It was widely recognized that Kawhi Leonard’s free agency decision swung the balance of power in the NBA. The fact that he convinced Paul George to come with him to the Clippers (and the Clippers to trade for him), the “other” Los Angeles franchise has jumped from 20/1 to win the NBA Championship all the way into the favorite’s role at 3/1 at PointsBet Sportsbook.
Let’s take a look at that and the other key changes in terms of the odds.
Los Angeles Clippers
Before Kawhi: +2000
After Kawhi: +300
The Clippers were obviously the biggest winners of the Leonard sweepstakes as they not only acquired him but also picked up George. George was the NBA’s second-leading scorer last season and finished third in MVP voting.
This tandem is not joining an empty roster, though. The Clippers return Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Ivica Zubac and Landry Shamet, and also added Moe Harkless. The thought of the Beverley-Leonard-George trio on defense has to be downright scary. This is your favorite to win the NBA Championship right now.
Los Angeles Lakers
Before Kawhi: +120
After Kawhi: +600
The Lakers ended up taking a tumble after missing out on Leonard. They rebounded quickly to round out their roster with Danny Green, DeMarcus Cousins, JaVale McGee, and Rajon Rondo. However, that’s a lot of moving parts for this roster. With such a huge turnover, a brand-new coaching staff, and some questions about the quality of the depth, the Lakers are no longer the favorite.
Sure, they have Anthony Davis and LeBron James – two of the top five or six players in the game – but players like Rondo, Cousins, and McGee aren’t exactly known as locker room glue guys.
They still have a Big Three with Davis-James-Kyle Kuzma, but the depth and supporting cast on this team has questions to answer.
Before Kawhi: +600
After Kawhi: +8000
The Raptors have fallen quite a bit. Depending on the sportsbook, they’re anywhere from +2000 (at PointsBet) to +8000 (at WestGate).
Sure, the Raptors still have most of their core intact with Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam, and Fred VanVleet, but Leonard is what propelled this team to new heights. They’re now somewhere in that No. 4 or No. 5 seed range in the Eastern Conference, but don’t be surprised if they fall a lot further than that.
Lowry, Gasol, and Ibaka are all on the final year of their deals. With the rebuild beginning, the Raptors will probably look to move these parts and get young assets or draft picks in return. With so many expected contenders in the NBA this season, the Raptors will have a lot of attractive assets to move at the deadline.
Before Kawhi: +1200
After Kawhi: +700
The Sixers benefitted quite a bit from Leonard’s decision to leave the Eastern Conference. Of course, it was his epic game-winning shot in Game 7 that ushered them to the exit in the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs.
The 76ers lost Jimmy Butler and J.J. Redick this offseason but quickly reloaded with Al Horford and Josh Richardson. They might have as strong of a starting five as any team in the league. However, they lost two good shooters and their late-game closer. Who steps up when the team needs those clutch points?
The 76ers success next season is still likely tied to Ben Simmons’ shooting. They’ll fly around and probably win the most or second-most games among Eastern Conference teams in the regular season. The question is in the playoffs will Simmons prove to be a weakness against elite teams or can he at least be somewhat of a threat? Will anyone else stretch the court for them?
They have tons of size, length, and muscle, and they’ll be a very good defensive team. But they have some serious questions to answer before being considered at 7/1 to win it all.
Before Kawhi: +600
After Kawhi: +550
The Bucks inched up a little as now they likely won’t get much of a challenge from the Raptors. They’ve retooled this offseason, losing Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic, but they’re keeping Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez while adding Wes Matthews and Robin Lopez.