Kyrie Irving’s return to Cleveland as a member of the Celtics quickly became an afterthought when Gordon Hayward broke his tibia and dislocated his ankle in gruesome fashion barely five minutes into Boston’s season opener against the Cavaliers on Tuesday.
The loss of Hayward, the Celtics’ top free-agent acquisition, not only sent emotional shock waves through the NBA but also aftershocks through Las Vegas sports books.
The Golden State Warriors remained the odds-on 5-12 favorite to repeat as NBA champions and Cleveland remained the 4-1 second choice to win the title at the Westgate sports book, while Boston fell from 15-1 to 20-1. But the largest adjustments were made on the odds to win the Eastern Conference and the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards.
Cleveland moved from a 1-2 favorite to win the East to a 1-3 favorite after Hayward’s injury, which his agent said probably will end his season.
“Some doctor said there’s a chance he can play,” Westgate sports book manager Jeff Sherman said. “But if I’m Boston, I’d get him right for next season.”
The Celtics remain the second choice to dethrone the Cavs, but their odds jumped from 9-4 to 6-1. The Wizards’ odds improved from 16-1 to 8-1.
“All things considered, the gap is a lot closer between Boston and Washington,” Sherman said.
Hayward is worth 2½ points to the point spread in Celtics games, according to Sherman.
Jayson Tatum, the Celtics’ No. 3 overall draft pick from Duke who had a total of 22 points and 21 rebounds in his first two games, saw his odds to win the Rookie of the Year award increase from 12-1 to 11-2.
“We cut his odds in half because he’ll get significantly more minutes in the role Hayward had,” Sherman said.
Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons is the 7-4 favorite to win Rookie of the Year honors, and Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball is the 7-2 second choice.
The King has not left the building
When Irving was traded to the Celtics, his odds to win the MVP moved from 50-1 to 25-1. He was at 15-1 before Hayward’s injury and since has been moved to 10-1 because of his bigger role on the team.
After watching LeBron James carry a heavier load against Boston, Sherman moved him from the 7-1 fourth choice to win the MVP to the 7-2 favorite.
“It was evident that LeBron’s not going to get a lot of help productivity-wise,” Sherman said. “He’s going to have play a larger role.”
Warriors, come out and play
As Larry Bird told his challengers before he won the 1988 NBA Three-Point Contest, “Who’s playing for second?”
Golden State is the heaviest preseason favorite ever to win the title in any of the four major pro sports.
“There’s such a separation between our power rating for Golden State and the No. 2 team, Houston, I really think it’s going to take some type of injury to prevent Golden State from winning this year,” Sherman said.
Best of the rest
The Rockets added Chris Paul, upset the Warriors in the opener and are the 12-1 third choice to win the title.
“I like their depth a lot,” Sherman said.
The Spurs, 14-1 to win the championship, are still dangerous with the likes of Kawhi Leonard, who is tied for the 9-2 second choice to win the MVP with Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Thunder’s odds to win the title improved from 60-1 to 16-1 with the additions of All-Stars Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.
“They’ll be a fun team to watch,” Sherman said. “Carmelo didn’t have much help on the Knicks. He always had to force tough shots. He’ll get so many more open looks now because defenses have to be more honest with (Russell) Westbrook and George out there.”
The Timberwolves are expected to make the biggest improvement this season after adding veterans Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague to a young nucleus led by Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
The Bulls already had the league’s lowest season win total after losing Butler, Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade before Bobby Portis was suspended eight games for fighting teammate Nikola Mirotic.
Sherman is high on the 76ers and Denver Nuggets, who added Paul Millsap to a talented young core led by Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris.
“Denver’s a solid ballclub. They’ll be a tough out each night,” he said. “When teams go to Denver for a back-to-back, the advantage is built in for the Nuggets because of the whole altitude situation. But now they’ve got a tough team.
“We’re really high on Philadelphia. Now with Hayward out, there are winnable games against Boston. If they can stay healthy, they can win in the mid-40s.”