No disrespect to Jamal Crawford, but he is not going to save the decimated Brooklyn Nets. Neither is Amir Johnson or Michael Beasley, no matter what they accomplished a lifetime ago.
The team that made a splash at this time last summer by adding Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving is resuming play in Florida without either of those two and without Spencer Dinwiddie, too. So the folks who wagered on them earlier this year to win the title can kiss those bets goodbye.
Of some solace to the Nets is the fact that they will not have to endure life in the Orlando bubble for too long, which should be welcome news to their stomachs.
Did you see what the NBA players are being fed down there?
Lmaooooo .. 🤦🏽♂️ the food will be better after the quarantine process .!! I’m sure of it 🙏🏾 https://t.co/b57tzvqJ8e
— Troy Daniels (@troydaniels) July 8, 2020
Jon Horst said that food was an important topic in preparation for the bubble. Here are some of the meals I was delivered while in quarantine in Orlando. As I mentioned on the Hoop Collective w/ @WindhorstESPN, we are provided with several options to limit touching of food items: pic.twitter.com/XsccNv82Pe
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) July 8, 2020
So as we wait for one of the US sportsbooks to post a line on cumulative weight lost by NBA players in the bubble, it is time to look ahead to what is coming at the end of this month and into August as 22 of the 30 NBA teams resume play. As we outlined last week, the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks are pretty much co-favorites to win the championship.
Many variables in play
The biggest X factor is the coronavirus, and anyone who wagers should consider the fact that if the bubble is not airtight, there is a possibility of one or more superstars getting knocked out. Would the Lakers be favored without LeBron James? Or the Bucks without Giannis Antetokounmpo?
It is worth considering, because the COVID-19 virus does not play favorites or differentiate between superstars and scrubs. Anyone testing positive will go into quarantine, but basketball is a contact sport and if one player tests positive after entering the bubble, his teammates and coaches and any opponents he has played against will be at extreme risk.
No wonder commissioner Adam Silver has said there is a possibility that the whole thing gets called off if a coronavirus disaster happens. That, of course, would lead to all wagers being refunded, so perhaps that is the only dark thread of hope that Brooklyn fans have. The Nets were +8000 on June 5 but are now +15000.
Assuming the season is played out, however, it bears repeating that the neutral court and the absence of fans are going to be huge factors. And those who wager would be remiss to discount the possibility of a surprise team – even the Spurs, who have gone from +25000 to now having the longest odds along with the Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings at +50000.
Fans should expect that surprises will keep coming. Just yesterday, news came out that Kawhi Leonard’s arrival with the Clippers will be delayed for unspecified family reasons. What if the reigning NBA Finals MVP did one of two things: came down with the coronavirus, or decided he would not play back-to-back games in the first round of the playoffs because, well, that’s what Kawhi does.
That would knock the Clippers from their perch as the No. 2 favorite to come out of the Western Conference, and it would shorten the odds of some legit contenders who have not been touted. Teams such as the Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks, all of which have relative strengths that give them a theoretical advantage over potential opponents.
And that is just the West.
Sixers, Heat, Celtics among teams that could surprise
Imagine what a major loss would do not only to the Bucks, but to the teams behind them in the East that arguably have a legitimate chance to win it all.
Two teams immediately come to mind: The Miami Heat, who swept both of their games against the Bucks and will play them one more time on Aug. 6. And the Philadelphia 76ers, who have been drawing consistent action at several sportsbooks, with championship odds generally around +2800. Say what you want about the maturity or lack thereof from Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The talent is certainly there, and there will eventually come a point when that team stops being a collective mental midget.
And what of the Toronto Raptors, who lest we forget are the reigning NBA champions and are still carrying the NBA’s longest winning streak of four games? They are sitting out there at +2200 – but there are not a lot of takers.
“Action over the past week or so? LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers!” said Patrick Eichner of PointsBet. “We took an $8K bet on the Lakers to win the title at +250 on Tuesday. All in all, our Lakers liability is in the high five figures.
“Where are we particularly exposed? The Pelicans and Suns are actually our worst two results because of fliers clients have placed throughout the season. Some clients have shown interest in additional fliers on the Pels since the new format was announced. The Lakers aren’t too far behind.”
The news was similar at FanDuel Sportsbook where they are the only major US book still listing the Bucks as a favorite over the Lakers. The team that is jeopardizing their profit margin most is the Boston Celtics at +2500. The C’s are followed by the Nets, Lakers and Sixers.
“Over the last two weeks we’ve seen increased interest in the Sixers, which has a lot to do with our online interests in New Jersey and Pennsylvania,” said FD spokesman Kevin Hennessey. “Our customers are certainly seeing a lot of possibilities in the East.”
DraftKings Sportsbook also has seen steady action coming in on the Sixers for the past few weeks, a phenomenon that head of trading Johnny Avello also attributed to the book’s heavy presence in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. But interestingly, Avello said, action has come in recently on the Orlando Magic at +30000.
“Perhaps some folks think there will be some sort of playing-close-to-home advantage,” he said.
DK is most exposed on the Lakers because of the amount of wagers that have come in, and the Sixers also would create somewhat of a dark day for that book if they could win the title. Most of the book’s other big exposures are on teams with very long odds, including the Thunder, Pelicans, Pacers and Spurs.
Not many folks expect any of those longshot teams to be the last one standing, but again, the neutral court and the strangeness of playing in empty gyms is going to create a weird dynamic. And since weird dynamics create weird wagering opportunities, it behooves all folks who gamble on sports to consider each and every NBA championship contender through a different prism. It makes the favorites just a little less favorable and gives hope to the teams – and their backers – who believe an unlikely champion can be crowned.
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