LeBron James and Lakers were the top seed in the Western Conference before the NBA season shut down in March. Photo from @CBSSportsNBA (Twitter).
- The Milwaukee Bucks had the best record in the NBA prior to the COVID-19 shutdown
- The Los Angeles Lakers are the top team in the Western Conference as the league restarts
- Find out our prediction for win totals and seed changes below
If you can remember back to when we actually had competitive hoops, LeBron James and the Lakers had just finished off one of the great weekend sets of the year, laying waste to the Bucks and Clippers in back-to-back wins.
By the time the NBA tips off again on July 30, it will have been roughly 150 days since pro players have been showcasing their wares for anything of significance.
Which is why the latest round of exact win odds for the league’s top two teams – the Bucks and Lakers – is so intriguing.
NBA Exact Win Total Odds
|Wins Total||Los Angeles Lakers Odds||Milwaukee Bucks Odds|
*Odds from June 30
We’ve literally sat through an offseason and are restarting with what amounts to tune-up games and the playoffs. For LA and Milwaukee, they’re pretty entrenched as top seeds, and with all games happening in the Orlando bubble the rest of the way, who cares?
As we work our way down to an eventual NBA champion, let’s see if we can’t pick out a few winning wagers for you along the way.
Does Strength of Schedule Matter?
Not really, but the Lakers have drawn one of the toughest remaining slates in the bubble. They open up the restart against the Clippers, and still have to deal with the Raptors, Nuggets and Rockets. They’ll also have three other squads who are currently in the playoff mix: OKC, Utah and Indiana. Their only relief is the Kings.
8. LeBron James
6. Giannis Antetokounmpo
1. @ColinCowherd lists the NBA players under the most pressure in Orlando: pic.twitter.com/otiPEm1fZX
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) June 24, 2020
Milwaukee, meanwhile, has a lighter slate, getting the decimated Nets and the Wizards, who would need to essentially run the table just to get into a play-in series. They also have the lower-ranked Grizzlies and Mavericks, with their only true tests being the Raptors and the Celtics.
Sprint vs Fine Tuning
With Milwaukee centering around their young superstar and reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, you could see the Bucks picking up right where they left off, sprinting to the finish by blowing teams out.
Highlight plays are light work for Giannis 😤 pic.twitter.com/qtpL4BPC2r
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) March 29, 2020
There may be some concerns around Giannis’ knee, which sidelined him right before the break, but concern should focus to hitting that jumper than health. His 30.6% clip from deep on 4.8 attempts per game doesn’t mean much when you’re cratering teams by double digits. It will when it’s the shot his team needs him to make most in the postseason.
Meanwhile, the Lakers know what they have in LeBron James, who we know will show up with a usual 27, 7 & 7 each night, and the ability to orchestrate and make the right play. LA’s top concern is probably keeping Anthony Davis healthy for the playoffs, and making sure their defense gets shaped back into its elite pre-COVID form.
Breakdown of Runs. The Lakers went on a 18-0 run against the Bucks in the third, to spark a 27 point turnaround. Took a look at what they did defensively to slow down the team with the best record & reigning MVP. pic.twitter.com/WX6wPuOByZ
— UnwrittenRules (@UnwrittenRul3s) June 24, 2020
That’s not going to be easy: losing Avery Bradley is a significant blow to their best defensive lineups, even worse when you consider JR Smith may be filling that roster spot in crunch time.
What’s the Best Bet?
LA’s priority has little to do with this 8-game run. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lakers sit James and Davis on the one back-to-back that they’re scheduled to play, as well as keeping their two stars to a considerably lower minutes restriction than in the regular season (James, 35, played the 15th-most minutes per game at just under 35 a night).
LeBron’s best highlights with the Lakers 🔥 @KingJames pic.twitter.com/BMy4oEFz8Z
— Courtside Films (@CourtsideFilms) June 20, 2020
Seeding doesn’t matter, and there is no home court or home fans to win for. LA could lose all eight games and still be the favorite to come out of the West.
And though the East top seed is locked up for the Bucks, any slippage this late into the playoffs is not the doubt they need as one of the more fragile top seeds chasing the title.
The picks: Lakers 4 (+500) & Bucks 7 (+250)
NBA Restart O/U Props
|Prop||Over Odds||Under Odds|
|Seed changes from current seeding||O 4.0 (-115)||U 4.0 (-115)|
|Most points scored by player – single game||O 55.5 (-115)||U 55.5 (-115)|
|Most points scored by a team – single game||O 139.5 (-115)||U 139.5 (-115)|
|Fewest points scored by a team – single game||O 84.5 (-115)||U 84.5 (-115)|
Enough Shuffling to Wager?
All signs indicate that change is coming – and that’s before including Zion Williamson’s attempt to chase down the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth seed.
New Orleans has the easiest schedule remaining, and they also have a crucial showdown with the Grizz Aug. 3. That will go a long way in determining the final spot in the West.
Zion Williamson vs. LeBron James in the 1st round… do you wanna see it?! 😳
The NBA certainly does! 💰 pic.twitter.com/eoDkrad5Sq
— NBA Buzz (@OfficialNBABuzz) June 24, 2020
But it’s the middle of each conference where you should make your hay. The Rockets and Thunder are in a virtual tie for fifth, both a game back of the Jazz, with the Mavericks just 1.5 games behind them. In the East, the Pacers and 76ers are in a tie for sixth, and both trail the Heat by just two games.
In a season that we’ve never seen before, it’s time to bet on the zaniness.
The pick: Over 4 (-115)
Final Quick Picks
- Most points by a single player: If anyone’s doing this, it’s Bradley Beal, who’s really just showcasing as the Wizards are participation fodder, hoping to show a team they should give up mass assets for him. (Under 55.5 points)
- Most points by a team, single game: You know one thing players miss most? Buckets. You know what they miss least? Defending. (Over 139.5 points)
- Fewest points by a team, single game: In the last week of the season (56 games) before lockdown, two teams failed to crack 84.5 points. One was Detroit. The other? Brooklyn. Over 88 games, someone is going to stink it up at least once. (Under 84.5 points)
Having worked in and around sports since 1997, Eric is truly a knowledgable expert. The two-time journalism grad specializes in all things NBA and NFL. From TSN.ca to CTV’s Olympic Broadcast Consortium, Eric’s work has appeared in local and national publications alike.