Kawhi Leonard is headed to the Los Angeles Clippers, and he’s not alone. The NBA Finals MVP forced the hand of his new team by orchestrating a trade for Oklahoma City Thunder former Paul George, bringing two All-NBA talents to Los Angeles.
News of the George trade and subsequent Leonard signing broke early Saturday morning, and sent the NBA futures odds scrambling as bookies adjusted their numbers for the 2019-20 season. The Clippers, who were rumored to be out of the running for Leonard (leaving a two-horse race between the Lakers and Raptors) watched their odds to win the title move from as big as +2,000 to +300 – making them the new favorite sports picks to win the NBA Championship.
Toronto, Leonard’s former team, not surprisingly faced a major adjustment as well. The Raptors futures were teetering around +800 this past week after meeting with Leonard in Toronto, but sunk to +2,000 once NBA futures reopened Saturday morning.
The Los Angeles Lakers, the team that was reportedly the front runner to acquire Kawhi, had their championship price shortened when they dealt for Anthony Davis and furthermore as rumors of Leonard’s landing spot pointed to the Lakers – even in the hours before the Clippers new broke. The Lakers were as low as even money favorites to win the 2020 NBA Finals but have climbed to +600 – the third-overall favorite.
The Milwaukee Bucks are the second overall pick by oddsmakers, with odds around +500. With Leonard leaving Toronto, the path through the Eastern Conference is far easier for reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The same goes for the Philadelphia 76ers who, despite losing Jimmy Butler to the Miami Heat, are +650 to win the title next year.
The team on the other side of this deal, the Oklahoma City Thunder, received a stockpile of young talent and draft picks for George. The Thunder were set at +2,500 to win the NBA title but have now dropped to +5,500 with the loss of an All-NBA talent.
Leonard and George thrust the Clippers into the title conversation, adding star power to a team that lacked a leading man (or men) but still won 48 games in 2018-19. That bumps other Western Conference contenders like the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets down the NBA futures board, but may open up good value on those squads.
Houston is sitting at +1,200 to win the title. The Rockets have made some solid moves this offseason and will still likely pursue more deals as the arms race heats up in the West. The Warriors could present the best betting value among the NBA futures, currently at +1,300.
While the Warriors lost Kevin Durant to Brooklyn, Golden State managed a sign-and-trade to acquire young scorer D’Angelo Russell from the Nets. Shooting guard Klay Thompson injured his knee in the NBA Finals but is expected to return to action after the All-Star break. Golden State won’t be out to win the conference in 2019-20, but the Dubs will have their sights set on the postseason, which is when this team does its best work.