The Decision 2018: LeBron James Free Agency Odds and Tips
After suffering an embarrassing NBA Finals sweep at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, the Cleveland Cavaliers could get even worse news. LeBron James’ contract is up and there’s a lot of speculation that the NBA star may not re-sign with the Cavs.
The Los Angeles Lakers have emerged as a favorite to make major headlines with a blockbuster deal and the mere belief that James could sign there is already impacting NBA Finals odds for next season. The Lakers are already listed by some bookies as one of the best teams in the league with some of the best odds to win the title.
The Rumor Mill is Churning
Any hints and clues as to where King James may be headed (or staying) haven’t come via the 4-time MVP’s own mouth. The latest tips come from outside sources and friends and thus must be taken with a grain of salt.
The most recent James rumors stemmed from his friend and former teammate Dwyane Wade who won two of James’ three NBA championships with him in Miami. After a short, ill-fated half season with the Cavaliers, Wade returned to the Heat after Cleveland blew up its roster at the trade deadline.
Wade was heavily involved in bringing James to Miami during the first Decision fiasco, so his opinion is usually valued higher than your run-of-the-mill player in these situations. He claims that LeBron’s ultimate decision won’t be a “basketball thing” as he’s shown he can make to the Finals “no matter what the circumstances are.”
“I don’t really think, for him, (it’s a) basketball decision of saying, ‘Oh, let me go team up with three All-Stars.’ I think at this point in his life, it’s more so of a lifestyle thing of where my family is going to be the most comfortable and where I’m going to be the happiest. Because basketball-wise, he’s so great, he can bring along and take along whoever.”
Family played major part of former NBA point guard and 9-time All-Star Gary Payton's conjecture that James may be headed to the Los Angeles. But his connection to the situation would appear more removed as he’s not a part of James’ life and social circle.
Payton stated a claim that James’ son Bronny would be enrolling at Sierra Canyon high school which is located in the LA valley. Former NBA players Scottie Pippen and Kenyon Martin’s son’s are also enrolled there and Payton assumed they’d be teaming up.
“So, that’s a move that they’re going to make … if everybody looks at it with a son at that age, you don’t want to be away from him during that period of time. During the time that we’re having, basketball is school time. I think that (Bronny) needs a father during that time and that’s it. I don’t think LeBron is that type of parent, I think he wants to be around his son a lot and see his son play a lot.”
Navigating Social Media Silliness
The problem with Payton’s assertion is the fact that LeBron and his family have been living in Los Angeles for some time now and a hypothetical enrollment of his son at a school there wouldn’t necessarily mean anything regarding James’ ultimate decision. Also, when reached for comment a school official said his claim was false.
Just talked to a Sierra Canyon official on the rumor that Bronny James has committed: "That's news to us. He hasn't."— Chris Martin Palmer (@ChrisPalmerNBA) June 11, 2018
These kinds of world-breaking stories often test the true “authority” of social media claims as well as one’s ability to navigate social media responsibility. Essentially making claims that LeBron would need to come to the Lakers if he “wanted to be a better father” is ridiculous and presumptuous. So the fact that odds are shifting and predictions are made based on it is foolish in the grand scheme of things.
What the Sportsbooks are Offering
Most sportsbooks list the Lakers as the favorites to land the game-changing small forward with Ladbrokes, Betfair and 888sports providing specific betting markets for the occasion. Betfair and Ladbrokes offer 11/10 odds LeBron will head to La La Land, while 888 gives it a +150 chance of happening.
Beyond Los Angeles, however, the sportsbooks’ predictions differentiate with 888 and Ladbrokes picking the Houston Rockets as the second-most likely team to land LeBron, while Betfair says there’s an 11/4 chance he joins Ben Simmons in Philadelphia.
The likelihood of James staying put in Cleveland this time around appears to be dwindling though there’s still a puncher’s chance of him “learning” from his 2010 move and remaining loyal to his home. Betfair offers 4/1 odds of LeBron staying a Cavalier, but the bookie still ranks Houston, Philly and LA as more likely options.
The dark horse candidates to sign James are the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics though their odds to pull it off drop off significantly in most markets. The Spurs already have a superstar small forward in Kawhi Leonard who appears to be healing with his franchise after reports pointed to him potentially leaving. The Celtics have Kyrie Irving who essentially left Cleveland fed up with playing second fiddle to James.
Update: LeBron's Odds to Lakers Looking More Likely
LeBron moving to the Lakers and leaving the Cavaliers behind is looking more and more like it could actually happen according to sports reporters and 888sports. 888 has shifted its odds from the previously reported figure all the way down to -118.
The Cavaliers' chances following the NBA Draft have plummeted down to a +600 shot, while Houston has +400 odds and Philadelphia sits in second place with +250 odds.
The evidence lining up all seems to point to LeBron entering the twilight years of his career in a Laker jersey, but for those who doubt that, there's never been a better time to bet against it.
Update: Odds Could Be Set as James Not Looking for Pitches
According to a report from ESPN's Ramona Shelburne LeBron is not interested in hearing in-depth sales pitches from teams trying to lure him away from Cleveland.
While James hasn't decided yet whether to pick up his player option, sources close to the situation tell ESPN that he has no intention of hearing elaborate pitch meetings from teams. James might meet or speak with a club official or owner at some point, but the elaborate presentations that have become common in NBA free agency over the years are unnecessary after 15 seasons in the league. Should James become a free agent, league sources believe he and his agents Rich Paul and Mark Termini have enough understanding of the stakes and NBA landscape to handle the process without much fanfare.
For bettors this could mean several things. It could potentially point to the belief that he might be leaning towards staying with the Cavaliers, it could simply mean he's already made up his mind for the most part, or he may have at least narrowed his choice down to one or two teams.
With LeBron's most recent request in mind, one can't help but be reminded of former NBA center Andrew Bogut's tweet earlier this month:
Have the popcorn ready for this offseasons @NBA FA dramas! Don’t be fooled, most big deals are already done “verbally”. More superteams are cometh...— Andrew Bogut (@andrewbogut) June 12, 2018
LeBron James Decision Date Announced
According to a report by ESPN's Brian Windhorst, LeBron will make his next destination known by America's birthday (July 4). The timing hearkens back to Kevin Durant's earth-shattering decision to join the Golden State Warriors back on July 5, 2016. That was a move that would end up changing the course of the NBA for the next few years and LeBron's decision has the potential to do the same.
Windhorst said on "The Lowe Post" podcast recently that in regards to the impending decision "everybody will be on holiday on July, 4, it will be over by then." Whether or not that's speculation or an absolute concrete fact is left a little vague here. There's also still no major shift in where exactly James could end up, although ESPN did make the case for the King staying in Cleveland Tuesday.
The one thing that appears certain is that LeBron is gearing up to make his decision and doesn't appear to be taking his sweet time pondering the pitches of some teams. He likely has his mind mainly made up already and that might be reason enough for bettors to act sooner rather than later if they're trying to profit off 2018's Decision.
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Update: LeBron Officially Opts Out of Player Option
Reports are in that LeBron will not be exercising a $35.6 million option for the final year of his contract with the Cavaliers. His agent supposedly informed the Cavs of this Friday, and it could be the first major domino that leads to the ultimate announcement of his next destination.
This doesn't rule out Cleveland as his eventual landing spot, but Laker fans on social media are certainly encouraged by the news and speculation suggests that this move will rule out Houston as it cannot supposedly afford to sign James. The clock is officially ticking as bettors now will need to act fast if they want to get their picks in before the decision is finally made public.
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