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ATS Betting Analysis for LeBron James and New-Look Lakers

LeBron Spread and Betting Records - Lakers

We may be only a few games into the NBA season for the Los Angeles Lakers and what was touted as a bogus trend by Lakers backers is now ringing true: LeBron James on a new team to start a season is not good for spread bettors.

The Lakers are 0-3 ATS after three games this season and are the only team in the Association that has failed to cover the spread this year.

Los Angeles’s next three games are against the Suns, Nuggets and Spurs (again). Let’s take a quick look at these matchups, predict the spreads and how we should bet on them:

Disclaimer: I’m not an oddsmaker so these lines are merely predictions. All predictions are made with the assumption that key players don’t rest or get hurt.

Phoenix Suns (Away)

The Lakers should be favored in this game as LeBron-led teams have never started a season 0-4 SU in his career and his teams are 18-1 SU in the last 19 games vs the Suns. I expect the Lakers to be favored by at least 3.5 points prior to tipoff. If the line is less than 5, I’ll stay away but if not, I will be fading the Lakers. Mainly because their three-point shooting has been horrendous through three games and they’ll still be short-handed with Brandon Ingram and Rajon Rondo suspended.

Denver Nuggets (Home)

I think the Lakers will close as a home dog again in the 3.5- to 4.5-point range and I would certainly fade them against this iteration of the Nuggets. Denver has been one of the best defensive teams in the NBA this season and should blow the doors off the Lakers with superior guard play from Jamal Murray and Gary Harris. The only troubling part about this matchup is Paul Millsap or Juan Hernangomez would be the primary defender on LeBron, which means they need to shut down the supporting cast if Bron ends up scoring 40 points.

San Antonio (Away)

A rematch of Monday’s debacle, the Lakers again should find themselves as road dogs and I predict the line will be Spurs -6 or more. If the line is 6.5 or more, I’d be tempted to stay away from this game as I think the first game proved that LeBron can exploit certain matchups on the Spurs roster. San Antonio’s guards also don’t offer much help and Rajon Rondo is expected to return to the starting lineup.

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NOTE: The Lakers are 0-3 ATS in their first three games of the 2018-19 season.

LeBron James and his exodus from Cleveland was obviously the largest storyline of the NBA offseason as it voided the Eastern Conference of its best superstar and left the Cavaliers in shambles. LeBron and his free agency “decisions” took him to different squads in 2010 and 2014 and took the Heat and Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in his first year. But those squads weren’t kind to spread bettors looking to cash in on LeBron’s teams for the first leg of those seasons.

For this exercise, let’s review how the Heat and Cavaliers fared in the first 20 and 30 games of the 2010 and 2014 seasons, and how bettors should approach wagering on the new-look Los Angeles Lakers for the 2018-19 slate.

Chemistry Issues Led to Early Struggles

It’s been widely reported and analyzed about how players sometimes find it difficult to play with LeBron. The King commands so much attention from opposing defenses and with his ball-handling ability, it leaves point guards having to make a big shift to their playing style.

The 2010 Heat and 2014 Cavs were expected to come out like gangbusters and dominate the league but chemistry with new teammates/coaching staffs led to early struggles that burned bettors backing the Chosen One. Here is how the first 20 and 30 games unfolded:

2010-11 Heat

20 games
  • 12-8 SU
  • 7-13 ATS
30 games
  • 21-9 SU
  • 13-16-1 ATS

2014-15 Cavs

20 games
  • 13-7 SU
  • 9-11 ATS
30 games
  • 18-12 SU
  • 12-18 ATS

As you can see, by Game 30, the Heat and Cavs started to get back on track from an NBA standings perspective but for spread bettors, they were not profitable.

So, the question you may ask is, “Why were they so poor against the spread when both teams had winning records in the standings?” The answer to that is simple — these teams were being overvalued by oddsmakers and bettors. Sportsbooks tend to place Lebron-led teams on a pedestal as a front-runner in the NBA and public money typically flows in if their spread is too low vs an opponent with a losing record.

And let’s face it, some novice bettors don’t care what the spread is, they just want to wager on the King. As a result, the Heat and Cavaliers spreads got inflated even though the eye test showed they weren’t playing cohesively as a unit.

How Will That Translate When he Suits up for the Lakers?

Obviously, the spotlight will be heavy on the purple and gold for the upcoming season and with a squad consisting of a lot of players at 23 years old or younger, there should be some growing pains for the revamped Lakers.

One factor that can get overlooked by bettors has been LeBron’s recent track record of coasting through the regular season – never more apparent than last season when the Cavaliers were one of the worst spread bets since 1994. Look at how the Cavaliers fared in the first 20 and 30 games in 2017-18:

20 Games
  • SU: 13-7
  • ATS: 7-12-1
30 Games
  • SU: 22-8
  • ATS: 10-19-1

Again, moneyline bettors were more fortunate than spread bettors as sportsbooks routinely overvalued the Cavaliers to cover.  It will be an interesting case study this upcoming season to see if LeBron-led teams continue to be awful spread bets. Due to the evidence above, I’ll be fading the Lakers for the majority of games in the first quarter of the NBA season.