- Caesars unveiled NBA game odds ahead of NBA restart on Saturday
- Lakers-Clippers listed as pick’em; Pelicans favored by one point over Jazz
- NBA’s restart presents unique challenges for oddsmakers
At long last, the NBA is back. Back at Las Vegas sportsbooks, at least. For the first time in months, bettors at Las Vegas sportsbooks will find NBA betting odds on the boards. However, the massive hiatus, which will have lasted over four months by the time the league resumes play on July 30, has oddsmakers feeling iffy about how to proceed.
Caesars Sportsbook posted its updated NBA game lines on Saturday. The game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers set for July 30 opened as a pick’em, while the New Orleans Pelicans were listed as one-point favorites over the Utah Jazz in the first game of the day.
22 of the NBA’s 30 teams will descend upon the Disney World complex near Orlando to finish the 2019-20 season, which has been on hold since March 11. Each team will play eight regular-season games before the top-eight in each conference advance to the playoffs. The eight teams not invited to Florida won’t play at all, though they are discussing the possibility of launching their own campus at some point later this summer.
Unique Challenges of NBA “Bubble”
The fact that all games will be played at neutral sites without fans in attendance is presenting an unprecedented challenge for oddsmakers. Some players have already opted against returning to play, as well, which adds an entirely different wrinkle. There is also uncertainty with regard to how players will adapt to the unusual surroundings, as well as the possibility for injuries or positive tests throwing a wrench into outcomes.
Players like Wilson Chandler of the Nets, Avery Bradley of the Lakers, and Willie Cauley-Stein of the Mavericks have chosen to stay home in lieu of joining their teams in Orlando. While none of those players will have a huge impact on their teams’ betting outlook, it’s still something for oddsmakers to consider.
Alan Berg, the senior oddsmaker at Caesars, told ESPN, “We don’t know who’s in shape. We don’t know what players are going to bail out. You just kind of have to throw things up there.”
While all players will have been trying to keep in shape during the lengthy layoff, not every player has access to basketball facilities at home. Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, for example, doesn’t have a hoop at his house, which means he likely went at least a month without actually playing basketball after the hiatus began.
No Home-Court Advantage
The lack of home-court advantage is the primary factor that could affect betting odds and ultimate outcomes. Jeff Sherman, chief NBA oddsmaker at the Westgate SuperBook said, “There’s a chance for a different energy in the building. When you see those scoring runs, players feed off the energy [from crowds]. What we tried to do, considering that, was make the totals lower than what they would’ve been if it had been normal regular-season games. We did between five and eight points lower on the totals.”
Caesars reportedly took a number of under bets shortly after betting odds were unveiled, which caused oddsmakers to adjust the totals accordingly. For example, the over/under on the game between the San Antonio Spurs and Sacramento Kings was dropped from 220 to 115.5 following a number of bets coming in on the under.
Sherman added that the lack of home-court advantage caused some spreads to be adjusted by an average of around 2.5 points from where they would be under normal home-and-away game conditions.
While odds are live, the betting activity has still been relatively light. That will surely change as the July 30 restart date draws closer, but the SuperBook did reportedly take a sizable $8,000 wager on the Denver Nuggets to win the championship at 25-to-1 odds.
While betting interest has been light thus far, Sherman expects activity to ramp up in the coming weeks. The battle between the LA teams will likely draw plenty of attention, especially given Las Vegas’ proximity to Southern California. When asked if he expects a surge in interest in Lakers-Clippers, Sherman replied, “No doubt about it. It’s a good time slot (6pm Pacific). It’s a pick’em line. It’s on TNT. We’ll have plenty of props up when it gets close to time.”
Odds Always Subject To Change
Late-breaking injury news and the potential for coaches to decline to disclose injury situations has always made NBA oddsmaking a tricky endeavor. Per ESPN, oddsmakers don’t plan to adjust their approach to monitoring injury news ahead of the restart in spite of the added potential for players to be ruled out of games later than usual. Social media is a particularly useful tool for oddsmakers when it comes to setting lines.
Berg added, “We’re going to know when the line is moving that something happened, usually before any media. We just have to do our best to react to it and try to dig to see if we can find out why a particular game is moving. This is an unprecedented situation. All it takes is LeBron James to be out or a Giannis [Antetokounmpo] to not play and the line’s going to move tremendously.”
The NBA has scheduled six games for July 31. The Magic are listed as one-point favorites over the Nets, the Grizzlies-Trail Blazers contest is set as a pick’em, and the Suns are three-point favorites against the Wizards. The Bucks are favored by five points to beat the Celtics, the Kings are 2.5-point favorites against the Spurs, and the Rockets have a one-point edge over the Mavericks.