The Los Angeles Lakers were the first-ever champions of the NBA In-Season Tournament, and we're tracking our favorite Lakers futures odds based on the NBA odds following their NBA Cup victory.
The Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament, stifling the best offense in the league with a 123-109 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night in Las Vegas. The Lakers’ players were given medals and celebratory t-shirts. They popped champagne in the locker room, much to the chagrin of the NBA community.
We don’t know how the results of the NBA Cup will affect the rest of the 2023-24 campaign. It's not nearly the same thing as winning in the playoffs, but it did give us an early glimpse of what teams might look like when stakes are a little bit higher. There are still about 60 games left in the regular season, but will voters be swayed by any of these marquee moments from the IST in the early months?
To help get a better idea of all that, we take a look at how the Lakers’ IST victory changed the futures markets. We try to make sense of what was an overreaction, and what might be a sign of things to come.
Lakers’ championship odds move
While the NBA Cup obviously doesn’t count as a championship, the Lakers’ performance in the IST was clearly enough to give the market faith in their upside.
Since last week, we have seen the Lakers move from as long as 22/1 (best odds all year) to as short as 13/1 at Caesars via the latest 2024 NBA Finals odds. The best price in this market can be found at FanDuel, which is offering 18/1 odds on Los Angeles to win it all.
According to the market, only the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns, and Philadelphia 76ers are viewed as bigger contenders than the Lakers. That might seem like an overreaction for a team that is fifth in the Western Conference standings with a 14-9 overall record, but the Lakers are always going to generate plenty of betting interest.
It’s also important to note that Los Angeles is now ranked fifth in adjusted defensive rating, according to Dunks and Threes. The offense will need to be closer to top 10 than its current rating of 19th, but ShotQuality’s adjusted offensive rating of 12th for the Lakers would suggest they have been a bit unlucky in the shooting department. Per ShotQuality, Los Angeles should be shooting 1.5% better from 3-point range, 1.7% better from midrange, and 9.7% better on post-ups.
Still, it might be best to wait for another lull in the Lakers’ schedule before investing in their championship odds after their recent bump in this market.
Anthony Davis can win DPOY
We just witnessed arguably the best game Anthony Davis has played since The Bubble, perhaps maybe even before then. And it didn’t technically count. Davis finished with 41 points, 20 rebounds, five assists, and four blocks in the IST championship game, which won’t go down in the official statistics from a team or individual perspective.
But what it did do was move Davis’ odds to win his first-ever Defensive Player of the Year award. Davis, who opened around 9/1 to win the award, was listed at +600 just a few days ago. He moved to +380 at FanDuel following Saturday’s performance, with BetMGM offering the best value on the board right now at +450. Only Rudy Gobert has a better shot in the latest NBA Defensive Player of the Year odds.
This award has historically gone to the best defensive player on the best defensive team, which is why Gobert leads the way for a Minnesota Timberwolves team that is No. 1 in defensive rating. The Lakers are coming, however, after staying afloat in this metric without their best perimeter defenders to start the season.
Since Jarred Vanderbilt returned to the team in early December, Los Angeles has posted the best defensive rating (95.4) in the league. The Brooklyn Nets are the next-closest team over that span, with a defensive rating of 102. It’s a small sample size, of course, but a sign of how good the Lakers can be defensively when closer to full strength.
Davis is second in the league with an average of 2.7 blocks per game, which is an important statistic to monitor when handicapping this market. As long as the team defense continues to improve, along with the obvious caveat of health, Davis has a chance to claim this trophy.
LeBron James can claim this award
After winning the first-ever IST MVP award, it’s easy to get caught up in LeBron James’ regular-season MVP campaign. But the reality is, he’s extremely unlikely to win this award. We have seen minimal movement in James’ MVP odds, as he can be found at +8000 at BetMGM — the same price as Davis.
That said, James has quietly been in the conversation for another award race all year. Or maybe not so quietly, if you follow me on social media where I like to remind everyone I have a 34/1 listing on James to win the second-ever NBA Clutch Player of the Year award as much as possible. James is now second in this market at FanDuel, which is offering +550 odds.
Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox won this award last year after leading his team to the NBA Playoffs with his clutch play. He paced the league in clutch-game scoring — the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime when the score is within five points — with 194 total points. He also posted the best clutch rating, according to the tracking at inpredictable.com.
We don’t have much historical data to go off with this award, but those seem like two pretty important metrics to monitor. Well, James is currently fifth in clutch-game scoring, while ranking third in clutch rating behind Alex Caruso of the Chicago Bulls and Tyrese Haliburton of the Pacers.
The best part about the Lakers not being one of the clear juggernauts is that they will play in a lot of close games, even when they shouldn’t. James has a history of willing his team to victory in those moments, and I think voters will take notice if he continues to play at a high level during his 21st season in the league. James can’t win MVP, but this could end up being the best way to reward his impressive longevity.
Austin Reaves favored to win sixth man
It honestly might be too early to discuss the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year race, but Lakers guard Austin Reaves has recently become the betting favorite in this market. He’s valued at +250 at both FanDuel and BetMGM after trading around +400 just four days ago.
Reaves started the first eight games of the season before head coach Darvin Ham moved him to the bench. It was more about the Lakers being unable to play D’Angelo Russell and Reaves in the backcourt at the same time for defensive reasons, but it didn’t help that “Hillbilly Kobe” got off to a slow start after playing in the FIBA World Cup this past summer.
In the 15 games since moving to a reserve role, Reaves has increased his scoring average (13.1 points per game to 14.7 PPG), rebound average (4.4 rebounds per game to 4.9 RPG), and assist average (4.0 assists per game to 5.1 APG) while shooting better from the floor and 3-point range. Reaves is closing games for the Lakers, as well.
Reaves exploded for 28 points on 9-for-15 shooting in the IST title game, which would have been his best performance of the season if it officially counted. Based on his play in this role, and the Lakers getting more healthy along the perimeter, Reaves is unlikely to rejoin the starting lineup.
But there is no reason to pay this price in such a fluid market.
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