Updated June 11, 2020 - 9:54 pm
If the return of major American sports proceeds as planned, we’ll be overflowing with wagering opportunities in August.
Following the lead of the NHL, the NBA has announced a plan to restart its season July 30, setting the stage for a loaded sports calendar of the NHL and NBA playoffs, NFL preseason games and, possibly, Major League Baseball.
“August is going to be a lot of fun,” Westgate sportsbook vice president of risk Jeff Sherman said.
Sherman, the Westgate’s resident NBA guru, and professional sports bettor Erin Rynning helped break down the betting implications of the NBA’s plan to wrap up its regular season and play its entire postseason at Disney World’s ESPN Wild World of Sports complex outside of Orlando, Florida.
Twenty-two teams — the 16 in playoff position and six others within six games of the eighth seed in each conference — will play eight games apiece to determine postseason seeding.
If the eighth seed has at least a 4½-game lead over the ninth seed after the seeding games, it will remain the eighth seed. If the ninth seed is within four games of eighth, there will be a play-in series that’s single elimination for the ninth seed and double elimination for the eighth seed.
Sherman has made odds on which teams will earn the eighth playoff seed in each conference.
No. 8 odds
In the East, the Nets are -110 favorites over the Magic (Even) and Wizards (25-1), who trail No. 8 Orlando by 5½ games. Brooklyn leads the Magic by a half-game in the race for the seventh seed and the chance to avoid the top-seeded Bucks in the first round.
“Those teams will fight it out and give maximum effort to avoid the eight-hole,” Sherman said.
In the wide-open West, the Grizzlies are -120 favorites to earn the eighth seed over the Pelicans (+275), Trail Blazers (4-1), Kings (12-1) and Spurs, who were bumped from 25-1 to 50-1 after LaMarcus Aldridge was ruled out for the rest of the season.
Memphis leads New Orleans, Portland and Sacramento by 3½ games each and San Antonio by 4.
“We expect one of those teams to be within four games of Memphis and get in that play-in round,” Sherman said. “We’re expecting a lot of wagering support on the Pelicans.”
The long layoff should help the Blazers, who expect to get back big men Jusuf Nurkic and Bishop Gorman product Zach Collins from injuries.
“Portland has the chance to finally get back to full strength,” Sherman said. “They were solid last year at full strength.”
Hurt Lakers, help Sixers
Rynning said the restart plan might hurt the top-seeded Lakers, who moved from 2-1 NBA title favorites at the Westgate to +250 co-favorites with Milwaukee. The Clippers are the 3-1 third choice.
“Unfair might be a strong word, but the Lakers will probably draw (a No. 8 seed) a little bit unfavorably compared to if they brought 16 teams back,” Rynning said. “They might get a healthier Portland team or New Orleans.”
Rynning (@ersports1) said the 76ers, tied for the sixth seed in the East, should benefit from the layoff, as it enabled stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons to get healthy.
“It probably helps them out more than any other team,” he said. “The fact that they can improve their seeding with a healthier team. They were so banged up when everything happened. And they had no home-court advantage.”
Rynning said he would consider playing the Sixers (20-1), Celtics (16-1) and even the Rockets (20-1) or Mavericks (40-1) to win the title in this unprecedented format.
“I’d feel a little bit better about beating an Eastern Conference team because you only have to beat one juggernaut in Milwaukee than two in the West in the Lakers and Clippers,” he said. “No home-court advantage certainly helps a little bit for lesser seeds. It could be a little more wide open.”
Sherman said home-court advantage is typically worth three or four points to an NBA spread. But he expects line adjustments to be less than that in neutral-site games without fans at Disney World.
“It’s team specific, but if you had the Bucks laying 9½ at home against the Celtics, it would be something like 7½ (at Disney),” he said.
Sherman also expects to make only minor adjustments to series prices.
If the Lakers and Clippers met at Disney, he projects the series price to range from pick’em to the Clippers as -120 favorites. If the Lakers had home-court advantage at a packed Staples Center, Sherman said the Lakers would be -120 favorites.
“It wouldn’t be much of a difference,” he said.
Win 2020 title
Up to 100-1
L.A. Lakers; +250
L.A. Clippers; 3-1
Oklahoma City; 60-1
New Orleans; 60-1
To be eighth seed in West
New Orleans; +275
San Antonio; 50-1
To be eighth seed in East