Long the butt of jokes before becoming respectable in recent years, the Los Angeles Clippers are suddenly the favorites to win the 2020 NBA championship.
After news broke late Friday that the Clippers are expected to trade for Oklahoma City star Paul George and then sign coveted free agent Kawhi Leonard, the Westgate sportsbook moved the Clippers from 16-1 to the 3-1 favorites to win the 2020 NBA title.
The Westgate also moved the Lakers from the 3-2 favorites to the 6-1 third choice behind the Bucks, the 4-1 second choice.
“You’re talking about (George and Leonard) together on that team that already had some pieces in place,” Westgate sportsbook manager Jeff Sherman said. “They’re not like the Lakers at this point in free agency still trying to put pieces on the team.
“The Clippers already had Patrick Beverley, (Montrezl) Harrell and Lou Williams. Now they’ve got two of the best two-way players because Beverley is a great defender.”
George finished third in NBA MVP voting last season and Leonard was named NBA Finals MVP after leading the Raptors to their first title.
The Lakers will be led by LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma. They signed DeMarcus Cousins to a one-year deal Saturday but Sherman said he has no impact on the team’s title odds.
“The Lakers have four guys on their roster, then a bunch of leftovers,” Sherman said. “Plus you’re looking at the ages of Leonard (28) and George (29). LeBron’s up there (34) and he missed time last year, and Anthony Davis (26) is injury prone.”
The Westgate took separate $10,000 wagers on the Lakers at 5-1 and 7-4 odds but took only one wager, for $10, on the Clippers since Tuesday at 16-1.
“There was support (for the Lakers) in the betting market anticipating Kawhi might go there,” Sherman said. “The interesting thing in the past week was we took a lot on the Lakers and a lot on the Raptors but nothing really at all on the Clippers.”
The Lakers remained the 2020 title favorites at William Hill, moving from 6-5 to 3-1 on Saturday, and the Clippers moved to the 7-2 second choice after a bettor placed a $2,000 wager on them Saturday morning at 4-1.
“Put a gun to my head and the Clippers probably have the better team but money dictates the market,” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said. “We’ve still got a ton of money on the Lakers and hardly anything on the Clippers.”
The two L.A. teams each call Staples Center home, but Sherman said the lines on head-to-head matchups will be significantly different based on who is the designated home team.
He projects the Clippers to be 5-point favorites at home over the Lakers and the Lakers to be 2-point favorites at home over the Clippers.
Caesars Entertainment reposted a prop bet Saturday on whether a California team will win the 2020 NBA title. The line is a pick’em.
“It’s all about L.A.,” Bogdanovich said. “It might be L.A. in football, too, with the Chargers and Rams.”
The Bucks are the 13-2 third choice at William Hill and the 76ers are the 10-1 fourth choice.
“With Kawhi leaving the Eastern Conference, that puts the Bucks and 76ers to the forefront of the East right now,” Sherman said.
The Raptors’ odds skyrocketed from 6-1 to 80-1 at the Westgate in the wake of the news and the Thunder soared from 40-1 to 100-1.