Sportsbooks make Lakers and Clippers co-favorites to win the West

LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard
Lakers’ LeBron James drives past Clippers’ forward Kawhi Leonard during the teams’ Christmas Day game at Staples Center.
(Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images)

The Lakers and Clippers return from the NBA All-Star break as virtual co-favorites to win the league championship, along with prohibitive Eastern Conference choice Milwaukee.

The Bucks top most futures boards at about +250 on the moneyline across global sportsbooks (risk $100 to earn $250). The Lakers are more commonly in the +270 to +300 range, the Clippers +300 to +330. But the Bucks lead now because they have an easier path to the NBA Finals. Essentially, the Lakers and Clippers are expected to play a coin-flip series to see who will be favored over the Bucks.

How do we know this? It’s a matter of percentages.

The Lakers come out of All-Star break with the best record in the West. Forward LeBron James says they need to trust the process to continue to improve.

Feb. 19, 2020

Ignoring the sportsbooks’ house edge for a moment, those moneylines equate to about 29% for the Bucks, 26% for the Lakers and 24% for the Clippers. So it’s 50% that a team from L.A. will win, only 29% for Milwaukee. Whoever wins the West will get the win likelihoods of the loser.


Sportsbooks build a universe larger than 100% to create an advantage over bettors. The real-world win percentages are slightly below those numbers. Here’s a quick example using current championship odds from Circa Sports in Las Vegas:

— Milwaukee +260 (28% win equivalent), Lakers +270 (27%), Clippers +305 (25%), Houston +1000 (9%), Denver +2000 (5%), Boston +2400 (4%), Miami +2400 (4%), Toronto +2800 (3%), Philadelphia +2800 (3%), Utah +3000 (3%).

Those add up to 111%, and we left out a few 1% longshots that will fill out the 16-team bracket.

Western Conference teams listed here add up to 69%, Eastern teams just 42%. It’s a bit counterintuitive. But the eventual champion is still expected to come from the West, even if Milwaukee currently tops the charts.

The Lakers return from the break Friday against Memphis at Staples Center. The Clippers are off until hosting Sacramento on Saturday afternoon.


The Clippers are in third place in the West despite using 27 starting lineups and rarely having a healthy squad, so there’s hope things improve soon.

Feb. 19, 2020


USC and UCLA enter a new week of Pac-12 play just one game out of first place with chances to make nationally televised statements on the road against No. 18-ranked Colorado, which is tied for the conference lead.

The Trojans visit the Bufffaloes on Thursday (6 p.m., ESPN2). The Bruins get their turn Saturday (1 p.m., CBS). USC and UCLA are 8-5 in league play, and Colorado is tied for first with Oregon at 9-4.

Both L.A. teams have been great bets in recent weeks. USC has covered four straight and is 9-2 against the spread (ATS) in its last 11 games. UCLA is 6-3 ATS in its last nine games, including outright wins over Arizona and Colorado.

UCLA’s recent success in Pac-12 play has created optimism about the team’s NCAA tournament chances, but the Bruins still have a long way to go.

Feb. 17, 2020

At Circa Sports, USC is 300-1 to win the national title, and UCLA is 750-1. Circa is the only outlet that offers odds to win the NIT. UCLA has surged to 16-1 in that event based on recent form. USC is only 100-1 to win the NIT because it’s still expected to make the NCAA.

— Championship odds for the Wildcats in the XFL have plummeted after an 0-2 start. They are now commonly 20-1, worst in the eight-team league.


The Wildcats play Sunday at home against the new league favorites, the D.C. Defenders (3 p.m., FS1). The undefeated Defenders won double-digit decisions at home over Seattle and New York, both covering the spread. The Wildcats just missed covering last week in a 25-18 home loss to Dallas as 6.5-point underdogs.

D.C. opened laying 9.5 points against the Wildcats, a very tall point spread considering that Josh Johnson returned at quarterback last week for the Wildcats. He was expected to be an MVP candidate. Be sure you monitor the markets until kickoff to see how bettors are evaluating the league’s extremes.

The Los Angeles Wildcats of the XFL draw quite an energetic response from their new fans, something the Chargers have missed out since their return to L.A.

Feb. 16, 2020

— Baseball season is fast approaching. The latest futures odds from Circa show the Dodgers at +115 to win the National League and +300 (3-1) to win the World Series. The Angels are +1450 to win the American League and +3000 (30-1) to win it all.

— The Westgate in Las Vegas has already posted odds to win the WNBA championship. The Sparks are 9-2 to win the title, third best behind the Las Vegas Aces (3-1) and the Connecticut Sun (4-1). The season starts May 15.

Jeff Fogle writes for VSiN, the sports betting network.