The calendar is about to turn to July, and with it, the sports world can check off one of the final benchmarks toward the return of the 2019-20 NBA season.
At least, the sports is set to begin in less than a month, as the league has set July 30 as its return date for the final eight games of the regular season in their “bubble” at the Disney Resorts in Orlando, Fla.
But while the countdown to the games continues, oddsmakers have been prepared for the re-start for several weeks. In early June, NBA odds for the NBA championship were re-issued for the 22 teams that will take part in the season’s conclusion. For those taking part in online betting, having games and teams on the court for wagering should quickly outpace any coronavirus talk off it.
Westgate SuperBook was one of several sportsbooks to re-post its title odds shortly after the league formally announced its planned return in late July, and the Lakers emerged as the favorites to take the title:
Bucks, Clippers 3/1
Rockets, Celtics 16/1
Raptors, 76ers 20/1
Mavericks, Heat, Nets 40/1
Thunder, Blazers, Pelicans 80/1
Grizzlies, Magic 1000/1
Kings, Spurs, Wizards 2000/1
We spoke to our friends in the SportsIntel team recently and they like the Bucks and Clippers to emerge as the finalists, after the final 16 teams are seeded following eight regular-season games, and we don’t disagree with them.
In order to finish the regular season to determine the final playoff berths, the league will have all 22 teams play eight games, staggered over a few weeks.
In both conferences, if the No. 9 seed is at least four games behind the No. 8 seed after the eight regular season games, the No. 8 seed will automatically move on to the playoffs. If not, the teams would have a play-in tournament that’s double-elimination for the No. 8 seed and single-elimination for the No. 9 seed.
The Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Milwaukee Bucks are the clear-cut favorites to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. The only team we see knocking them off are the Boston Celtics, the likely No. 2 or No. 3 seed.
As long as Giannis stays healthy, his Bucks have the easier path than the Lakers. Milwaukee also has chemistry and depth. They came up short last season, but it would not surprise at all if they won it all this year.
The Clippers have depth, defense and a coach that has been there before, all of which is important to make a long playoff run. They also have one of the best players in the game in Kawhi Leonard. The Klaw showed just how clutch he was last season, and it’s hard to see anyone stopping him again this postseason. He is like the Terminator, and him this team will keep coming at you, especially on the defensive side of the ball. They have tremendous length, which will cause havoc come playoff time.
While the Lakers have been great all season long and were playing their best basketball of the season before this hiatus, they are too top heavy and after such a long break, you have to be concerned about LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ health.
Both have been having MVP-type seasons, but you just never know. If you want to make a run, especially after a situation like this where everyone has been off for such a long period of time, you need depth.
As far as a longshot play, the Rockets top our list. They will have to go through both Los Angeles teams, but love him or hate him, James Harden is the most explosive scorer in the NBA. The same goes for his backcourt mate Russell Westbrook, who is a triple-double machine. Both of these guys are now playoff veterans and should know what it takes come playoff time.
The Rockets small-ball lineup is capable of hitting a lot of three-pointers. If some things break right for them like some big teams sustain injuries for instance, and Harden gets hot, lookout. At this price, they are worth looking at.