and has never looked as good as he did when dragging an underwhelming Cavs team to the Finals in 2018.
It seems Vegas doesn't trust the intriguing mix of misfits joining LeBron in Laker Land.