Road to the 2020 NBA Finals

LeBron James did say it would take two years to get this far. Expectations were high when King James signed on with the Los Angeles Lakers in July 2018, but the Lakers didn’t have enough of a supporting cast in Year One – James was surrounded by young prospects like Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, and inexpensive veterans like Tyson Chandler and Lance Stephenson. They didn’t even make the playoffs last season after James got hurt and missed 27 games.

What a difference a year makes. The 2019-20 Lakers are heavy favorites on the NBA Finals betting board at Bovada Sportsbook, after beating each of their three Western Conference playoff opponents in five games. But they face a major roadblock on their way to the championship, and it’s one of LeBron’s former teams: the Miami Heat. Let’s take a closer look at Bovada’s NBA Finals lines heading into Game 1 this Wednesday (9 PM ET, ABC).

Los Angeles Lakers: –350

It took James two years to win his first NBA title with the Heat, and that was with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the lineup. Ingram and Ball may eventually develop into Big Three-quality players, but with James nearing the end of his extended prime, the Lakers had to move quickly. In July 2019, they shipped out both blue-chippers, along with Josh Hart, Moritz Wagner, Issac Bonga and a boatload of draft picks, as part of a complicated three-team trade that brought Anthony Davis over from the New Orleans Pelicans.

This move was anything but unexpected. Davis, one of LeBron’s fellow clients at Klutch Sports, tried to force a trade to LA before last year’s deadline; that proved unsuccessful, but James and Davis are together now, and they’re the best Big Two in the business. Although the Lakers don’t have a quality No. 3 option like Bosh after stripping down their roster to acquire Davis, the template for success in today’s NBA odds is all about putting two versatile forwards on the floor and letting them cook. At 9-5-1 ATS in the postseason, the Lakers have pummeled the 2020 NBA odds using this recipe.

The James-Davis combo isn’t doing all of the heavy lifting. Rajon Rondo, who led the Boston Celtics to the title over LA way back in 2008, has been rejuvenated in the 10 games he’s played for the Lakers since joining the bubble in Orlando. Rondo is one of several quality 3-and-D specialists on this team, including Danny Green, who won his second NBA title last year with the Toronto Raptors. They even have a pair of useful bigs in JaVale McGee (two rings with the Golden State Warriors) and prodigal son Dwight Howard, who helped LA get past the difficult Denver Nuggets in the Western finals after supplanting McGee in the starting lineup. No wonder they’re the NBA Finals betting favorites.

Miami Heat: +275

That doesn’t mean they’re the best value on the board. The Heat have been even more profitable during these playoffs at 12-3 SU and ATS, punctuated by their second-round upset of the league’s No. 1 overall seed, the Milwaukee Bucks. Then they eliminated the Boston Celtics in six hard-fought games, each of them as small underdogs in the Orlando bubble. And the beat goes on: Miami are 5-point dogs on Bovada’s 2020 NBA Finals odds board for Wednesday’s opener with a total of 218.

Perhaps LeBron would have preferred the marquee Lakers-Celtics matchup for this year’s Finals. His former head coach, Erik Spoelstra, continues to weave his magic on the Miami bench, and he’s sure to have a few tricks up his sleeve for this series. James will also have to contend with Andre Iguodala, his old nemesis from those four straight Finals between Iguodala’s Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Dubs won three of those series, with Iguodala earning NBA Finals MVP honors in 2015 after keeping LeBron in check.

If Iguodala can get it done one more time, the Heat may have just enough offensive firepower to pull off their third straight upset of these playoffs. Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro have delivered a serious 1-2 punch inside the bubble, taking the pressure off Jimmy Butler to carry this team. Goran Dragic has also seen a return to All-Star form since rejoining the starting lineup. This has all the earmarks of a great series, so keep a close eye on Bovada’s NBA Finals betting odds, and enjoy the show.