2017-18 Los Angeles Lakers Predictions and NBA Futures Odds Picks
The Lakers are back - at least in one way. After a couple of years of being so pathetic that they could only be pitied, the arrival of the Ball family circus has returned them to a familiar place for many NBA fans and bettors - they are again the most hated team in the league. They aren't likely to be very good this year, yet, but they are on the way, and they are poised to make a big splash in free agency next summer to speed up the process dramatically. By this time next year they will very likely be back to being both relevant and incredibly worthy of hate - or love if you are one of 'those'. But where will they be this year?
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2017 Los Angeles Lakers Betting Storylines
We'll deal with Ball in a moment, but first let's deal with the team's biggest issue - of many - last year. They were the worst defensive team in the league last year. It was often ugly. They have added Lonzo Ball and Brook Lopez, but neither guy particularly helps on that front. The lone personnel change that will help here is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but there is only so much he can do by himself. Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle are both a year older and stronger, and both are going to have to take big strides forward in this aspect of their game, which is possible in both cases but not assured. Ball can be a passing wizard, and Lopez can be a steadying veteran force, but the team will still be lousy if they can't find a way to slow down opponents more effectively than last year.
Now, about Ball. He's obviously an exciting and effective player, and he had a big impact in his summer league debut. More than any other player entering the league this year, though - or for a few years, for that matter - evaluating him is about so much more than just what he can do on the court. He's a rookie, and he certainly doesn't employ a low-risk style of play. He'll have days where he is absolutely dominant and unstoppable. And days where he is an incredible liability to his team. In both cases the media attention is going to be intense, and his incredibly obnoxious father is going to have something to say. And heaven forbid if he struggles and loses some playing time in the short term. I'm not particularly worried about Ball the player - he'll find his way and will grow with this young team. It's Ball the entity and the accompanying tornado that concerns me. The chances for this to be a distraction are high, and a young team like this doesn't need any distractions.
Speaking of distractions, the biggest non-Ball issue this team is going to face is their future. They will largely avoid the talk as long as they are in contention, but as soon as the inevitable fall from relevance happens all anyone will want to talk about is what happens next summer in free agency. Can they finally lure LeBron? How about Paul George? Another superstar or two? Or will they flop spectacularly? This team has long been building towards this coming summer, and the rumors have been flying about what could happen for years. The speculation will be crazy later on this year - especially if things aren't going great for the reformed Cavs or for George and the Thunder. That will have an impact on the whole team, but especially for the placeholders, like potentially Caldwell-Pope, who would be displaced by the arrival of the cavalry. So, if things start to go bad enough for that talk to happen, there is a chance that things could really go bad.
2017 Los Angeles Lakers Additions and Departures
The big splash obviously happened in the draft, where the grabbed Lonzo Ball early. They also juggled the roster significantly on draft day, sending D'Angelo Russell to the Nets to make room for Ball. They also included Timofey Mozgov in the deal. In return they got Lopez, who is a positive force in the locker room for a young team and a solid enough player as well. And they added rookie Kyle Kuzma, who the Nets took at the end of the first round. The power forward from Utah has plenty of upside and has looked good early, though he isn't likely to play a primary role this season barring injuries. They also signed Caldwell-Pope to a one-year deal. Pope couldn't get the long-term deal he felt he deserved from the Pistons, so he gambled on himself with a one-year deal here in hopes of proving he deserves more down the road. He should be motivated for a big year, and as long as he isn't too selfish as a result he'll be valuable. All in all, it was a very solid summer in which the team got significantly better.
2017 Los Angeles Lakers Futures Odds and Trends
Los Angeles Lakers Futures Odds (from Bovada )
NBA title odds (from BetOnline ) : +15000
Western Conference title odds : +8000
Lonzo Ball ROY Odds : +250 (favorite)
Kyle Kuzma ROY Odds : +1600
Season win total (from Bovada): 33.5 ("over" is favored at -125)
The team provided a slight profit to those bettors that doubted the Lakers last season - they were 37-43-2 ATS. There were slight profits to be had on the over as well, with a 44-37-1 record.
2017 Los Angeles Lakers Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
As much as I hate to admit it, they are moving in the right direction. I like the coaching, I think Ball is going to be good - though perhaps not entirely worth all the drama. And Ingram and Randle should be improved. They aren't a playoff team by any means in the tough West, but there is value in the over on the season win total. I look for something like 37 or 38 wins, and I don't expect them to again have the worst point differential in the league. And for what it's worth, I hope they fail spectacularly on the free agent market next summer.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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