NBA Championship Odds: Is It Now Or Never For The Clippers?

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During the 2019 offseason, the Los Angeles Clippers traded promising young guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander plus a treasure chest of draft capital to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Paul George. Reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard simultaneously signed with the Clippers as a free agent, and their immediate future seemed bright. 

Four postseasons later, and Los Angeles has not even made an NBA Finals appearance, much less won a title. The sand in the hourglass dwindles by the day, but is it truly now or never for the Clippers? What do the latest NBA Finals odds say about their chances? Check below for the latest odds from NBA betting sites and additional info for how to bet on basketball.

Los Angeles Clippers NBA championship odds

Although the Clippers are 17-14 with the 18th-best net rating since Feb. 6 per, they still have their strengths. Leonard and George form a dynamic scoring duo that can break down certain playoff defenses, while James Harden brings pick-and-roll playmaking. Terance Mann (41% 3-point shooting over his past 40 games) spaces the court, and Ivica Zubac provides screening, rolling, and put-backs.  With Russell Westbrook’s creation and Norman Powell’s outside shooting coming off the bench, their offense can still run smoothly. It’s worth noting that the defense has been shoddy recently, but they still boast a stable of long, switchable wings plus a decent rim protector.

Overall, it would be foolish to dismiss them barring injury, and online sportsbooks seem to agree. Per BetMGM, the Clippers opened the season with the seventh-shortest odds (+1400) to win the title, and they are now tied with the Milwaukee Bucks for third shortest (+750). In other words, only the Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets have a larger implied championship probability than Los Angeles based on the odds.

The public is backing the Clippers

Sportsbooks certainly acknowledges Los Angeles’ title potential, it’s important to note that the line has significantly shifted in large part due to the public.

The Clippers have the fourth-most handle and fifth-most tickets on them to win the championship, according to BetMGM this week.

TeamOpening OddsCurrent OddsTicket %Handle %
Denver Nuggets+50017.9%28.5%
Boston Celtics+55015.7%24.6%
Phoenix Suns+85010.4%6.5%
Los Angeles Lakers+12006.0%5.2%
Los Angeles Clippers+14005.2%6.3%
Golden State Warriors+12004.9%3.7%
Milwaukee Bucks+6004.9%3.9%
Minnesota Timberwolves+66004.6%3.4%
Philadelphia 76ers+14004.0%2.8%
Oklahoma City Thunder+66003.8%2.5%

Age and injuries shrink the championship window

Father Time is a serious catalyst for Los Angeles’ rapidly shrinking championship window. NBA players typically enter their prime at age 27 and subsequently begin to decline around 32. Leonard (33), George (34), Harden (35), and Westbrook (35) will all be past that threshold at the start of next season. The slope tends to only become steeper the older a player gets, so Los Angeles’ elderly core already has a deadline regardless of other external constraints that may further shorten its timeline. 

Additionally, Leonard and George have experienced catastrophic injuries throughout their careers. For example, Leonard exited the 2021 playoffs early due to injury, missed the entire 2022 season, and once again left the 2023 playoffs after only two games. George, on the other hand, sat out the 2023 playoffs. 

Salary cap disaster and barren draft capital

In addition to its aging core, Los Angeles faces external constraints that could also limit its ability to field a championship squad.

Leonard is signed for the next three seasons, but George, Harden, and Westbrook can all opt out of their contracts and become unrestricted free agents this summer. If George and Harden demand lucrative long-term deals, it leads to two options for the Clippers:

Option A: Bite the financial bullet and bring back George and Harden in an effort to win a title. This strategy would absorb any semblance of cap space for the near future, likely eliminating Los Angeles from adding meaningful pieces during free agency and forcing them to continue running it back with the same depreciating roster. 

Option B: Let George and/or Harden walk and attempt to salvage championship equity in free agency. Klay Thompson and Tobias Harris will be the likely premier available names, which is far from inspiring. Choosing Option B essentially forces Los Angeles to initiate a rebuild by trading veterans, including Leonard. The fact that this route generally sets championship hopes back likely gives George and Harden even more contract leverage. 

To make matters worse, Los Angeles lacks the draft capital to either tear everything down and rebuild or trade picks for win-now veterans. The Clippers’ 2024, 2026, and 2028 first-rounders are gone, and other teams own swap rights on their 2025, 2027, and 2029 firsts too. In other words, the Clippers have the flexibility of a steel rail. 

Given all of that, there’s a chance that the Clippers’ plan ends up being something like this:

New arena applies pressure on Los Angeles to stay in contention

Finally, the Clippers are moving into a new, hyper-expensive arena next season. It’s crucial for them to sell tickets and merchandise in order to claw back money, and fielding either a rebuilding or mediocre squad does not exactly entice fans to spend their hard-earned cash. As a result, re-signing George and Harden, regardless of the long-term consequences, may be their only viable option. Otherwise, it could be a bleak arena opening that fails to generate the projected revenue needed.

Luxury tax burdens

With the Clippers deep into the luxury tax, (around $130M owed this season), it’s yet another component that persuades Los Angeles to remain extremely competitive. Playoff home games, in particular, rake in a large amount of revenue, so a deep postseason run would work wonders for the Clippers from a financial standpoint. However, paying top dollar to retain their stars will slash their salary cap exceptions, thus limiting their ability to snag quality role players during free agency.

In summation, Los Angeles has no choice but to ignore the long-term consequences and extend this aging core until the wheels fall off. A championship this season would make that realization far more digestible, and it is the squad’s best chance to do so compared to the next few seasons.