The NBA plans to resume the 2019-20 season with 22 teams, beginning July 31, and with the NBA Finals reportedly scheduled to begin Sept. 30. The league hasn’t played since March 11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now they will restart in a very unique situation: neutral-site games at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, without fans in attendance.
That provides multiple potentially game-changing elements:
- Teams will have had more than four months off between games, and that’s also big news for key players that can now heal from injuries (however, the Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving reportedly won’t play).
- Home-court advantage is no longer a thing. Many teams have very lopsided home-road splits, and it will be interesting to see how they perform at a neutral site. And maybe the teams that have been good regardless of location are best-equipped for this change.
Well, new NBA championship odds have been released following the reports of the league’s plans to restart. According to Bovada, the Los Angeles Lakers (+200), Milwaukee Bucks (+300), and Los Angeles Clippers (+325) are the clear title favorites. Then there’s a big drop, with the Boston Celtics having the fourth-best odds, at +1200.
Here are Bovada’s 2020 NBA championship odds:
Los Angeles Lakers +200
Milwaukee Bucks +300
Los Angeles Clippers +325
Boston Celtics +1200
Houston Rockets +1500
Toronto Raptors +2000
Denver Nuggets +2200
Philadelphia 76ers +2200
Utah Jazz +2200
Miami Heat +2800
Dallas Mavericks +3500
Brooklyn Nets +4000
Indiana Pacers +5000
New Orleans Pelicans +8000
Oklahoma City Thunder +8000
Portland Trail Blazers +12500
Memphis Grizzlies +20000
Orlando Magic +25000
Sacramento Kings +25000
San Antonio Spurs +25000
Washington Wizards +25000
Phoenix Suns +50000
Using those odds, let’s take a look at three appealing bets that you can make.
Los Angeles Clippers (+325)
Many basketball evaluators will argue that the best NBA team from Los Angeles isn’t even the team at the top of the championship odds. Yes, the Lakers (49-14) have been five games better than the Clippers (44-20) this season, and have LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
However, the Clippers have the 2019 NBA Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard, to go with six-time All-Star Paul George and three-time Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams. The Clippers also have a championship-winning coach, Doc Rivers. George — who averaged 28.0 points per game last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder — didn’t even play in the first 11 games of the season due to injury, and the Clippers’ health and chemistry didn’t really kick into gear until shortly before COVID-19 paused the season.
This team has star power, depth (the highest-scoring bench in the league this season), and playoff-tested players (led by maybe the postseason player in the world right now, as he showed last year) and coaching. We probably haven’t seen the best of this Clippers team in the 2019-20 season, and don’t be surprised if we see them at their peak when it really matters in the postseason.
Toronto Raptors (+2000)
They no longer have Kawhi, and that’s obviously a big deal. But this team has found ways to adapt and play terrific all-around basketball. They even set the record for the longest winning streak in Canadian pro sports history, with 15 consecutive victories this season. Heck, they even have a higher winning percentage now (.719) than they did last year (.707).
First-time All-Star selection Pascal Siakam leads the Raptors in scoring this season (23.6 points), but five players are averaging at least 16 points per game. It’s been a remarkable *team* effort.
There are several things working in their favor entering the season resumption. Some examples:
- They’re the defending champions (even if that team’s best player is gone).
- They play defense, allowing the fewest points per game this season (106.5). Defense and physical basketball becomes even more crucial in the postseason.
- They have been the exact same team at home and on the road (23-9 at both). This is big to keep in mind when thinking about the neutral site.
- Depth. They have many ways to score and aren’t dependent on one or two players. If Siakam or Kyle Lowry slumps, several other players are very capable of picking up the slack.
Philadelphia 76ers (+2200)
Charles Barkley would likely fall over laughing at this suggestion, but if you’re looking for a deep sleeper, the Sixers are an intriguing value.
There’s no doubting Philadelphia’s *talent*, led by Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris. Additionally, Simmons — who missed the Sixers’ last eight games with a back injury — has apparently “been outstanding” in rehabbing, and should be back to 100% when the games resume.
And the Sixers have actually looked fantastic at home, with an NBA-best home record of 29-2. But on the road, it’s been ugly, with an awful 10-24 record.
These lopsided home-road splits make the Sixers the most interesting team to watch at the neutral site. What if the Sixers just play much better without travel and without difficult road environments?