Todd Salem analyzes the chances of all of the teams in the NBA’s Orlando Bubble and picks out the best Futures Bets to place ahead of the restart.
After a layoff longer than any NBA fan could stomach, basketball is back. Teams are playing warmup scrimmages in their Orlando bubble in preparation for the restart of the 2019-20 season. The regular season re-kicks off Thursday, July 30.
The 22 teams that were invited to the bubble to vie for this season’s championship will play eight games to finish out the regular season. Those eight games were selected from each squad’s original remaining regular-season schedule and they will determine the 16-team playoff field, as well as seeding within the postseason.
Like normal years, the top eight teams out of the Eastern Conference and the top eight teams from the West will make up the playoff field. Once we reach that point, things will progress as normal, but there could be some interesting flips before then.
Rather than having the top eight in each conference set in stone after the eight restart games, only the top seven will be set. That eighth seed will be up for grabs if ninth place finishes within four games of eighth. In that case, a play-in for the playoff will commence, with ninth having to win twice head-to-head before eighth wins once.
There isn’t a ton of intrigue with the playoff field, at least in the East. Washington is within striking distance of eighth place, but it would have been a reach even before their best player, Bradley Beal, decided against returning for the remainder of the season. In fact, Beal, John Wall, and Davis Bertans all opted out of the restart.
With Brooklyn also being undermanned to an alarming degree, it’s likely that Orlando jumps up to seventh in the East, and the Nets slide to eighth, though with more than a four-game cushion over the Wizards. The odds represent this very scenario. Even though Brooklyn is currently seventh, it is a strong favorite to actually finish eighth, with Washington being the longest of longshots to grab that eighth spot.
The West is more up in the air. The eighth seed currently belongs to Memphis, but four opponents are within four games of the Grizzlies’ 32-33 record. There is a lot of buzz surrounding both Portland and New Orleans out of that group. Portland is getting a lot of bodies back at the perfect time to beef up its rotation. And we have yet to really see the ceiling of this New Orleans club with Zion Williamson only playing in 19 games before the shutdown.
However, the rules make for a hard climb to the final postseason bracket. If the Blazers or Pelicans finish within four games of Memphis, they would still have to take two straight against the Grizz to officially take their playoff spot.
Once we reach the postseason, it will still be unlike any postseason we’ve had before. For one thing, there will be no home-court advantage for the home teams. Everyone will be playing in the Orlando bubble with no crowd. Whether home-court advantage usually stems from comfortability with the surroundings or the crowd impacting officials, all teams will be on even standing regardless. This is an obvious blow for the favorites who earned home court through the regular season grind.
Those aforementioned favorites include Milwaukee out of the East, and the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers in the West. All three teams have odds lower than 4/1 with no other team in the league garnering odds worse than 12/1.
Click here to bet on the NBA Championship 2019/20 Winner
The NBA championship, even in these most difficult of circumstances, will likely come down to the best players on the best teams though. There are so few underdog success stories in this sport, we have to assume this season will be no different. So for all the talk of who can or cannot grab the eighth spots in the playoffs, those teams are not going to be vying for the NBA title when all is said and done. It will come down to the top 13 teams.
For the best bet on the board, look no further than a team many touted as a title favorite prior to this season even beginning: the Philadelphia 76ers.
Philadelphia, after a somewhat disappointing regular season, is 28/1 to win the title. This makes sense, as the Sixers find themselves in either the fifth or sixth spot in the East. But what makes them a great bet is what made them such a high-ceiling team months back. Their top five are incredibly talented.
The mesh wasn’t always there, which was why Brett Brown moved Al Horford to a bench role. If he can anchor a second unit and come in with Joel Embiid when matchups necessitate it, there is great flexibility in the rotation.
Philly also boasts one of the best defenses in the game; it was always the offense that lacked and stagnated. But in the slowdown of the postseason, there may be no better offensive force than Embiid on the block.
On top of the sheer talent of Philadelphia, this was the best home team and one of the worst road teams in the league this season. You may think that becomes a bad thing in these circumstances, but I wouldn’t be so sure. There are no more road games, even as the lower seed throughout the Eastern playoffs (assuming favorites advance). Philadelphia falls into the fifth or sixth spot and receives the first postseason ever with no discernible road crowd or road presence to deal with.
There will still be an uphill climb for this team to take home the title, but that is true of everyone this season. One failed COVID test could submarine the best team’s chances. That’s why it may make sense to throw a fun wager at an even longer shot, thinking random chance could play a larger role this season than in any other.
Click here to bet on the 76ers to win the NBA Championship (+2000 at DraftKings)
For longshot bets, no team is better than Oklahoma City at 80/1. The Thunder were one of the best shooting teams in the league this season, shooting 47.3 percent from the floor as a unit. They also had a top-10 defense. And when the playoffs come and rotations shorten, OKC is in prime position. Of all five-man lineups in the league that played at least 25 games together, OKC has the very best lineup as well as the third-best lineup in the sport!
With the way the standings look right now, OKC gets the undermanned Jazz in round one to boot. The Jazz are good, but that’s probably the best round-one opponent anyone outside of the top seed could ask for. Add it all together, and the Thunder are the best longshot bet on the board.
Click here to bet on the OKC Thunder to win the NBA Championship (+8000 at DraftKings)
To mark the return of the NBA, DraftKings are also offering odds of +500 for a team of your choice to win between July 30 and August 1 with their ‘Choose Your Boost’ promotion. Get involved!