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‘Wembanyama effect’ puts books on hook for millions

LeBron James has called Victor Wembanyama “an alien” and “generational talent,” and bettors are backing the Spurs and their 7-foot-4 rookie center in a big way to win the NBA title at long odds this season.

San Antonio, a 200-1 shot at Caesars Sportsbook to win it all, is a seven-figure liability at Caesars and the largest liability at Station Casinos as well.

“People are going to gravitate toward the long odds. But this year is different with the ‘Wembanyama effect’ and all the hype around him,” Caesars assistant director of trading Adam Pullen said. “Winning the title this year, that’s a stretch. But the future’s bright.”

Wembanyama, 19, showcased his otherworldly ability in Friday’s night’s preseason finale against the Warriors. He scored 10 points in a spectacular 90-second span that ended with him blocking Klay Thompson’s 3-point attempt and dunking, then blocking a shot by Andrew Wiggins and draining a 3.

The No. 1 draft pick, Wembanyama is the odds-on -150 favorite at the Westgate to win the NBA Rookie of the Year award.

“He was hovering at even money before the preseason games, but after what he did Friday night, the market started moving,” Westgate SuperBook NBA oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said. “Barring any injury, he’s the definite starting point.”

NBA players must play a minimum of 65 regular-season games to be eligible for most awards.

San Antonio, which finished last in the Western Conference last season with a 22-60 record, is the third-largest liability at the Westgate.

“If the Spurs didn’t have Wembanyama, they would be 250- or 500-1 and there wouldn’t be any kind of money,” Sherman said.

The Hawks are the biggest liability at the Westgate, where a bettor wagered $1,000 to win $100,000 on Atlanta at 100-1.

Lakers ticket, money leaders

Always a popular choice to win it all, the Lakers are the runaway ticket and money leaders at the Westgate, where they’re the 10-1 fifth favorite.

“We opened them 12-1 to try to be low on them. But we have money at 12-1 and we also have money at 10-1 on them,” Sherman said. “They definitely can’t be discounted. I liked the offseason. They have one of the deeper teams in the NBA.

“From my perspective, the West is tougher and deeper than the East. You have two top-notch teams in the East in Milwaukee and Boston, but there are question marks after that with a lot of teams.”

Title favorites

The Bucks, with a big three of Damian Lillard, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, are the 4-1 co-favorites with the Celtics, who have arguably the league’s best top-six in Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Jrue Holiday, Kristaps Porzingis, Derrick White and Al Horford.

Sherman raised the Celtics-Lakers Christmas Day total from 236½ to 239½ after Boston traded away Marcus Smart, Grant Williams and Robert Williams.

“They were the three anchors of that defense,” he said. “There are going to be some high scores with the Celtics. They have a very potent offense but the defense isn’t there.”

The Nuggets are the 5-1 third pick to repeat as NBA champions, followed by the Suns at 7-1. The Warriors are 12-1.

The season tips off Tuesday with a doubleheader. Denver is a 5-point home favorite over the Lakers, and Phoenix is a 1-point road favorite at Golden State.

“It’s going to be tough for the Nuggets to repeat,” Sherman said. “They lost some players and it’s tough to stay at the top. It feels like the competition is that much deeper.”

NBA MVP

Denver center Nikola Jokic is the +250 favorite at the Westgate to win his third NBA MVP award in four years.

The SuperBook took bets on Jokic of $3,350 at +450 and $2,500 at 4-1.

“In a pool like that, you usually don’t see too many bets that size,” Sherman said. “It’s usually a lot of $100 bets.”

The Westgate slashed Anthony Edwards’ MVP odds from 60-1 to 25-1 after taking wagers on the Minnesota guard at 60-1 and 40-1.

Wembanyama is 100-1 to be named MVP.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on X.

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