LA Lakers Could be in Real Trouble with LeBron and AD Injuries
As Doc’s NBA handicapper, fading the Lakers has been a way of life for years. This is THE public team in the NBA, and the oddsmakers shade, or add extra points, to their betting spreads on a nightly basis since they know the general betting public will always lay the points on the Purple and Gold.
Until their current troubles, which we will get into soon, the Lakers were having an impressive season, especially after playing a long season in the NBA Bubble en route to a championship last season. Many, including us, thought they would start off slow and finish strong. But it seems they are taking the opposite approach. But even with that stellar play to start the season, this team was an average at best betting team. Blindly fading the Lakers in every game, every season, will earn you a profit. They are one of the biggest public teams in all of sports.
The Lakers have real problems right now, however, and it will be interesting to see how the oddsmakers handle this team in the next 6-8 weeks. LeBron James has been out with a high ankle sprain and will be away from the team “indefinitely”. Anthony Davis has missed 16 games already, and best-case scenario has him returning to the court in a couple weeks. But it’s hard to imagine he will be in a position to play major minutes until the end of April.
The NBA Playoffs start in late May. The Lakers are currently in fourth place in the Western Conference standings. But they look like they are in a position to sink way down that list. They lost to Atlanta the game LeBron went down and then suffered blowout losses in their last two games, to Phoenix and New Orleans. The Golden State Warriors are currently the No. 9 team in the WC playoff race. They have five more losses than the Lakers. With the two stars out, the Lakers could be in real danger of missing the postseason. They have a tough upcoming schedule, too, with a game tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers at Staples Center. They have a couple easy games after that then face a slew of playoff contenders, with most of those games coming on the road.
We consulted with our colleague Raphael Esparza, an expert NBA handicapper and freelance oddsmaker who was the former Sportsbook Director at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, about the Lakers outlook for the postseason.
“I would say they have a small or medium chance of missing the playoffs,” he said. “They sit in the fourth spot in the West, and I don’t see them falling out of the postseason. If they can hold down the fort and make the playoffs, could you imagine them being a No. 7 or No. 8 seed with a healthy LeBron and AD? The Lakers could be active in the Trade Deadline and again look for Andre Drummond to be a landing spot and keep an eye out for Montrezl Harrell maybe being dangled around.”
Esparza added that he believes the Lakers will speed up the pace they play at might be a hot OVER team in the coming weeks although they have had trouble scoring since James went down with injury.
The million-dollar question for the immediate future involves how the oddsmakers will line this team moving forward. They opened up as just a 4.5 underdog at home tonight against the Sizers, the squad with the best record in the Eastern Conference. That looks a bit short to us considering how we have seen this team play the last couple games. If they are competitive tonight, they will likely be small favorites in their home games against Cleveland and Orlando, but then they play the Bucks then go on the road for that tough stretch, It’s easy to imagine that there will be some monster underdog lines for the Lakers in some of these games. There’s a big possibility the lines will be TOO big.
“As an oddsmaker still in the game, we need to be really focused on the Lakers lines now,” added Esparza. “Joe Public will be looking to fade them because of their injuries. “If the Lakers numbers get too high, I can see some backdoor covers. And if you want to fade them, then bet the game early because the public will want to fade them and that will affect the number.”
The Lakers did a good job of assembling a nice roster this season around James and Davis. They are better on paper than the Championship winning team from last season. But opponents aren’t going to take it easy on LA because of their injuries. They are the defending champs and will get their opponents’ best shot every night. They need some role players to step up into leadership roles until they have a complete roster.
It will be interesting to see what happens with this team and the lines in the next few weeks. We will be watching closely, as always, and we plan to be on the right side of lines involving the Lakers whether we back them of fade.
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