Lakers-Blazers Pick: Fade LeBron Early and Often

Wednesday, October 17, 2018 11:26 AM UTC

Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018 11:26 AM UTC

LeBron James makes his Los Angeles Lakers debut Thursday night against the Portland Trail Blazers. If NBA odds history is any indication, Portland is the right pick.

L.A. Lakers at PortlandThursday, 10:30 p.m. ET (TNT)Free NBA Pick: Trail BlazersBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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Finally, it’s time for some roundball. The 2018-19 NBA regular season is here, and the biggest story by far is the Los Angeles Lakers signing LeBron James to a fat four-year deal. He’ll make his debut in Purple and Gold (more like Yellow, actually) on Thursday when the Lakers visit the Portland Trail Blazers. And yes, we’re recommending a tentative fade on the Lakers, even though we don’t know the NBA odds yet as we go to press.

There’s a lot we don’t know yet about Thursday’s game. Odds are important, of course. So is the identity of the officials; these days, sharp bettors are all over the totals, and keeping track of referee over/under trends is a great way to take advantage of the market. Don’t forget about the new 14-second clock rule for certain inbound plays – that should jack up the scoring this year. But with LeBron on the West Coast, fading the Lakers might be an ongoing theme with our NBA picks.

King of Wishful Thinking

Not that we have anything against King James or his new employers. But take a look at how his previous teams performed during the past five regular seasons:

CLE 2017-18: 50-32 SU, 32-49-1 ATS
CLE 2016-17: 51-31 SU, 36-43-3 ATS
CLE 2015-16: 57-25 SU, 37-42-3 ATS
CLE 2014-15: 53-29 SU, 39-43 ATS
MIA 2013-14: 54-28 SU, 37-43-2 ATS

There are plenty more ATS losing years where that came from, but things are even worse now that James is well north of 30 – and he’s added those three championship rings to his CV. People are even saying that James is now the Greatest Of All Time, and not Michael Jordan. We’ll leave that for you to decide, but the point is, expectations are sky-high for LeBron, and he’s not meeting them. Not until the playoffs, at least.

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LeBron James on playing against Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum

— Lauren A. Jones (@LoJoMedia) October 16, 2018

A Roar Through the Forum

Let’s also take a moment to recognize where James has landed. During the Showtime Era and well beyond, the Lakers were the NBA’s glamour team, and an easy fade for the sharps. People loved that team way too much from a betting perspective. It’s already happening again now that James has arrived: The Lakers (+1000 at Bovada) are one of this year’s most popular picks to win the title, maybe the most popular pick depending on where you shop.

As for the other team in Thursday’s matchup, the Blazers (49-33 SU, 45-32-5 ATS last year) have some natural betting advantages. For example, they’re in the quiet Pacific Northwest, far away from the media glare – even with Damian Lillard at point guard. But they might be overvalued this year; FiveThirtyEight projects Portland to win just 39 games, below their total of 42 at Bovada (OVER –135). We’ll still put in an early recommendation on the Blazers for their home opener against LeBron’s Lakers, but again, wait for all the pertinent information to come in before you decide – and may the sphere be with you.

What to know about LeBron's Lakers debut
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