“Los Angeles Clippers” and “championship favorite” are not a group of words you’ve seen in a sentence very often, if ever. But, in the words of the immortal The Notorious B.I.G., things done changed. A Kawhi bomb has detonated and flattened the NBA landscape.
The man responsible for this crazy turn of events is of course Toronto Raptors super-duper-star Kawhi Leonard. It was widely known that it would cause some upheaval in the NBA whenever the reigning NBA Finals MVP, and current free agent, chose to sign with a team. But no one expected this much, as he also coerced the Clippers to mortgage their future and trade for Oklahoma City Thunder star Paul George.
The result leaves the Clippers with perhaps the two best two-way wings in the league, and OKC and the Raptors with plummeting NBA championship chances. And, as an added bonus, the Clippers finally got to one-up their Staples Center roommates.
Just a couple of short weeks ago, MyBookie had the Clippers at +1000 to win next season’s NBA championship. Now, most bookmakers have them as the favorite, taking action on them at around the +300 mark. With their two new superstars in tow, plus a strong core of role players returning, Steve Balmer’s Clippers are all-in this upcoming season.
Consequently, the favorite before last night, the Clippers arch-rival Los Angeles Lakers, have been booted out of the top spot, going from around +270 to +400. But the LeBron James-Anthony Davis super-team is not taking this lying down, as in the hours since Kawhi’s decision was made they’ve hit the ground running. Point guard Rajon Rondo, center JaVale McGee and wing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope have all re-signed with the team, but more importantly the Lakers made a couple of key free agent pickups, grabbing sharpshooter and defensive ace Danny Green, and former superstar (before injuries) big man DeMarcus Cousins. The Lakers might have lost the Kawhi battle, but they’re still in the war.
The Lakers weren’t the main losers in this flurry of action, though. That would be the defending champion Toronto Raptors. It’s not often that you see the reigning, defending champs be only a +1600 favorite to defend their title, just a few weeks after winning it, but that is where the Raps find themselves. With a roster of aging players on the last year of their deals (Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka), Toronto could be on the verge of a complete rebuild, hoping budding star Pascal Siakam is worthy of building a team around.
So, let’s summarize. The Clippers and Lakers are the championship favorites heading into the season, with the Eastern Conference finalist Milwaukee Bucks closely following in third (about 6/1). And the bookies aren’t ready to write off the former juggernaut in the bay, the Golden State Warriors – they are at 15/1, as is the newly-reconfigured Philadelphia 76ers. All five of these favorites have all seen great roster upheaval this offseason.
The NBA’s crazy season has lived up to its moniker big time this summer.