Many thought it couldn’t happen, but here we are. The 2019-20 NBA season is back, and while it’s only brief, we still have plenty of questions that need answering. Let’s start with five.
The NBA is back, baby!
After almost five months, the best players in the world will step on the court and start building towards crowning a champion of this strange 2019-20 season. While the suspended portion of the season has already added one wrinkle, the remainder looks a little different, too.
How Does It All Work?
For starters, only 22 teams have entered the NBA bubble in Orlando. Those teams out of playoff contention will be watching the rest of this regular season from home. The regular season has been reduced with just eight games left for teams to jostle for seeds or fight their way into the playoff picture. If the Wizards ($29) in the East or Trail Blazers ($5), Pelicans ($3.70), Kings ($11.80), Spurs ($19) and Suns ($50) in the West can get to within four games of the 8th seed, a play-in tournament will decide which team features in the post-season.
The remainder of the post-season runs as normal.
Who claims the 8th seed in the West?
Sure, the cynics will ask “who cares?”
That’s fair. The team that does end up sneaking into the 8th seed will likely end up against the Lakers in what most would tip to be a brief series. At this stage, the Grizzlies are $1.55 favourites to retain their 8th seed with their 32-33 record 3.5 games ahead of the Trail Blazers and Pelicans.
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are more than capable of getting hot and doing enough for the Trail Blazers to sneak in. However, while Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic make for handy additions to the pre-bubble rotation, working those two with Hassan Whiteside won’t happen overnight. They’re the outsiders at $5.
The Pelicans, on the other hand, started to string together some playoff-worthy performances before the NBA season paused. With Zion Williamson better for the break and Brandon Ingram in career-best form, the Pelicans look ready to pounce on arguably the easiest remaining schedule. Their $3.70 to make the playoffs is very much worth considering.
Pelicans will face the Clippers without Lou Williams (the Clippers are the best team on the Pelicans schedule) https://t.co/6WQJIWg62A
— Fastbreak Breakfast (@fastbreakbreak) July 26, 2020
Tip: Pelicans to make the playoffs
Which team goes furthest: Lakers or Clippers?
Realistically, the West comes down to the Lakers or Clippers.
The Rockets can’t be ruled out at $8.50 to win the West, but they’ve run out of time to trial their small-ball experiment. It either works now or it doesn’t. Meanwhile, the Nuggets ($11), Jazz ($14) and Mavericks ($17) lack the quality of the two favourites.
The Lakers should have the easier run to the finals. They can clinch the 1st seed with a win over the Clippers in the opener allowing LeBron James and the rest of the team to take it easy. As the one seed, we can expect a brief series to start and perhaps another in the second round. The Lakers are favourites to get out of the West at $2.60.
In similar fashion to the Rockets, the Clippers are running out of time to work things out. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard have played just 32 games together. Lou Williams isn’t available early on either. Will they all be able to combine well enough to beat the Lakers in a seven-game series. At $2.70, the odds suggest they aren’t far off.
Tip: Lakers to win Western Conference Finals
Can anybody catch Antetokounmpo for MVP?
Giannis Antetokounmpo is at $1.01 to win a second-consecutive NBA Most Valuable Player award.
His numbers say it all, really.
The most outrageous? The Greek Freak does all of that in 30.9 minutes per game.
LeBron James ($11) is incredible at 35-years-old and may receive some narrative-inspired votes. James Harden and Luke Doncic (both $81) have their fans too. But nobody is running down Antetokounmpo from here.
Which smokey is the most likely to surprise?
Plenty have been demanding Ben Simmons plays more power forward for the 76ers over the years.
Everybody has been demanding he shoots the three-ball.
It looks like he’s going to do both in this NBA bubble. The 76ers look set on playing him at power forward throughout this home stretch and he hasn’t been shy to hoist one up from beyond the arc. Shake Milton has forced Brett Brown’s hand to start at point guard while Al Horford comes off the bench. With no shortage of talent on the roster, it’s always been about putting the pieces of the puzzle together in a way that fits.
Ben Simmons suddenly becoming a volume shooter and shooting Philly out of a first round series is, by far, the funniest possible outcome of all of this
— Robby Kalland (@RKalland) July 24, 2020
It’s relatively untested, but this 76ers outfit has the potential to grow into championship contenders overnight. At $8 to cause an upset and win the Eastern Conference Finals, it’s worth looking at the 76ers as a smokey option.