Westbrook Trade Got Fans’ Attention, But NBA Futures Lines Took It In Stride

Posted on July 30, 2021

The biggest move of the 2021 NBA Draft didn’t involve any rookies. Its impact as far as 2022 NBA futures goes is pretty lopsided as well to this point.

The Westbrook trade might have overshadowed all other news on Thursday, but it barely registered a blip for sportsbooks in states bordering Maryland.

While the acquisition of Russell Westbrook did shorten the odds on the Los Angeles Lakers to win it all next season, the lines on the Wizards to do the same remain unaffected. There are pretty solid reasons for the inactivity on that front.

Sportsbooks react to Westbrook trade

After the news broke that Westbrook would join Anthony Davis and LeBron James in the Lake Show, many sportsbook operators that take action in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia moved to limit their liabilities.

Lines shortened from around +600 to between +400 and +420 on the Lakers.

The morning after the trade, most books hadn’t moved off their lines for Washington‘s title hopes. Odds on the Wizards to win the 2022 NBA title sit between +10000 and +20000. That’s essentially where they sat prior to the news of the trade.

Given Westbrook’s production on the court and how vital he was for Washington, why did this not move the needle for books both ways? The simple answer is that the two teams aren’t equal in this regard.

More about liability than probability

Given the star power and fan base the Lakers already boasted without Westbrook, it was likely that books would have taken a lot of wagers to win the next NBA championship even without this move. The trade makes those wagers more likely to pay off.

By comparison, action on the Wizards in this market would have been quite minimal even with Westbrook on the roster. Thus, even if they had done the improbable, it would have resulted in less of a loss for the sportsbooks anyway.

As a result, there’s really little reason to move the line on Washington. Oddsmakers‘ opinions of the Wizards’ title hopes were already pretty low. This move only makes the few bets they might see on Washington even less likely to result in wins.

Wizards futures might not be the only thing of interest to Marylanders on Friday morning. A similar narrative applied to Philadelphia 76ers lines as the activity opened for the day at regional sportsbooks.

76ers odds also essentially unchanged

As of early Friday morning, the lines on the 76ers to win the next title still sit between +1200 and +1600. Despite drafting Jaden Springer, Filip Petrusev, and Charles Bassey, Philadelphia is still a second- or third-tier contender in US books’ opinions.

Possible movement on the 76ers likely rests more on what the team decides to do with Danny Green and Ben Simmons. Should Green leave in free agency and Philadelphia move Simmons, these odds could change.

Even then, sportsbooks might hesitate to see what the team does to fill those holes before reacting. There’s a lot of offseason remaining and plenty of possibilities. For the time being, the action hasn’t motivated books to change their stances on the 76ers or the Wizards.

Photo by Dreamstime / Esra Keskin Senay
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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