2020 NBA Championship Odds and Expert Predictions
The NBA season is set to resume at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando on July 30. Of course, there will be no fans in attendance and the remaining seven or eight games will be used for playoff seeding purposes. Once those games are complete, the playoff picture will be set, and the remaining 16 teams will fight it out in a four-round tournament for the NBA Championship. Each team will have three inter-squad scrimmages from July 22-28. It’s a rather straight forward format with one exception – the play-in tournament.
If the team with the eighth-best record in its conference is more than four games ahead of the team with the ninth-best record in the same conference, no play-in tournament will be necessary. The final playoff berth will simply go to the team with the eighth-best record (regular-season games + seeding games).
But if the team with the eighth-best record in its conference is four games or fewer ahead of the team with the ninth-best record in the same conference, then we'll have a battle for the final spot between those two teams. The tournament will basically be a best-of-two series -- where the No. 9 seed will have to win two head-to-head matchups to take over the No. 8 spot. If they fail, the eight-seeded stays the same.
NBA Championship Odds
Los Angeles Lakers +225, Milwaukee Bucks +240, Los Angeles Clippers +325
Before the NBA halted play in March, the Los Angeles Lakers were perched atop the Western Conference with a record of 49-14. They were five games up on their rivals, the Clippers, and they had won eight of their last 10 games. The big question regarding the Lakers is will the stoppage and eventual resumption of the NBA season have an effect on chemistry and what they had going on as a team. With LeBron James and Anthony Davis leading the way, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that the Lakers are still the team to beat in the West and probably the entire NBA. Which I guess is why they are still tabbed as the betting favorites for the 2020 NBA Championship. The Lakers will have a fully healthy squad at their disposal, and a rested LeBron James is a scary thought. They are my favorites to win the title and deservedly so.
The Milwaukee Bucks are next in line in terms of favoritism this season, and we believe they are deserving of the lowest odds in the East. Are they as good as the Lakers or Clippers? I don’t believe so, and the Raptors, who I will touch on below – are just as good if not still better than the Bucks. Milwaukee was riding a three-game losing streak prior to the stoppage and had sputtered to just a 6-4 record over their last 10 games. A rested Giannis Antetokounmpo is a scary thought, but the big question is how his supporting cast will respond when the NBA season tips off at the end of July. The Bucks will likely have to go through the defending champs at some point in the postseason, and I don’t believe they can overcome that obstacle.
As for the other LA team, the Clippers, they are a scary team and I would not want to play them until the Western Conference Finals if I was any team in the West. They feature a solid starting five including Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. They can score on you in many different ways, and they can play lockdown defense when the game is on the line. They are currently second in the West by just a game over the Nuggets, so they know there’s work to be done in order to ensure themselves a better path to the Finals. They are rightfully among the favorites, and I’m really hoping the Lakers-Clippers Western Conference Finals happens.
Houston Rockets +1400, Toronto Raptors +1600, Boston Celtics +1800, Philadelphia 76ers +2000, Utah Jazz +2200, Denver Nuggets +2500,
How can we put up a contender’s section without talking about the defending champion Raptors? The Raptors were left for dead – predicted many – when Leonard left for LA. Instead of sulking and living off of last year’s glory, the Raptors went back to work and are second overall in the East and are a legitimate threat to defend their title. They can beat anyone in the East, including the aforementioned Bucks. And with a healthy and rested lineup, I expect them to bring their game to another level – one we haven’t seen yet this season. Obviously, no home-court advantage hurts the Raptors – as it does every other team – but the Raptors have the second-best road winning percentage in the entire NBA. You’re getting 16-1 on arguably the most complete team in the East. Grabbing them at this price now can set you up for a nice hedge opportunity in the ECF or Finals.
Miami Heat +2800, Dallas Mavericks +3300, Oklahoma City Thunder +7000
The Miami Heat have all but clinched a spot in the playoffs and will be essentially playing for seeding and to get into a rhythm once the playoffs start. At this price, I wouldn’t back them because I believe they are not the fourth-best team in the East (according to standings) and will be an easy out for any team they play in the playoffs.
The Mavericks and Thunder are in the same boat as the Heat. They are playing for playoff position over the next seven games and will be easy outs for any of the top teams in the West. The Mavericks will put up more of a fight than the Thunder (odds are spot on) but I still would not bank on the Mavericks pulling off a first-round upset of the Lakers, Clippers, or Nuggets (whichever team they draw).
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