The Cavaliers and the Lakers were the class of the NBA during the 2008-09 regular season, with Cleveland winning 66 of its 82 games and L.A. winning 65.
This week, all Lucky’s sports books in Nevada posted a selection of proposition wagers linked to the forthcoming NBA season, scheduled to begin Oct. 27.
The featured prop asks whether any team in the NBA will win 67 games or more during the 2009-10 regular season.
Considering not one but two teams came oh-so-close last season, at first glance you might think the odds on that prop would be close to even money, or maybe that the “yes” side would be a slight underdog.
Instead, the “no” side — meaning no team will win 67 or more — opened as a heavy favorite of minus 400, requiring bettors to risk $4 to net $1.
The “yes” side — at least one team will win 67 or more — opened at plus 300 (risk $1 to net $3).
Those odds reflect two realities of professional basketball: It’s extraordinarily difficult for any team, no matter how dominant, to win 82 percent of its regular-season games. And it’s just as challenging for any team — even the Lakers or the Cavaliers, who are virtually co-favorites to win the NBA title according to Las Vegas odds — to put together consecutive standout seasons.
“Getting to that 67 is so tough,” said Jimmy Vaccaro, spokesman for Lucky’s and veteran Las Vegas oddsmaker. “Cleveland had 66 playing in a bad division last year. The Lakers snuck up on people a little bit. I don’t think anybody thought they would be that good. Asking them to go from 65 to 67, to me, is monstrous.”
In fact, Vaccaro said, even though he’s comfortable with the minus 400/plus 300 opening line released by Lucky’s, the “true” mathematical odds on the “no” side are probably closer to minus 600.
In the real world of sports gambling, though, the line figures to be held in check by the betting masses who will instinctively grab the “yes” at what looks like an attractive price. (Hey, two teams almost did it and they’re offering 3-1!)
A prop on the 2010 NBA champion has the Western Conference as a small favorite (minus 115) against the Eastern Conference (minus 105).
That line basically mirrors the consensus Las Vegas odds on the NBA championship. If you throw out the real long shots and focus on teams that can easily be found at 25-1 or less to win the title, you’re left with 13 teams — seven from the West and six from the East. After accounting for the vigorish, the Western teams have about a 47 percent chance of winning the title with the Eastern teams at about 43 percent. (Long shots from both conferences make up the remaining 10 percent.) That puts us right in the ballpark of minus 115/minus 105.
Another prop at Lucky’s asks whether the Celtics, Cavaliers and Magic — the three division winners from the Eastern Conference last season — will all make the 2010 NBA Playoffs.
The “yes” is minus 1500 (risk $15 to net $1) with the “no” plus 1000 (risk $1 to net $10). Even with the big favorite, the line has been constructed to give bettors a fair shake: The built-in theoretical hold percentage (essentially, the bookmaker’s commission) on a line of minus 1500/plus 1000 works out to about 2.8 percent, which compares favorably with the estimated house edge of 4.5 percent on a standard straight sports bet.
A similar prop asks whether the Trail Blazers, Spurs and Suns will all make the 2010 Playoffs. It’s minus 200 they all will, and plus 170 on the “no” side.
The Cavaliers and Lakers are paired in a head-to-head prop asking which team will win more regular-season games in 2009-10, with the Cavs a slight favorite at minus 115 and the Lakers at minus 105.
Other NBA props posted this week at Lucky’s:
• Which team will have the most wins by the all-star break: Lakers, plus 160; Cavaliers, plus 180; Celtics, plus 350; Magic, plus 600; Spurs, plus 1200; Trail Blazers, plus 1300; Nuggets, plus 1500; any other, plus 1500.
• Which team will have the most losses at the end of the regular season: Kings, plus 200; Grizzlies, plus 350; Thunder, plus 350; Wizards, plus 400; Timberwolves, plus 800; Clippers, plus 1000; Knicks, plus 1000; Bucks, plus 1500; any other, plus 800.
Las Vegas Sun, Sept. 30, 2009