NBA Odds: How sports books are ranking Lakers, Clippers, Bucks for the NBA season re-opening

We aren’t 100% guaranteed to see the 2020 NBA season restart on the agreed date of July 31st. Indeed, most reports from the NBA and reputable news sources on the restart plans are quite tentative in how they treat the subject. Moreover, talks are still on-going to iron out a variety of details that seem to be changing daily with the with not just COVID-19 cases in Florida but with the civil unrest impacting the entire country.

If the NBA restarts, who is the favorite?

On the assumption that the season will resume and reach its conclusion in mid-October, it’s interesting to see how sportsbooks view the outcome. Their take is a little different than we usually see with the traditional preseason futures markets because we have already seen teams play around 80% of the regular season. Moreover, as we will discuss below, some of the changes to the NBA Playoffs might hurt some teams’ chances when compared to a regular season.

First, a quick primer on the restart agreement (as it stands): NBA will return at the end of July with teams playing eight games (called seeding games) each to determine seeds for the playoffs. All teams will be based at the Disney Campus in Florida, and all games, including the Playoffs, will be played at Disney World, Florida. The NBA Finals would conclude in October, with the start of the 2010-21 season being pushed back to December.

22 NBA teams will head to Florida

Not all NBA teams will resume the season, as it only extends to those that had a mathematical chance of making the playoffs. That means 22 teams will resume the season – 13 from the Western Conference and nine from the Eastern Conference.

Playoff positions and seedings are determined by results from the eight seeding games + the regular season already played. It means that those who have already clinched a playoff spot will be guaranteed one. But it also means that it’s almost pointless for teams like the Phoenix Suns (26-39) to travel as they would need a miracle to qualify.

While the above could change, sportsbooks are working on the assumption that it does not. As such, most operators have released outright betting odds for the NBA Finals. We used the Freebets.com basketball portal to analyse the odds from several global betting companies, all of which are in agreement that the LA Lakers (best price, 5/2 with Betfair) and Milwaukee Bucks (14/5 with Sportingbet) are the favorites for the NBA Championship.

Those pair being the favorites won’t surprise anyone, but it is intriguing to see the placement of the Lakers (49-14) above the Bucks (53-12), as the latter is the team with the best record in the NBA. One reason why the odds may have softened slightly on the Bucks is that they are – by a considerable distance – the team with the best home record in NBA (28-3).

As we mentioned above, that advantage will disappear if all games are played in the Florida bubble. There are rumors that the NBA is flirting with different ideas to restore ‘home advantage’, including giving the top seeds first dibs on hotels. But it’s debatable whether anything could replicate the advantage the Bucks would have got had they played in FinServ Forum.

Instead, the NBA has to work with what’s available. The top eight seeds will be staying at the Gran Destino resort. Teams with teams getting better accommodations depending on their record. The six teams that fall outside the playoffs will stay at the Disney Yacht Club. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, teams also will share access to practice and gym facilities as well as a “players only” lounge outfitted with video games, and other indoor gaming options. Some of the outdoor spaces will allow players to hang out and play card games.

Clippers look set to challenge Lakers

Next up comes the LA Clippers. Most betting sites have the Clippers (best price, 10/3 with Paddy Power) right on the shoulders of the Lakers and Bucks. On the balance of probabilities, this seems much too short. After all, they must still go through the Lakers if they wish to reach the NBA Finals.

Indeed, if we look at the next tier of teams – the Rockets with a trimmed down James Harden (16/1), the Celtics (20/1) and the Raptors (25/1, all odds from Sky Bet) – we can see that there is a huge chasm between them and the front-running trio. The Raptors, in particular, will raise some eyebrows. The defending champions have the third-best record in NBA (46-18), so why are they so far behind teams like the Clippers (44-20)?

One school of thought centers around the injury issues. The Raptors have had problems keeping their roster healthy all season, but rumors are circulating over the fitness of Marc Gasol and Fred VanVleet. Sportsbooks have, therefore, moved the market on the Raptors to reflect that.

With the 76ers, Nuggets, Heat and Magic, we are starting to move into dark horse territory. Bookmakers have some backing for Philadelphia (39-26), with the price of 19/1 from William Hill sure to raise eyebrows among fans of the Raptors. The rest of the teams heading to Florida can be found at big betting odds. This ranges from the Indiana Pacers at 150/1 (Sky Bet) right up to the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards (1000/1 with Betway). You could perhaps make an argument for the Pacers, who have ensured their spot in the playoffs. For the others, it might be better to start preparing for the new season in December.

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