It is official. The NBA will finish the 2019-20 season though it might be October before it is all said and done. The league will bring 22 of its 30 teams to Orlando to participate in eight regular-season games each, a possible play-in tournament, and eventually the NBA playoffs.
A total of nine teams from the Eastern Conference and 13 from the Western Conference will battle it out to crown this year’s NBA champion. According to the latest odds, it’s a three-team race to win the NBA title among the Bucks, Clippers, and Lakers.
In the end, it could very well be one of the three that wins it all. Along the way, there always seems to be a surprise. Last year, who would have thought that Toronto would put an end to Milwaukee’s season and then win the franchise’s first-ever NBA championship? Where will the surprises be this year?
NBA Playoffs: Surprise No. 1
The first big surprise of the NBA season is really no surprise at all. After the teams finish the eight-game regular season, there is the potential for a play-in tournament for the No. 8 seed in each conference. Orlando, the current eighth seed in the East, has a 63 percent chance of advancing to the postseason.
In the West, current No. 8 seed Memphis has a 50 percent chance of moving on to the playoffs. Everybody’s darling New Orleans and Zion Williamson have a 27 percent chance of advancing while Portland, which should have Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Williams back, is given a 23 percent chance at the postseason.
In all likelihood, the Magic and the Grizzlies, the current No. 8 seeds, will move on to the postseason. Neither team is a title contender as their +17500 odds to win it all reveal. While it may be a surprise that both teams hold on to their current playoff spots, it will come as no surprise when both teams are beaten by the top sees in their respective conference.
Milwaukee’s chances to advance to Round 2 of the playoffs are nearly 98 percent. The Lakers, tops in the West, have a 92 percent chance of moving on to the conference semifinals.
NBA Playoffs: Bucks’ Title to Lose
When the 2019-20 NBA season was suspended, Milwaukee had the league’s best record at 53-12. They had lost three straight before the break and reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo had missed a few games due to injury. Still, the Bucks were considered the NBA’s best.
The Bucks’ record supports than theory and, as it stands, Milwaukee has posted the point differential of a 65-win season or better. In NBA history, only 11 teams have done the same.
These are teams like the 1972 Lakers and the ’96 and ’97 Chicago Bulls. Eight of those 11 teams won the NBA title. One, the 2016 Warriors, lost in the NBA Finals after having a 3-1 lead in the series. The 2016 Spurs lost to the Warriors and the ’72 Bucks, of course, lost to the Lakers that year.
Milwaukee is given +275 odds to win this year’s title. They have the league’s best record, arguably the league’s best player, and the Bucks rank among the best defenses in the league. If there was to be an upset, it would be similar to what happened last year.
Toronto (+1400) came up with a plan to make Antetokounmpo beat the Raptors from the outside. The Raptors packed the defense into the paint and forced the Bucks’ star to shoot from the perimeter. The results, of course, are why a bet on Toronto to repeat is worth considering.
NBA Playoffs: L.A. in the Finals
The two best teams in the West are the Clippers and Lakers. The Lakers are the overall +200 favorite to win the NBA championship this season. LeBron James is having an MVP-caliber season averaging 25.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, and a league-best 10.6 assists per game. His teammate Anthony Davis leads the team with 26.7 points and 9.7 rebounds a game.
The Clippers are given +300 odds to win it all. They have an exciting one-two- punch in Kawhi Leonard (26.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 5.0 apg), and Paul George (21.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg), and a roster and a head coach with plenty of playoff experience. It would appear that either the Lakers or the Clippers are going to the NBA Finals.
What gets lost in the shuffle is how well the Clippers perform when both Leonard and George are in the lineup together. George has only played 42 games this season due to injury. Leonard and George have played 32 games together this season.
Considering just the 32 games the two stars have played together, the Clippers’ chances of making the NBA Finals jump from 19 to 32 percent. That makes the Clippers the most attractive bet of the top three teams in the NBA title race.
NBA Playoffs: Surprise?
There are six teams in the NBA right now with a net rating of 3.5 or better. Five of the six are among the top three seeds in their respective conferences. The other? It’s Dallas, currently the No. 7 seed in the West.
The Mavericks offensive rating of 116.7 is the best-ever in NBA history. Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis make Dallas (+4000) a longshot worth considering. The problem for the Mavs will be their first-round draw.
That is unless Dallas can utilize the eight-game regular season to overtake Houston as the sixth seed in the West. The Mavericks are just 1.5 games behind both Houston (40-25) and No. 5 Oklahoma City (40-25).