2020 NBA Playoffs: Format, Schedule, Futures Odds, and Wagering Advice

(USA TODAY Sports)

NBA gamblers, rejoice! Basketball is back. Well, almost. 22 NBA teams are quarantining in a Disney World bubble and preparing to tip-off on July 30. The remaining teams will play eight regular-season games to close out the 2020 basketball season before continuing with a slightly altered NBA playoff format. The changes give hopes to a few teams who were on the outside looking in before the Adam Silver and the NBA suspended the season.

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Basketball will officially resume more than two months after the league pulled NBA teams from the court March 17 due to positive COVID-19 tests among players. The novel virus subsequently led to the cancellation of March Madness and put the NHL, MLB, and PGA Tour all in limbo.

It has been a long hiatus for sports bettors, leaving little for us to bet on, but action does seem to be returning. NHL announced a similar approach to extend the Stanley Cup Playoffs, golf betting has resumed thanks to the PGA Tour’s return in June, and the Nationals and Yankees headline MLB Opening Day on Thursday, July 23.

Here are the key details to know about the NBA’s format and schedule:

Who: 16 current playoff teams, plus nine teams within six games of the eighth seeds of their conference
When: July 30 – Oct. 12
Where: Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
Format: Eight-game regular season extension, play-in tournament for the eight and nine seeds (tentative), playoffs

The NBA returns one week after MLB Opening Day, with night games between the Utah Jazz and New Orleans followed by the Clippers vs the Lakers. Read our NBA ‘Opening Night’ preview here and find out who we’re picking at online sports betting sites

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2020 NBA Futures Odds

All odds are courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook, accurate as of July 21, 2020.

  • Milwaukee Bucks +240
  • Los Angeles Lakers +260
  • Los Angeles Clippers +320
  • Houston Rockets +1700
  • Boston Celtics +1800
  • Toronto Raptors +2000
  • Philadelphia 76ers +2500
  • Denver Nuggets +2700
  • Philadelphia 76ers +2700
  • Miami Heat +3000
  • Utah Jazz +3300
  • Dallas Mavericks +3800
  • Indiana Pacers +10000
  • Oklahoma City Thunder +10000
  • Brooklyn Nets +16000
  • New Orleans Pelicans +16000
  • Memphis Grizzlies +21000
  • Portland Trail Blazers +21000
  • San Antonio Spurs +21000
  • Orlando Magic +25000
  • Phoenix Suns +25000
  • Sacramento Kings +25000
  • Washington Wizards +25000

NBA Playoffs Storylines

Current top-seeds Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers have solid 5.5 and 6.5-game cushions, respectively. With only eight regular-season games remaining, the Bucks and Lakers should maintain the position when they head into the playoffs.

However, with every game taking place in Orlando and without fans, home-court advantage will be obsolete. The biggest seeding battles to watch are toward the bottom of the current playoff standings.

Watch Out for Zion and the Pelicans?

The New Orleans Pelicans have crept into the playoff race, and suddenly, with the possibility of a play-in game between the eighth and ninth seeds, the Pelicans might have a chance to show off rookie phenom Zion Williamson on the biggest stage.

Williamson made his NBA debut on January 22, and since then the former Duke Blue Devil has exceeded the expectations that he carried into the league as the top pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

The Pelicans are 10-9 with Williamson on the court. His impact is accentuated when you consider New Orleans started the season with a 6-22 record. Williamson’s playing time was restricted early on, but the Pelicans are 8-3 against the spread after giving him the green light.

Williamson has also dominated his points props, averaging 23.6 per game while adding nearly 7 rebounds per contest.

With the extra rest, Zion’s presence and workload are likely to increase even more. For teams like the Lakers and Clippers, the playoffs don’t officially start until after the eight regular-season games in Orlando, but teams like the Pelicans who are currently on the outside looking in will be playoff mode from the start.

I for one am rooting for a Pelicans vs. Lakers, Zion vs. LeBron first-round matchup.

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NBA Futures Betting Advice

Historically, the NBA playoffs have not been kind to underdogs. Only three No. 8 seeds won in the first round as favorites consistently dominate in their best-of-seven series. This year, however, there’s some added uncertainty. So how should you attack U.S. sportsbooks when looking at NBA futures odds?

In a blog post, economist Tyler Cowen asks tackles a related question: which NBA teams will gain in relative prospects from the shutdown?

His answer is the teams with the most valuable stars. For example, the top stars like LeBron James typically have their own private gyms and work-out rooms in their homes. On the other hand, there’s the report that only two Miami Heat players had basketball hoops available to practice on during quarantine.

Additionally, Cowen points out that the most valuable stars in the NBA are more accustomed to unusual circumstances (think All-star games and Olympics), and less reliant on their home-court crowd for support than role players.

All things considered, Cowen might be right that the Lakers have gained the most in relative terms, making it difficult to bet against them. But also watch out for teams like the Rockets, at least in the first round or two of the playoffs.

In the past, Harden has seemed to gas out in the playoffs, but that shouldn’t be the case this time. Also, Houston’s scoring is dominated by James Harden and Russell Westbrook, who make up 52.5% percent of the Rockets’ 118 ppg. Westbrook was diagnosed with coronavirus two weeks ago, which delayed his arrival to Orland. However, the former MVP rejoined the Rockets on Monday. Houston should be ready to go by the time the regular season is officially over and the NBA playoffs begin.

Be sure to check back as we update this page with relevant NBA playoffs wagering information in upcoming weeks. For more general betting tips, check out our NBA guide.

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