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How LeBron James, Lakers Odds Can Make History In NBA Playoffs

The Lakers will begin their title defense in the first NBA play-in tournament in league history. If they advance to the traditional first round of the NBA playoffs, Los Angeles will either be the seven or eight seed in the Western Conference. However, Lakers odds for that potential series against the Jazz or Suns appear to be headed for an eye-popping price.

At the online event BETFEST Saturday, Jeff Sherman, VP of Risk Management at the WestGate SuperBook in Las Vegas, told attendees the Lakers would likely not only be favored in the first round but heavily favored.

“Right now, we’ve been throwing around some ideas as far as Lakers – Jazz, Lakers – Suns, for a first-round type of series. A lot of that has to do with Donovan Mitchell’s health, obviously, for the Jazz. But we could see that around Pick ‘Em,” said Sherman. “We’d have the Lakers as a sizable favorite against Phoenix, about a -250 favorite in that first-round series.”

That may not sound all that surprising to basketball fans and bettors alike, considering how much money has been bet on the Lakers to repeat this year, but it’s historic. If that price against the Suns happens, nothing has ever come close to it for a seven seed. Even if they move to be a slight favorite against the Jazz, it’s still unprecedented in NBA playoff betting history.

NBA Playoffs Betting Guide – Odds and Analysis

Lower-Seeded First-Round Favorites in NBA History

According to Sports Odds History, only seven lower-seeded teams have ever been favored in the first round of the NBA playoffs (records date back to 1969). Not one of those teams was a 7-seed or 8-seed, like the 2021 Los Angeles Lakers.

Below are the previous seven instances of teams in the opening round still being the betting favorite in the series, despite facing a higher seed. The table is sorted by the largest favorites.

Year Favorite Series Price Underdog Series Price Result
2003 5. Lakers -400 4. Timberwolves +320 Lakers in 6
1995 5. Bulls -360 4. Hornets +280 Bulls in 4 (best of 5)
2020 5. Heat -320 4. Pacers +260 Heat in 4
2015 6. Spurs -180 3. Clippers +160 Clippers in 7
2019 6. Thunder -165 3. Blazers +145 Blazers in 5
2014 6. Nets -130 3. Raptors +110 Nets in 7
2005 6. Kings -120 3. Sonics +100 Sonics in 5

NBA First-Round Series Prices (Since 2013)

Looking back over the past eight years of first-round playoff series pitting top seeds against eight seeds and two seeds against seven seeds, the first thing that stands out is obvious. Most one and two seeds were enormous favorites in the opening round.

Scouring the vast reaches of the web for past Las Vegas and legal online sportsbook data got us as far back as 2013. Not only was every seven and eight seed an underdog, but only four were shorter than +300 to win their series. All were seven seeds, and all lost.

  • 2019: No. 7 Spurs (+205, lost in 7)
  • 2018: No. 7 Bucks (+145, lost in 7)
  • 2017: No. 7 Pacers (+220, lost in 4)
  • 2015: No. 7 Mavericks (+240, lost in 5)

Here is the full list of series prices for seven and eight seeds since 2013 in the NBA playoffs, sorted by year.

NBA Playoffs Game Previews – Betting Lines, Odds, Trends

Year Favorite Price Underdog Price
2020 1. Lakers -455 8. Blazers +340
2020 2. Clippers -450 7. Mavericks +375
2020 1. Bucks -20000 8. Magic +3500
2020 2. Raptors -5000 7. Nets +1500
2019 1. Bucks -5000 8. Pistons +1500
2019 2. Raptors -1200 7. Magic +825
2019 1. Warriors -20000 8. Clippers +5000
2019 2. Nuggets -245 7. Spurs +205
2018 1. Raptors -650 8. Wizards +475
2018 2. Celtics -165 7. Bucks +145
2018 1. Rockets -2200 8. T’Wolves +1400
2018 2. Warriors -1250 7. Spurs +850
2017 1. Celtics -900 8. Bulls +500
2017 2. Cavs -1350 7. Pacers +650
2017 1. Warriors -6000 8. Blazers +2000
2017 2. Spurs -1500 7. Grizzlies +700
2016 1. Cavs -2500 8. Pistons +800
2016 2. Raptors -330 7. Pacers +220
2016 1. Warriors OTB 8. Rockets +7100
2016 2. Spurs OTB 7. Grizzlies +9500
2015 1. Hawks -1250 8. Nets +800
2015 2. Cavs -3500 7. Celtics +1750
2015 1. Warriors -4000 8. Pelicans +2000
2015 2. Rockets -280 7. Mavericks +240
2014 1. Pacers -560 8. Hawks +480
2014 2. Heat -2000 7. Bobcats +1200
2014 1. Spurs -675 8. Mavericks +550
2014 2. Thunder -350 7. Grizzlies +300
2013 1. Heat -6000 8. Bucks +4000
2013 2. Knicks -400 7. Celtics +300
2013 1. Thunder -2000 8. Rockets +1200
2013 2. Spurs -1600 7. Lakers +1000

Putting 2021 Lakers odds in perspective

We’ve never seen anything like the respect the Lakers are getting from oddsmakers heading into the 2021 NBA playoffs.

Current NBA Futures prices to win the championship have Los Angeles as the second choice behind the Brooklyn Nets. Those odds have changed from the preseason when the Lakers were the favorites, but not much has changed in those odds with the Lake Show still garnering a sizable portion of the handle across legal sportsbooks.

The first-round series price is different though. That price is not affected by the money already wagered on the Lakers to win the NBA championship. The opening price, however, affected by perception. COVID-19 has turned this regular season into one we have not seen. More games were smashed into a shorter period of time. That led to more stars sitting out games, and injuries leading to more missed games. Los Angeles is still the defending champion, and its two stars, Anthony Davis and LeBron James, appear to be healthy enough to play to start the playoffs.

All of these factors combine to create Lakers odds, specifically a first-round series price, that does not match their playoff seed historically. So when you are watching LA try to repeat as NBA champions, realize you are quite literally watching the most respected seven or eight seed in NBA history.

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