Sam Coltrane takes a look at the three tiers of contenders for this season’s NBA Championship based on their odds and selects the best value team from each tier.
The opening scrimmages have begun and, despite a Lou Williams pit stop at an Atlanta nightclub, the bubble has proceeded with few hiccups.
The tune-in games were never meant to be much more than a runway for the eight remaining regular season games, but momentum will be key as championship hopefuls jostle for positioning.
As it currently stands, vegasinsider.com really has narrowed it down to three tiers of contenders based on their odds. Tier 1 is the three teams that people have identified as ahead of the field since back in November. The Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Los Angeles Clippers are all entrenched near one another at +240, +250, and +333, respectively.
The next tier is made up of eight teams ranging in value from +1200 through +4000. The Houston Rockets have the best odds while they are bookended by the Dallas Mavericks with four teams from each conference making up the tier.
The remaining teams are all +10000 or worse. The third tier is made up injured teams, young/unproven teams, and teams that probably didn’t need to be in the bubble to begin with.
With the MLB season in question due to Covid outbreaks, it is fair to question health throughout the playoffs. That said, most players have never had this much rest in their life and the bubble seems to be holding up.
Tier 1 NBA Pick
Among the tier 1 teams, the Milwaukee Bucks serve as the best value play. Milwaukee likely has the future MVP and DPOY in Giannis Antetokounmpo, who would become only the third player to ever win both in the same season. They also have a +11.2 point differential and even more importantly will certainly not have to play more than one of the Los Angeles teams.
Tier 2 NBA Pick
A lot of discussions have focused on the value plays in tier 2. The Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors have endless range and budding all-stars desperate to show they can be the leading man for a championship contender.
The Western Conference also has some intrigue beyond the Los Angeles squads. Houston has two former MVP’s and the Denver Nuggets continue to play themselves to the top of the loaded West.
A few other teams, the Indiana Pacers and Utah Jazz, are limping into the bubble as they will be missing key contributors.
All that said, the best value play in tier 2 is the Philadelphia 76ers at +2800. Philadelphia entered the season with the fourth best odds to win the championship and now find themselves as the eighth betting favorites. No team benefitted more from the layoff. Shake Milton has been announced as a starting guard, relegating Al Horford to lead the second unit, and Ben Simmons to be deployed more off the ball.
Philadelphia will still be clunky. They will likely end the regular season as the 5-seed and will have to take down a Miami Heat team that won three of four during the regular season. Then face the team I just stated to be the best value from tier 1, and that’s before playing likely one of the two from Boston or Toronto.
Despite all of this, Philadelphia is more talented than Miami, they designed their team for the Milwaukee Bucks, and if the train hasn’t stopped there than they will likely be the favorites in the Eastern Conference Finals. As for a final’s matchup with a Los Angeles team, Philadelphia will have the defensive prowess to matchup with the Lakers superstars and can bother the Clippers with their size.
Tier 3 NBA Pick
Tier 3 teams don’t win the NBA championship. An astute student of the game has to go back to the last millennium to find an example of a 6 or 8 seed really making a run, but 2020 is also the perfect incubator for something fantastic to happen.
Three teams stand-out in terms of talent from tier 3. The Oklahoma City Thunder, New Orleans Pelicans, and Portland Trailblazers are all listed as +10000 or worse. Portland has a lot of talent being infused in the bubble as both Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins will be making their returns. Oklahoma City currently sits fifth in the West and has been a Cinderella all year. They simply aren’t talented enough to actually win.
That leaves one team. I don’t suspect they will even make the playoffs, but the New Orleans Pelicans are the one team in tier 3 with the talent to make a run. They have an all-star in Brandon Ingram, a 2k cover athlete in Zion Williamson, athleticism, youth, and length in Josh Hart, Lonzo Ball, Jaxson Hayes, and Nickeil-Alexander Walker, while complementing their roster with veterans such as Jrue Holiday, J.J. Redick, and Derrick Favors.
Tier 3 teams don’t win the championship but hunting out a value play in 2020 while getting to enjoy Zion isn’t a bad value to get behind.
Time will tell on who the 2020 NBA champion turns out to be, but betting forward is always smart to bet on the path easier traveled and the team with the most talent. The Milwaukee Bucks have been the best team all season and won’t play a Los Angeles team in the playoffs till the final. They are the best value play to hoist the Larry O-Brien.
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!