LeBron James has the oddsmakers at Caesars Palace working OT.
The Roman Empire didn’t have as many propositions as the 6-foot-8, 240-pound high school standout who becomes the property of the Cleveland Cavaliers when the NBA Draft takes place Thursday night in New York.
With LJ expected to immediately impact the NBA, race and sports manager Chuck Esposito and his staff have a smorgasbord of prop bets to keep the fires burning for bettors through the pro basketball offseason.
"All the hoopla leads perfectly into the NBA Draft," Esposito said. "It’s a little quiet this time of year, so creating the LeBron props was really a good way to add some excitement."
Five proposition wagers are available at Caesars Palace ”” LeBron’s points per game average, how many games the Cavaliers will win, whether James outscores Michael Jordan is his rookie year, the high-point total during 2003-04 season and head-to-head regular season scoring matchups.
"When Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady and Kevin Garnett came into the NBA from high school, the highest point total that first season was Garnett’s 10.4 ppg,"
Allen Iverson averaged 23.5 his first year for Philadelphia, but the Sixers only managed a 22-60 record. Bryant averaged just 7.6 for the Lakers his first year, while McGrady was even lower at 7.0.
"LeBron joins a pretty talented group at Cleveland," Esposito said. "The problem there aren’t enough basketballs to go around between James, DeJuan Wagner, Darius Miles and Ricky Davis. One think James has going for him is the hiring of Paul Silas. He will be the perfect coach for LeBron."
Esposito believes James will averaged between 14 and 16 points based on past stats.
"Yao Ming averaged 13.5 last season," he said. "Michael Jordan was at 28.2 his rookie year. Bird was 21.3 and Magic 18. Amare Stoudemire came on strong for Phoenix to finish at 13.5 when he was not expected to do much."
There is even a prop pitting James against Syracuse All-America Carmelo Anthony, who should be the third pick in the Draft. His signs are already up at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
Esposito has a prop matching James and Milicic head up in scoring average, with the European center getting a seven-point spot.
"Darko is not a huge scorer and he won’t be with a team with a lot of scoring," he said. "I think Milicic will average 8-to-9 points per game.
The James props will be placed alongside the Yankees-Tigers and Sammy Sosa homers props as part of Caesars commitment to create interesting betting opportunities for its customers.
"The one thing we can’t do is create a prop that isn’t decided on the field," Esposito said when it was suggested that he create a Joe Torre prop on how long he would be managing the Yankees. "A Torre prop could be decided in a board room and that’s not what we want."
Caesars is far from the only book with the imagination of producing intriguing props. Jay Kornegay at Imperial Palace has been doing this for years, and John Avello at Bally’s comes up with props in both sports and the entertainment world.
The Las Vegas Club would experiment with five cent lines in baseball and rumor has it that Coast Casinos are going to have five-inning wagers in baseball.
"The feedback we get is all positive," Esposito said. "So we’re going to keep doing it."
And, we’ll keep bettors informed.
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