- LeBron James jolts betting lines inking deal with Lakers
- Warriors reload again to contend with West landscape
- What Eastern Conference team breaks through next year
And just like that, things are bonkers.
Welcome to the NBA, the most exciting league in all of professional sports.
On Sunday, LeBron James shook the NBA world when he announced that he had inked a four-year, $154 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Let’s face it, basketball is more fun when the Lakers are relevant. And what better way to become relevant than to lock down the greatest player of his generation – so good that he’s in the conversation for the greatest of all time.
There’s still work to do if you’re the Lakers. This iteration doesn’t guarantee LeBron will play in his ninth straight Finals. Hell, it doesn’t guarantee they will even win 40 games as currently constructed.
And the Javale McGee and Lance Stephenson signings (announced shortly after LeBron) aren’t exactly moving the needle.
Let’s face it, basketball is more fun when the Lakers are relevant. And what better way to become relevant than to lock down the greatest player of his generation.
The Lakers have to be maneuvering to nab at least disgruntled Spurs great Kawhi Leonard, because it isn’t James’ style to make a move without some assurances that he’s going to be equipped with the running mates to compete immediately.
There’s even more pressure on Lakers’ brass now, with the news that Golden State upped the ante themselves, snagging All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins off the free agency market, at the bargain basement price of just $5.3 million for one season.
Two quick thoughts before we unravel the latest edition of the jolted NBA Championship odds:
- Hey, other free key free agents – why didn’t you wait until the largest domino fell in free agency before making your decision?
This is directed especially to Paul George and Chris Paul, with a sort of shout out to both DeAndre Jordan and Trevor Ariza.
George, who got himself dealt out of Indiana because of his stated intention to join the Lakers after the upcoming season, didn’t even sit down with Magic Johnson and company.
Instead, you woke up Sunday morning to an Instagram post with him and Russell Westbrook smoking stogies at an OKC party where Nas was the musical guest, and announcing he’d re-upped with the Thunder for another four handsomely compensated years.
The next headline down was Paul staying in Houston on a four year pact with the Rockets. Jordan had a one year deal with the Mavericks, and ditto Ariza, who joined the Suns.
Rather than becoming basketball’s modern day Scottie Pippen, George is now on a team that is strapped cap-wise to make many more splashes, with a core that couldn’t get out of the first round of the playoffs last year.
It’s safe to say that, maybe other than Ariza, those deals would be waiting on the table a few days from now. Had they waited for James to agree to the Lakers deal just a day later, who knows how the landscape could have shifted.
Rather than becoming basketball’s modern day Scottie Pippen, George is now on a team that is strapped cap-wise to make many more splashes, with a core that couldn’t get out of the first round of the playoffs last year. And Carmelo Anthony still doesn’t fit in.
Paul could have been the Lakers’ maestro, where he, LeBron and superstar X would have made life hell for opponents.
Ariza could be providing valuable defense on the wing and splashing wide open triples from the corner on a team where he once enjoyed his greatest accomplishments. Instead, he’s now on the upstart Suns as a veteran to raise the kids to relevance.
And Jordan is also on a rebuild project, with the Mavericks, but he’s been in the L for a decade, and his time is now. He would have had smart teammates funnelling shot block opportunities to him on defense, while shooting about 70% from the field as the primary finisher and Mayor of Lob City 2.0.
Patience. It’s a virtue.
- Hey, Eastern Conference – who’s hosting the celebration party?
For the first time since the Boston Celtics lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 09-10 season, the Eastern Conference will send a team to the NBA Finals that won’t have LeBron James on it. It’s the start of a new era, and it’s totally through none of their efforts.
There is a wildly deep talent vacuum sucking all the stars out West. We’re literally just a Kyrie, Giannis, and Ben & Joel away from the NBA revisiting and seriously considering revamping the playoff structure – if they aren’t already.
For now, enjoy yourselves top East teams: LeBron won’t be in your nightmares – unless he meets you in the Finals. But hey, at least you can say you’ve arrived somewhere you haven’t been in a while.
And with that, let’s have a gander at the updated championship odds.
2018-19 NBA Championship Odds
|Golden State Warriors||3/2|
|Los Angeles Lakers||17/3|
|San Antonio Spurs||25/1|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||40/1|
|Portland Trail Blazers||60/1|
|New Orleans Pelicans||60/1|
|New York Knicks||100/1|
|Los Angeles Clippers||200/1|
How’s that for shifting the balance? LeBron James takes the Lakers almost up to the penthouse suite with the move to LA, the placement banking on more marquee players turning them into insta contenders in year one.
There may be another contender out West, but there’s a dynasty that sort of trumps any of them for now.
The Bay area monsters are looking for a three-peat, and their fourth chip in five years.
And the Cousins’ move extends the Warriors’ expiry date. Championship runs are never easy, and in most cases, it’s the internal combustion (brought on by competitive fatigue) among players and coaches that causes a dynasty to run its course.
Unless you’ve been able to do what the Warriors have done: add exceptional star parts to the engine, players who are in their prime and hungry to compete for championships, to keep things fresh. They did it after two playoff Finals’ appearances when they nabbed Kevin Durant. Two years later, it’s Boogie.
Cavaliers fans will always have that chip, and they should cherish it, because it may take decades for the franchise to come close to these lofty heights again.
Think of this for a second: when Cleveland lost to the Warriors in the Finals in 2017, they had both LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
Now, just one season later, two of the top 10 players in the NBA are gone, and all they have to show for it is Collin Sexton, Larry Nance, Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood. That constitutes a plummeting stock.
While you try and digest that, Cavs fans, how about you feast on some tasty LeBron props.
LeBron James Lakers’ jersey number
- Number 23: 1/3
- Number 6: 4/1
- Other: 19/1
|Over/Under LeBron James games played next season:||77.5|
|Over/Under LeBron James triple doubles as a Laker:||16.5|
|Over/Under LeBron James points per game next season:||27.5|
|Over/Under LeBron James assists per game next season:||8.5|
|Over/Under LeBron James all-star appearances as a Laker:||3.5|
|Over/Under LeBron James scoring titles as a Laker:||0.5|
|Over/Under LeBron James career titles:||5.5|
|Over/Under LeBron James MVPs with Lakers:||1.5|
|Over/Under Lakers regular season wins:||54.5|
|Over/Under Lakers playoff series wins next year:||3.5|