LeBron James’ injury and an impressive streak by the Brooklyn Nets without Kevin Durant have revolutionized the NBA betting market.
The Nets have outscored the Los Angeles Lakers at multiple sportsbooks and are now the consensus favorites to win the NBA title. Brooklyn has won 15 of its last 17 games and moved to second place in the Eastern Conference, one game behind the Philadelphia 76ers. Durant has missed the last 15 games with a hamstring injury that is expected to put him out of the game for a few more games.
James sprained his ankle Saturday in a loss to the Atlanta Hawks, an injury that could cause him to miss several weeks. The Lakers no longer have Anthony Davis, who has been out with a calf strain and tendinosis in his right leg for more than a month and is expected to miss at least another week.
The Lakers lost their second straight game Sunday at Phoenix and have fallen to third place in the Western Conference. They are just four games ahead of the Dallas Mavericks, who are in eighth place.
“You’re going to see the Lakers as a big loser on the road and a little loser at home,” said Jeff Sherman, vice president of risk at the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas. “Take those two boys [James and Davis] off the team and it’s going to be a fight for a playoff spot. “
Sherman moved the Nets to 2-1 to win the NBA title after James’ injury and lowered the Lakers to 4-1, their longest odds of the season.
Other sportsbooks were being more cautious about the Lakers’ odds in anticipation of James and Davis returning for the playoffs. In New Jersey, on William Hill’s Caesars Sportsbook, the Lakers remained the title favorites at +260, slightly ahead of the Nets at +280.
“I’ve upped the Lakers’ odds a little bit and downgraded some of the other teams in the Western Conference,” Adam Pullen, assistant director of trade for William Hill, told ESPN. “But I can’t get as crazy as [James] He has plenty of time to recover before the playoffs, if he needs it. If that injury turns out to be much worse, then we will have to make some major adjustments. “
The DraftKings sportsbook also kept the Lakers as favorites as of Monday morning, but most of the books had the Nets with the best odds.
With James and 76ers star Joel Embiid out with injuries, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has become the favorite to win the regular season MVP. Jokic is +110 on William Hill, followed by James (+450) and Embiid (+600).
The Nets’ James Harden, who went 100-1 to win MVP at one point, is now 10-1.