Kawhi Leonard’s surprise, late-night decision on July 5 was hardly the most seismic event in California over Independence Day weekend. But from an NBA futures perspective, the news of his and Paul George’s imminent moves to that other Los Angeles team caused no shortage of ripple effects. We’re not just talking about the Clippers‘ futures odds, either.
76ers’ outlook brightens following Kawhi/PG announcement
The official confirmation Leonard is out of the Eastern Conference—not such a foregone conclusion in the days prior to the announcement given that Kawhi had met with the Raptors about a possible reunion—brightens the outlook for the opponent he hit the hardest last season.
The Philadelphia 76ers, currently +900 to be crowned 2019-20 NBA champs, became a darling of DraftKings Sportsbook bettors over the 48 hours following Kawhi’s big reveal. They were actually the leaders in the clubhouse with 41 percent of handle and 31 percent of bets on 2019-20 NBA title futures during that span.
Curiously, the Clippers checked in with 14 percent of the handle and 16 percent of the bets at +275 odds over the same sample. That wasn’t even good enough for second in terms of handle. The Lakers laid claim to that slotting with 20 percent. LeBron’s squad did lag behind their fellow Staples Center tenants with 10 percent of the actual wagers.
FanDuel Sportsbook shaped up differently. The 76ers (+900) pulled in 16 percent of the bets following the Kawhi news. They were a distant second to the Clippers. The Western Conference’s presumptive new superpower was the subject of 25 percent of NBA 2019-20 championship futures (and 46 percent of handle) in the 24 hours following the announcement.
Just who are the defending champs again?
The seemingly forgotten franchise in the Kawhi Triangle is the Raptors.
Jilted by last year’s savior, they now check in at +3200 (FD) and +3500 (DK) to repeat as champs. Toronto has become a case study in the volatile betting market this year’s unprecedented free-agent class engendered.
The Raptors opened up as +700 on DK on June 14. They then sunk down as low as +1500 on July 2 when the Leonard-to-Lakers rumors hit a fever pitch. They were right back to +700 the next day, marking the meeting with Toronto brass. The latest plummet came upon confirmation of the Clippers’ acquisitions.
Toronto’s longshot status represents a rapid descent for defending champions. It’s akin to what happened to a Cavaliers team that lost LeBron James last offseason. Still, the Raptors are seemingly a more complete, talented team without Leonard than those LeBron-less Cavs. Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet form a battle-tested, talented core. Norman Powell may also be ready to take his game to the next level if he gets a legitimate opportunity as a full-time starter.
At its current price, Toronto might make for an interesting Hail Mary, why-not type of championship futures wager. However, a +1200 flier (FD) on them repeating as Eastern Conference champions has an appreciably better chance of cashing.
After all, this is a franchise that has made the postseason six consecutive seasons. That includes two conference finals appearances and three other pre-Kawhi runs that ended in the semifinal round.