Are LeBron and Heat NBA Favorites?



LeBron James announced Thursday Night that he would be joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami in the biggest one-team free agent bonanza in sports history.

It was funny hearing the buzz in sportsbooks all day Thursday, and on all the different sports TV and radio shows that were outlining the options, blasting LeBron for making it a circus, blasting ESPN for dressing up as clowns so they could be involved, and, get the picture. This is mostly something only Miami Heat fans would be happy about. There aren't many Miami Heat fans living in Las Vegas. You don't move from one warm weather resort area to another.

Oddsmakers have the immediate challenge of devising betting propositions to take advantage of the interest. There were some offshore places taking bets on where LeBron would end up. Those came down very early in the day Thursday when the action was so one-sided on Miami that people figured somebody "in the know" was trying to cash in. Now, oddsmakers have to think about:

  • Odds to win the East, with Miami surely becoming betting favorites over Boston and Orlando. Boston's only going to get older. Orlando is still a nice team, but they don't have the scoring presence of a LeBron-Wade-Bosh combination. The public wants to bet Miami to win the East. What price will make them pay a heavy tax for taking that risk?
  • Odds to win the NBA Championship. Some believe that Miami becomes the odds on favorite to go the distance because LeBron and D-Wade are already so great as individuals. Put them together, and who can stop them? Well, Las Vegas and Reno are Lakers country, and there are bettors (and oddsmakers) out here who respect the "team" ball that Kobe and Company played this year in winning another trophy.

Who do you make the favorite in the league? How do you encourage action from those who want to bet either team...while making BOTH take the worst of it in terms of value? Hey, Lakers fans love their team. They're going to support the Lakers by betting them to win again. Sportsbooks want the action. How can they maximize their profits?

*Power Ratings. How much "better" is Miami than Orlando or Boston? Is it a point or two? Is it more? Is it actually less in the regular season because a top heavy team won't have as much blowout potential with a bench that will be weak in garbage time?

Of course, there are free agency signings all over the Eastern Conference. New York just added Amare Stoudemire. How much of a boost does that give them? Chicago added Carlos Boozer. What about Cleveland? They lost their heart, soul, and reason for existence. How far do they FALL?

Oddsmakers will wait for the dust to settle before finalizing their Power Ratings. And, once the season starts in late October, they'll pay VERY close attention to sharp action to make sure they're not too far off with any team analysis. Of course they're hoping all the personnel changes will re-invigorate regular season betting in this sport. Sportsbooks can use all the action they can get in this economy.

What's my take?

I can tell you this. I'm going to have two sets of numbers early next year. What I think the Power Ratings should be...and what numbers I have to use to make the public take the worst of it with their bets on Miami and other teams with big acquisitions. I'm confident already I'll have Miami lower on the totem pole in terms of margin expectations than the public will. I believe in defense and rebounding. Miami now has two ball hogs and a third guy who prefers scoring to defending. I believe in depth, particularly over the rigors of a long season. Miami has a lot of work to do to fill out the roster on a tight budget. Personally, I don't think they'll win the East next year, or the league. I'm willing to let them prove me wrong.

This is definitely a story that's going to be very fun watching play out from my unique perspective in the legal betting markets. As an oddsmaker and Sportsbook Director, I'll be interpreting it one way. As a big bettor, I'll be looking for spots to step in with serious action from my own bankroll. As a handicapper, I'll be trying to find clients the right times and the right prices to go against their instincts and FADE Miami.

Boy...we're already looking forward to football. Now pro basketball just got more fun too!

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