The Nets have surpassed the Los Angeles Lakers at multiple sportsbooks and are now the consensus favorites to win the NBA title. Brooklyn has won 15 of its past 17 games and moved into second place in the Eastern Conference, one game behind the Philadelphia 76ers. Durant has missed the past 15 games with a hamstring injury that is expected to sideline him a few more games.
James suffered a high ankle sprain Saturday in a loss to the Atlanta Hawks, an injury that could cause him to miss multiple weeks. The Lakers are already without Anthony Davis, who has been out with a calf strain and tendinosis in his right leg for over a month and is expected to miss at least another week.
"You're going to see the Lakers as a large underdog on the road and a small underdog at home," Jeff Sherman, vice president of risk at the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, said. "You take those two guys [James and Davis] off the team and it's going to be a fight for a playoff spot."
Sherman moved the Nets to 2-1 to win the NBA title after James' injury and dropped the Lakers to 4-1, their longest odds of the season.
Other sportsbooks were being more cautious with the Lakers' odds in anticipation of James and Davis returning for the playoffs. In New Jersey, at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill, the Lakers remained the title favorites at +260, slightly ahead of the Nets at +280.
"I've nudged the Lakers' odds up a little and lowered some of the other Western Conference teams," Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading for William Hill, told ESPN. "But can't go too crazy as [James] has got plenty of time to get healthy before the playoffs, if he needs it. If it comes out that that injury is a lot worse, then we'll have to make some major adjustments."
DraftKings' sportsbook also was keeping the Lakers as the favorites as of Monday morning, but the majority of books had the Nets with the best odds.
With James and 76ers star Joel Embiid sidelined with injuries, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has emerged as the favorite to win the regular-season MVP. Jokic is +110 at William Hill, followed by James (+450) and Embiid (+600).
The Nets' James Harden, who was as long as 100-1 to win MVP at one point, is now 10-1.