The NBA has now finalized and officially approved their plans to restart in order to crown a champion for the 2019-20 season. Of course, that means sportsbooks aren’t far behind them and have now posted odds for the futures bets that are still viable. Things like season win totals and division winners will be considered null and void with any stake being refunded to the bettors. Other options however, are now back in play with odds being posted for conference winners and the overall NBA Finals Champion.
The Title Odds
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The Restart Format
The NBA’s restart will consistent of only 22 teams, not the league’s full compliment. 13 teams from the Western Conference and nine teams from the Eastern Conference will play eight regular season games each beginning on July 31 in order to finalize the playoff seeding. The playoffs will adhere to the standard playoff format in that all series’ will still be best of seven with the latest possible finishing date for the NBA Finals of October 12.
The one change that has been made regarding the format will allow the 9-seed, normally the first team out, to play their way in to the playoffs. If either of the 9-seeds are within four games of the 8-seed in each respective conference, the team in 9th will have the chance to play the team in 8th for the last playoff spot. The 9-seed would have to beat the 8-seed twice in order to advance, while the 8-seed would just need to win once to move on. Unfortunately, for either of those teams, they’ll be fighting for the right to meet the 1-seed in each conference. Not exactly a “reward” per se.
Teams to Consider for an NBA Title Wager
The top three teams on the list have clearly separated themselves from the rest of the field and for all intents and purposes they’re odds are identical. The Lakers and Clippers will be battling to come out of the deep and difficult Western Conference while the Bucks may have a less daunting path due to the lack of depth in the Eastern Conference.
We have been high on the Lakers all season and we see no reason to start doubting them now. However, once the NBA resumes play, it will have been 140 days since they last suited up so it’s worth looking at which teams will benefit the most from the extended layoff.
The Clippers, Celtics, Rockets and Nets all share the same very legitimate reason that a four month layoff could significantly increase their chances of success in the playoffs. Rest. Previous to the layoff, the Clippers had been a bit dinged up and also utilized “load management” maybe more than any other team in league. Nagging injuries will now have had time to recover and load management will no longer be a concern with such an abbreviated schedule.
The Celtics were also battling some injury concerns before the break. Boston will enjoy getting Kemba Walker back after he suffered a knee injury in February, adding more depth to a lineup that already goes deeper than most teams in the league. Now that Coach Brad Stevens has his full compliment of players with which to work, Boston will be a very tough out in the East.
The Rockets case for improvement due the layoff is pretty simple, but likely will be short lived. Previous to the break, Houston had began their “small-ball” experiment which put an incredible work load on their two star guards James Harden and Russell Westbrook. The break gave them some much needed time to get their legs back underneath them which should be evident right away. Don’t expect it to last though. It’s already been shown that teams with quality big men like Anthony Davis or Giannis Antetokounmpo can take advantage of the fact that Houston doesn’t have a true center. In a one-off situation the “small-ball” theory can work, but it’s difficult to imagine the Rockets being able to stay remotely close in a best of seven series with a team like the Lakers.
That brings us to the Nets. Previous to the layoff, the Nets had been priced as high as 750-1 to win the title. Those odds however, were based on the assumption that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving would be out for the season. That isn’t such a certainty now. While an official determination has yet to be made about their availability going forward, most books have moved the Nets odds in order to protect themselves against that possibility. Many books around the country dropped the Nets all the way down to 60-1, however William Hill has been more conservative and posted the Nets at 200-1.
Should KD and Kyrie come back, the Nets chances to gel and win multiple playoff series in such a short time frame is still highly unlikely. Though, if bettors are looking to truly roll the dice for a sexy payout the Nets may give them that chance. It will most likely be the equivalent of setting money on fire, but at 200-1 a few bucks might be worth it for a “just in case” scenario.
*Odds provided by William Hill