NBA draft alters futures

July 03, 2001 8:53 AM
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Did you happen to notice next year’s NBA odds are out? Check out two teams, the one on top and the one on the bottom.

On top you’ll find the Los Angeles Lakers. No shock there, except the Lakers are close to even money or lower depending on the sports book.

I can’t think of any defending champion in basketball opening with smaller odds. But more on the Lakers later.

Now check out the last team. It’s the Washington Wizards. You won’t find a number next to them. Instead you’ll see a bunch of X’s.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants, who set the odds for about 90 percent of the hotels in Nevada, are holding off assigning future book odds on Washington.

It’s all because of one person, and that person isn’t Jahidi White or Chris Whitney.

The next time Michael Jordan comes to Vegas to play golf at Shadow Creek, or blackjack at The Mirage, someone may want to point out he’s the reason why there are no future book odds up on the Wizards yet.

That will change, of course, once Jordan decides if he’s going to play or stay retired.

If Jordan suits up, look for the Wizards (I always liked Baltimore Bullets better. It brings back memories of Gus Johnson) to open in the 20-1 range. This courtesy of Pete Korner, oddsmaker and office manager for LVSC.

AFTER-DRAFT ODDS TO WIN NBA 2002 TITLE

Orlando

(12-1 from 15-1)

Minnesota

(18-1 from 20-1)

Houston

(40-1 from 50-1)

Boston

(60-1 from 75-1)

New Jersey

(75-1 from 100-1)

L.A. Clippers

(75-1 from 120-1)

Atlanta

(120-1 from 250-1)

Vancouver

(250-1 from 350-1)

Chicago

(350-1 from 300-1)

Source: LVSC

If Jordan doesn’t come back, Korner said Washington’s odds would be around 80-1.

"There would be action if he came back," Korner said. "So why give 80-1 when you could probably get action at 20-1."

I understand that. But even if Jordan comes back, and he’s joined by Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, Nate Thurmond, Oscar Robertson and Dr. Naismith, the Wizards aren’t going to win the NBA title next year.

So if a sports book really wanted to draw extra money, why not keep the Wizards at high odds if Jordan comes back and gain extra handle?

Same thing with the Lakers. While it’s still fresh in the minds of bettors that the Lakers went 15-1 in the playoffs (12-3-1 against the spread), why not draw extra future book money by opening the Lakers slightly higher, say 5-2 or 2-1?

Nerves perhaps. Well, keep in mind the Chicago Bulls are the only NBA team to win three consecutive championships since 1967.

Yes, it would be daring for a Las Vegas bookmaker to try this, but isn’t gambling still a part of their business?

"The whole thing about futures is you want to make it profitable for the book, and fair for the bettor," Korner said.

Rarely does it turn out fair for the bettor, though.

"It’s tough to determine what’s fair and what’s not," Korner said.

"As the season progresses bookmakers will lower odds on teams that get hot, but they forget to raise other teams back up to get that theoretical percentage in a fair area.

"Suddenly every team is very low, and it becomes a strong takeout for the sports books."

By being fair, sports books also can get their desired balanced action while maintaining a good reputation.

As the Lakers made their inexorable march to the title, their odds kept shrinking. Fine, that’s understandable.

But by severely raising the odds of Los Angeles’ main contenders - San Antonio and Philadelphia - the books could draw money from those looking for perceived value.

LVSC’s recommendation for the Lakers’ opening future book price next season is 7-5. Not only are the Lakers the most public of teams, but also Las Vegas gets heavy action from Southern California tourists.

However, LVSC’s 7-5 Laker odds aren’t just a recommendation for Las Vegas sports books. Because of Shaq and Kobe, the Lakers are popular everywhere.

That includes Northern Nevada, where the Peppermill hotel in Reno has the Lakers at even money.

"People from the Bay area aren’t coming in here in droves to bet the Warriors," joked Peppermill race and sports book manager Terry Cox. "It’s the Lakers who everyone bets."

The NBA draft rarely affects future book odds, nor does a coaching change. LVSC’s price on Portland, for instance, stayed at 10-1 when Maurice Cheeks was named coach of the Trail Blazers.

"Phil Jackson is one person who could turn a team around, but he has to have the players to do it," Korner said.

Trades, however, can seriously alter future book odds.

When it was announced that Atlanta would be acquiring Shareef Abdur-Rahim, LVSC reduced the Hawks’ odds from 250-1 to 120-1.

"It looks astronomical," Korner said, "but based on theoretical hold percentage (what a book expects to make if betting is evenly spread out), it’s only a difference of one or two percent."

You know what I’m going to say. Keep the Hawks around 200-1. It’s not like they also went out and got a center and point guard, too.