Future book takes wild ride after trade Davis trade

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Congratulations to the Toronto Raptors, whose third victory in three games at Golden State in the NBA Finals wrapped up the 2018-19 NBA title last Thursday. It was an impressive feat in winning the title in six games and winning Game 6 on the road.

But 48 hours following Toronto’s championship, that became secondary to other NBA news when it was announced that the Los Angeles Lakers had reached an agreement with New Orleans on a trade that would send highly sought-after Anthony Davis to the Lakers. But it came at a very high cost of three players and three first-round draft choices, including the fourth overall choice in this year’s draft that takes place this Thursday.

Bringing in Davis to team with LeBron James instantly makes the Lakers contenders in the West. They still have plans to add another key player with the most frequently mentioned being Charlotte’s Kemba Walker. The amount the Lakers will have available to spend may depend on the exact timing of the trade so the July 6 date is not hard and firm. The Lakers were 37-45 with James missing a significant part of the second half of the season.

Future odds for the 2019-20 NBA Championship were initially posted in early May in the midst of the Conference semifinals. In fact, it was several days before Durant injured his hamstring in Game 5 against Houston. Golden State was installed as the solid 7-4 favorite with only two other teams held below 10-1 odds, Milwaukee at 9-2 and Boston at 7-1.Eventual champion Toronto was tied for eighth with the Lakers, each at 20-1 and behind three other teams in the East.

Fast forward to last Friday morning, hours after Toronto just won its title.

After Kevin Durant was injured in Game 5 with a torn Achilles and lost for most if not all of next season and then Thompson tore his ACL in Game 6 and will be lost for a similar duration the Westgate revised its odds early on Friday morning with the Lakers the new 9-2 favorites to win not the Western Conference, but the NBA title. Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Clippers were second choices at 6-1 with the Warriors at 14-1 – longer odds than seven other teams. 

The Clippers were so highly thought of because they were thought to be possible destinations for not just Davis, but also Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard, who just won his second NBA Finals MVP Award. 

Toronto was at 10-1, still second in the East perhaps because there was now increased uncertainty as to whether Leonard would indeed leave the Raptors after bringing them a championship.

Of course, the tandem of James and Davis does not by any means ensure that the Lakers will win the NBA Title, much less the Western Conference. What the move does, however, is make odds on other teams more attractive than they were in early May.

Free agency has the greatest impact of any major sport in the NBA where just one player can turn a cellar dweller into a contender if not champion in just a season or two. And vice versa. 

Recall how when James took his talents to South Beach, the Heat lost in the NBA Finals in his first season in Miami (2010-11) and won the next two years. Meanwhile his former team, Cleveland, dropped from 61-21 a season earlier to 19-63 in the first season James was in Miami.

Another factor influencing the current odds for next season is the expected decline of Golden State. The Warriors will be moving into their new arena in San Francisco but are likely to be without both Durant and Thompson for most, if not all season, assuming of course, they both elect to stay. 

That opens the doors for other Western teams that were unable to get past the Warriors over the past five seasons a much more realistic chance next season. Houston, at 8-1, is now third favorite in the West behind the two Los Angeles teams.

Given the predicament of the Warriors, the Rockets may now rethink their announced decision to entertain offers for James Harden. The Rockets have been eliminated by the Warriors in two straight and four of the last five seasons.

Portland, at 25-1, should build upon its success this past season with one of the top backcourts in the NBA with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

In the East, Milwaukee deserves to be most highly favored (Conference odds are not yet out) at 6-1 but another team on the rise is Brooklyn. The Nets, who should be key players in the free agent market, are currently 25-1 to win the NBA title. Of course, Leonard’s decision to stay or leave Toronto will affect the odds of those Eastern contenders including Boston and Philadelphia.

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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