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Betting on a World Cup-Style NBA Postseason

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Yes, that’s right. The NBA might take a page from the World Cup to finish its 2019-20 season. In a recent poll of league general managers, the idea of putting teams into groups for pool play before advancing to an eight-team playoff received a favorable response.

It is the best news NBA betting fans have received since the league suspended play on March 11 due to the coronavirus crisis. Now, it appears the NBA season could resume sometime in July. Nothing is final yet, but the World Cup idea would be an exciting one for bettors. Here’s how it could play out.

Establishing Groups

The first step in this scenario would be to establish groups. One of the concerns about returning to play is the number of people involved. While the league would love to bring back all 30 teams, 16 or 20 is more likely.

The top eight teams in each conference make the postseason. In the East, Washington is ninth and is 5.5 games behind Orlando. In the West, there are four teams within 3.5 games of eighth-place Memphis.

The most ideal scenario would be to bring back the top eight in each conference plus the next four best records – which happen to be all in the West.

There would be four groups then each with five teams. The top four teams – Bucks, Raptors, Lakers, and Clippers – would be the top team in each group. To make it even more exciting, those four teams could “draft” the teams in their respective group.

If a “draft” doesn’t happen, teams can be added into groups to make them as even as possible. This can be done rather easily by laying out the 20 teams according to their regular-season record. The top four teams again are the Bucks, Lakers, Raptors, and Clippers. The next four are Boston, Denver, Utah, and Miami.

By separating teams into five tiers based on their record, some pretty even groups can be established. The groups would be:

Group A: Milwaukee, Utah, Philadelphia, Memphis, Portland

Group B: LA Lakers, Miami, Houston, Orlando, New Orleans

Group C: Toronto, Boston, Oklahoma City, Dallas, San Antonio

Group D: LA Clippers, Denver, Indiana, Brooklyn, Sacramento

Pool Play

Teams would play each team in their group twice. The league is working out a deal to play all of its games at the ESPN Wide of World Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Teams would play eight games each. The league would have to come up with a tiebreaking scenario with the highest regular-season winning percentage being a strong first option. The top two teams in each group would advance to the playoffs.

The eight remaining teams would then be seeded No. 1 through No. 8 and a more conventional postseason would begin with teams playing best-of-seven series until a champion is crowned.

Group Play

With each group established, where would bettors look to find value? In Group A, that’s easy. Milwaukee is a +195 betting favorite to win the NBA title and Utah checks in at +2500. The Jazz (41-23) are big, physical and one of the best defensive teams in the league.

But, Philadelphia will have a healthy Ben Simmons, a healthy Joel Embiid, and a starting lineup – Tobias Harris (19.4 ppg), Josh Richardson (13.8 ppg), and Al Horford (12.0 ppg) are the others – that may be the best in the NBA. The Sixers at +2800 have what it takes to make it out of pool play and, if healthy, compete for the NBA title.

The interesting part of Group B would be seeing which one of Houston (+1750) or Miami (+3500) would advance. The Heat and their zone defense taking on the pick-and-roll of the Rockets would be some great entertainment. Wagering on either is a stretch through. The Lakers are the odds-on betting favorite at +195 to win it all.

The one wager that many were flocking to was on the Brooklyn Nets. There was some speculation that Kevin Durant might come back and play leading bettors to take the Nets at +6500. Now, it appears that Durant will hold off and return in 2020-21. That leaves Group D with the favored Clippers (+250) and Denver (+2000).

Group C is extremely interesting with Toronto (+2000) and Boston (+950) at the top of the betting odds. You can’t forget about Luka Doncic and Dallas though. Doncic is averaging 28.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 8.7 assists for the Mavericks who went 40-27 in regular-season play.

They have Kristaps Porzingis (19.2 ppg, 9.5 rpg) but are still probably a player or two away from being a real contender. Still, with just eight games in pool play, a hot streak makes the Mavericks an inviting proposition at +4500 betting odds.

The Playoffs

The top two teams in each group would advance to the postseason. The Lakers, Clippers, and Bucks are the favorites to come out on top in the end. The safe play is on any one of the three. Bettors with an eye on a bigger prize can entertain one of two scenarios.

Remember, the 76ers, when healthy, have what is probably the best starting five in the league. They do have to figure out how to win away from home. The Sixers have the league’s best home record (29-2), but are just 10-24 on the road. If they can get out of pool play, anything can happen and at +2800 the payout is worth it.

The other bet is on the defending NBA champion. That’s right. Toronto has the second-best record in the East after losing star Kawhi Leonard to the Clippers. Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, and Fred VanVleet combine for over 60 points a game and the Raptors bench is the best in the league. A wager at +2000 betting odds on Toronto is worth the risk.

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