Could Lonzo Ball Mean Big Things for NBA Betting?

Could Lonzo Ball Mean Big Things for NBA Betting?

The hype surrounding Lonzo Ball, the NBA’s number 2 overall draft pick, has been hard to miss. Sparked by his incredible on-court potential and bolstered by his father’s bombastic marketing (see all things Big Baller Brand), anticipation for Ball’s arrival to the NBA has been palpable.

This year’s Las Vegas Summer League offered us another way to quantify that hype, and it has everything to do with sports betting. For starters, attendance records were set, with nearly 19,000 more people attending this year than in 2016, which represents an increase of just over 17%. A significant boost, sure, but that uptick pales in comparison to the nearly 100% increase in action witnessed by some sportsbooks.

William Hill US, an industry leader, reported that the total handle -- across all betting types – nearly doubled from last year, with 16% of wagers being on the Los Angeles Lakers (not to mention those placed against the Lakers). Other sportsbooks reported similar increases, though some not to the same degree.

So, how exactly can we interpret those increases? Well, a reading at face-value would tell us that viewer engagement saw a much larger boost than did viewer presence. While generally boding well for the NBA, increased engagement also speaks favorably to the type of audience Lonzo Ball seems to be attracting.

The summer league this year centered around the Lakers making a title run, which in turn centered around whether or not Ball would live up to his hype, something plenty of folks turned out to see. But, more importantly than that, people showed up and placed bets, which indicates a money-where-your-mouth-is type of interest that polarizing figures like Ball can create. Whether rooting for or against him, untested hype is always a major draw. And if the same skepticism (or support) follows Ball through the regular season, you can expect betting action to follow suit.

Sure, there are other factors for the summer league’s success: some people credit the shifting climate around sports betting, for example. And that does matter, but only insofar as it helps facilitate Ball’s hype, not that it comes anywhere close to over-shadowing it.

In order words, it’s hard to imagine that people are betting more simply because people are betting more – you still have to consider what they’re betting on. It’s nothing but circular reasoning until you allow other factors into play, and in this case, Ball’s massive following seems to be one hell of a factor.

Maybe his hype will run out, or maybe this initial fanfare is nothing more than a summer romance of sorts -- but maybe, just maybe, Lonzo Ball could mean big things for NBA betting at USA online sportsbooks.