With the NBA set to finally tip-off this Thursday, it's important for bettors to know the key storylines and expectations for each team playing for something in the bubble. Teams that may have been interested in home court advantage before the pandemic may instead choose to rest players and prepare for the playoffs inside the bubble.
The biggest challenge in making bets during the seeding rounds, is answering the question of will these teams be the same teams that we saw back in March?
Also will the teams already locked into their playoff seeds play hard through the sending round or wait for the real playoffs to start?
Here's the latest information fantasy players and bettors should know.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelican are the darlings of the NBA television partners, so I know they were worried last week when Zion Williamson left the bubble for a family emergency. Thankfully, Zion is back in the bubble and is getting ready for opening night.
Public and sharp bettors are both backing the Pelicans to win the 8-seed in the West, FanDuel Sportsbook has those odds right now at +310, I'm sticking with the Memphis Grizzlies (-145) to remain the eighth seed in the west.
Portland Trail Blazers
The core of this veteran bunch will be in Orlando fighting for the eighth spot in the West. Currently they are +420 on FanDuel Sportsbook. If you like the Trail Blazers, it is a solid value bet.
Trevor Ariza will not be with his teammates in Orlando due to family issues, but they will still be very competitive during the seeding rounds.
Alex Len, Jabari Parker, Harrison Barnes, and Buddy Hield all tested positive earlier for COVID-19, but all are now doing well and will be playing in Orlando.
I am very bullish on the Kings coming into the seeding rounds, even with Marvin Bagley out for the season. The Kings were 7-3 after the All-Star break and before the season came to a pause, their three losses came to Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, and Toronto. The Kings are +1200 to win the 8-seed in the West and I'll be putting a few dollars on them.
Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans will both be out for Washington. Beal is dealing with a shoulder injury, while Bertans isn't suiting up for financial purposes.
I have been betting the Wizards to be the eighth seed in the East for a few weeks now, even after the news broke that Bradley Beal would not be playing. FanDuel Sportsbook moved the Wizards to be the 8-seed up to +2700. It may sound crazy, but I'm going to hit it again. Rui Hachimura, Jerrome Robinson, Shabazz Napier, and Troy Brown Jr will have to pick up the scoring load for Washington.
I'm not sure if a whole team could actually forfeit, but one would think the Nets are getting close to that point.
Brooklyn will be without Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, Wilson Chandler, and Taurean Prince in Orlando.
We all knew Durant and Irving would be out, but the other four have tested positive for COVID-19. Brooklyn will still have Joe Harris, Caris Levert, and Jarrett Allen on the floor, plus Jamal Crawford was added for the playoff run as well. Brooklyn is currently -260 to be the 8-seed in the east. Do not lay $260 to win $100 on the Nets junior varsity team.
The Celtics do not have any coronavirus related issues, but Gordon Hayward's wife is expecting their fourth child in the month of September. As of now, Hayward is expected to leave the team to go be with his wife when that time comes.
The season will be deep into the playoffs by then, and Boston is currently +650 to win the Eastern Conference. It's not a bet I would make, because the Toronto Raptors are also +600 to win the East and I much prefer that bet.
The Pacers will not have to battle for a playoff spot since they will already be locked in. They can improve their playoff position in the seeding round but with no home-court advantage to play for, I expect the Pacers to not ramp up their play until the actual playoffs start.
Victor Oladipo looked like he was going to sit out the season restart, but now looks ready to go. Additionally, Domantas Sabonis left the bubble to get his foot worked on. Truth be told, Indiana didn't play as well with Oladipo in the lineup than they did before he came back from injury. Malcolm Brogdon tested positive for COVID-19 a few weeks back, but he is feeling well and is ready for Orlando.
Los Angeles Lakers
FanDuel Sportsbook has the Lakers at +165 to win the Western Conference and +260 to win the NBA Championship, making them the clear favorites in the West.
Lakers guard Avery Bradley will not be joining his teammates in Orlando after deciding to opt-out. Bradley is a good perimeter defender and the Lakers could see either Grizzlies star point guard Ja Morant or Blazers stud Damian Lillard in the first round. The Lakers will have trouble guarding those players making them good fantasy options.
Furthermore, Lakers Insider Melissa Rohlin mentioned the impact of center Dwight Howard in his return to LA and what that means for his decision to play in the bubble.
"Howard has been a key reserve this season, averaging 7.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocked shots in 19.2 minutes a game for the Lakers, who are atop the Western Conference with a record of 49-14".
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are up there with the Lakers as betting favorites in the Western Conference. They are +175 to win the West and +320 to win it all.
The Clippers have had a few players leave the bubble for family emergencies but the whole team should be in Orlando for the duration.
The Utah Jazz was the team with the initial COVID-19 outbreak when Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell tested positive back in March. They have since recovered and will be playing in the bubble.
The issue for Utah is their second-leading scorer Bojan Bogdanovic is out for the season with a wrist injury, Utah could struggle to score enough points to keep up with the other playoff teams in the West. The injury to Bogdanovic makes Joe Ingles an excellent fantasy option.
The big story is with the Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic. Jokic had been outside of the United States, he has passed a round of COVID-19 test and has joined his team in Orlando. Denver is currently the third seed in the West, but it will be interesting to see if they can hang on to that spot. Depending on final seeding, I can see the Nuggets being a first-round exit.
James Harden and Russell Westbrook were late arrivals to the bubble, but they are in Orlando and playing in the scrimmages. Houston could make it all the way to the conference finals, but I still think both the Lakers and Clippers are far better than Houston. Oklahoma City could additionally give Houston issues if the two teams met in the first round of the playoffs.
Mavs center Willie Cauley-Stein is sitting out the league's return to play.
Dallas is currently the 7-seed in the West, but they can really work themselves all the way up to the 4-seed. I think the Mavericks will be very competitive in the seeding rounds but I don't see them getting out of round one of the playoffs.
Be careful when betting Dallas games the star power of Luka Doncic makes them a very public team.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs will have a short stay in the bubble and will end their longtime consecutive playoff streak. LaMarcus Aldridge will miss the rest of the season with a rotator cuff injury as well. I will be betting against San Antonio every time they play in the seeding round.