By Mark Strotman | | 5 mins
This 1 Stat Is Why Lakers Are Best 2020 NBA Championship Bet
There is more to today’s NBA than 3-pointers. Yes, the league is shooting more triples than ever and floor spacers are invaluable. But shots at the rim are equally important to offensive success, whether it comes in the form of transition, drives or post-ups. The best teams can make outside shots, but they really thrive inside where attempts are most efficient.
The Los Angeles Lakers are NBA Finals betting favorites (+250 at PointsBet) for a numbers of reasons. LeBron James speaks for himself. The Lakers are an NBA-best 49-14 with a +7.1 net rating, have Anthony Davis rolling and the players have extensive playoff experience.
But there’s one specific area where the Lakers are thriving that has a strong correlation to teams that find themselves playing into June (or in 2020’s case, October): Field goal percentage inside 5 feet. This is a pretty good predictor in NBA betting as well.
Lakers’ Shooting At Rim Unprecedented
The Lakers have lived at the rim this season, averaging 34.1 field goal attempts per game inside 5 feet — the fifth-most attempts in the league. But the real story is their efficiency.
LeBron’s Lakers are shooting a blistering 67.3% on those attempts. That’s not only the best mark in the NBA this season, it’s the best mark dating back to 1997, so remember than when you check out the latest NBA title odds.
There is the caveat that the Lakers have only played 63 games, of course, but they’re a full 1.5% above the No. 2 Mavericks (65.8%). Out of the teams ranked second through eighth in FG percentage inside 5 feet, none are in the top half of the league in shots attempted inside 5 feet. In fact, of the teams to lead the league in FG percentage inside 5 feet each of the past nine seasons, seven were ranked 26th or lower in FGA per game inside 5 feet. The Lakers, remember, are fifth. Their combination of volume and efficiency at the rim is simply unheard of.
LeBron James, Anthony Davis Leading Charge
As expected, James and Davis are doing the heavy lifting. They’re one of two duos to have each recorded at least 400 attempts inside 5 feet, and they’ve made a ridiculous 69.3% of those attempts (Davis has made 70.3% on an average of 7.6 attempts per game; James has made 68.4% of his 8.7 attempts per game). Of players averaging 7 or more shots per game within 5 feet, Davis ranks fifth and James ranks sixth in FG%. The only other duo — Russell Westbrook and James Harden — is shooting just 60.1%.
Eight of Davis’ 15 made shots in this 46-point performance came at the rim:
There are 17 years of examples, but here’s one on why James remains elite at the rim:https://twitter.com/NBA/status/1194830886375698434
Supporting Cast Also Contributes
But the Lakers are more than just their two All-Pros. They have five players who have attempted 200 or more shots inside 5 feet and made 68% or better (James, Davis, Dwight Howard, JaVale McGee and Kyle Kuzma). There are just 24 other players in the league who reach those qualifications and no other team has more than two such players.
Howard has converted nearly 76% of his shots inside 5 feet. McGee is an alley-oop’s best friend (69.1% on 3.8 attempts). And Kuzma has improved his FG% inside 5 feet from 60.6% his first two NBA seasons to a sparkling 69.4% this season.
OK, we get it. The Lakers are really good around the rim. Why does it matter for NBA playoff odds betting?
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NBA Champions Elite Around Rim
Of the past nine NBA champs, eight were ranked in the top-4 in FG percentage inside 5 feet. Their average ranking in that category was 3.2. If we remove the outlier (the 11th-ranked Toronto Raptors in 2019) the remaining eight teams’ average rank was 2.2.
What’s more, the NBA Finals runner-up has enjoyed plenty of success living at the rim, too. Of the last nine runners-up, six were first or second in FG percentage inside 5 feet, and no team was outside the top-8.
|Year||Champion, rank||Runner-up, rank|
|2011||Mavericks, 2||Heat, 1|
|2012||Heat, 4||Thunder, 2|
|2013||Heat, 1||Spurs, 5|
|2014||Spurs, 3||Heat, 1|
|2015||Warriors, 2||Cavaliers, 8|
|2016||Cavaliers, 4||Warriors, 6|
|2017||Warriors, 1||Cavaliers, 2|
|2018||Warriors, 1||Cavaliers, 2|
|2019||Raptors, 11||Warriors, 1|
This statistic has special relevance in 2020. Given the logistics of the NBA’s bubble — the long layoff, new neutral venues where no player is comfortable, lack of practice between games — it is not a stretch to believe outside shooting will suffer. This could hold true even through the playoffs.
There are so many variables to consider. But those variables should not affect shots around the rim — i.e. dunks, layups and transition buckets. That means NBA Finals betting will revolve even more around teams that are elite around the rim. And there aren’t any better than the Lakers.
It’s worth noting in NBA futures betting that the Bucks, who are +260 at bet365, are third in this category thanks to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s absurd numbers (71.1% on 11.0 attempts). But the Clippers, who are +333 to win the title at Unibet, have some red flags attached, ranking just 17th in this category ahead of the restart.___