By Nate Weitzer
The NBA began play again on July 30 after over three months off, and now 22 teams are finishing play in Orlando.
Each team will play eight regular season games to determine seeding for the 16 playoff and six “bubble” teams. If the 9th seed in either conference is within 4 games of the 8th seed in the standings, there will be a play-in series (on Aug. 15-16) in which the 8 seed has two chances to defeat the 9 seed and advance to the NBA playoffs bracket. The first round of the playoffs will begin on Aug. 17, with the conference finals starting on Sept. 15 and the NBA Finals scheduled to run from Sept. 30 to Oct. 13 (if necessary).
Our NBA Power Rankings, which have kept you informed on the league’s changing landscape throughout the season, can provide valuable updates on where each of these 22 teams stand to help you place the right bets during the final part of this unprecedented 2019-2020 season.
These NBA Power Rankings look beyond records by analyzing each team’s potential to win an NBA championship in this new format. Chemistry and health will be huge factors after such a long layoff and there will be no home court advantage or fans throughout the rest of the season. Leadership will also play a huge role in keeping teams focused and on track to compete for a championship, since any players who leave the campus and potentially contract COVID-19 could wind up infecting their teammates and forced to quarantine for 14 days during a critical time.
When play resumes, these rankings can also provide a useful index for seasonal, Daily Fantasy Basketball, or for placing bets on sportsbooks. Prior to July 30, these rankings will be most useful while placing NBA Futures bets on certain teams to make the playoffs, win their conference, or win the 2019-2020 NBA title.
Note that the eight teams that haven’t been invited to finish the season are considering private OTA workouts and scrimmages to continue the development of their younger players.
As the playoffs progress, we will continue to analyze the performance and potential of each team while updating our rankings. Futures odds will change on sportsbooks with injuries and testing playing a huge factor in this NBA season, so stay tuned for updates each week.
NBA Power Rankings 2020
1. Los Angeles Clippers
While Doc Rivers has claimed his team is “built for the bubble” the Clippers have been slow to adjust to this new reality and Lou Williams opens the restart on a 10-day quarantine. Still, their best player, Kawhi Leonard, should be a beast after getting months off for load management. And now if they face the Lakers in a best-of-seven WCF finals series, they won’t have to deal with a partisan crowd at Staples Center. Despite their blip against the Lakers on March 8, the Clippers had by far the best net rating (11.5) in the NBA after the ASB. Taking the Clippers (+333 at DraftKings Sportsbook) to win the title offers appealing value.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James should also thrive after getting months of rest for the first time in his recent basketball career. Anthony Davis is already showing old signs of his injury-prone nature, but the Lakers will almost certainly be in the title mix if both superstars stay healthy. The absence of Avery Bradley (personal) is negligible given their wing depth.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
While they’ve put together an historic regular season to date with a 10.7 net rating, the Bucks simply aren’t a proven playoff team. They’re all but expected to make the finals with -165 odds to win the ECF, but as great as he’s been all season, coach Mike Budenholzer isn’t the best at making in-series adjustments, and there’s a decent chance Giannis is neutralized and the Bucks are upended by one of the versatile challengers in the East.
4. Houston Rockets
The biggest jump in our power rankings following the break belongs to a Houston team that relies heavily on two exhausted guards and an undersized center in P.J. Tucker. The Rockets likely used the break to not only rest, but execute mental reps in perfecting their space-and-pace attack. The Nuggets, Jazz, and even Lakers could fear The Beard and company if they wind up facing off in the playoffs at a neutral site.
5. Toronto Raptors
Despite dealing with a litany of injuries, the Raptors have still managed to post the third-best net rating (6.4) while allowing the fewest PPG (106.5) in the NBA to date. Both marks are actually better than they posted with Kawhi Leonard during their 2018-19 title run. With maestro Nick Nurse running the show, the Raptors are the cerebral team that is actually built for the bubble.
6. Boston Celtics
Jayson Tatum made a quantum leap into superstardom with Kemba Walker (knee) hobbled prior to the suspension and with Walker healthy, Brad Stevens is reportedly preparing to begin a small-ball experiment of his own with Walker, Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, and Marcus Smart carving up slower teams.
7. Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokic looked gassed early in the season, but has used the break to work himself into impeccable shape. Additionally, Jamal Murray looks to be in top form and the Nuggets could receive breakout performances from Bol Bol and Michael Porter Jr.
8. Miami Heat
Bam Adebayo is a rising star and one of the few versatile defenders capable of slowing down Giannis Antetokounmpo. If the young Heat can follow the lead of Jimmy Butler, they could surprise in the playoffs.
9. Dallas Mavericks
Don’t be surprised if the Mavericks make a strong push to move up from the 7th seed in the West over these final 8 games. That would help them avoid a tough matchup with the Clippers, and Luka Doncic is capable of leading his team past any of the contenders outside of L.A.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder owns the second-best defensive rating (94.1) down the stretch of games within 5 points or less and the best net rating (8.9) in fourth quarters this year. However, OKC is just 9-17 against teams with winning records and the competition will increase from here on out.
11. Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers get a big lift with Jusuf Nurkic (leg) and Zach Collins (shoulder) expected to return after missing nearly the entire season. Dame Lillard and Portland posted a league-best 25.2 net rating in fourth quarters over their last 10 games and the Blazers have the inside track towards forcing a play-in showdown with eighth-seeded Memphis.
12. Indiana Pacers
While Victor Oladipo (quad) should be closer to full strength after the long layoff, Indy has lost talented and critical big man Domantas Sabonis (foot) for the restart. Myles Turner will be asked to step up, but the Pacers are not a threat at less than full strength.
13. Philadelphia 76ers
Shortly after shifting to PF, Ben Simmons suffered a knee injury that could sideline him through the playoffs. Now the Sixers will see if Joel Embiid can carry them and prove whether this team is simply better without Simmons also clogging up the lane.
14. Utah Jazz
The Jazz struggled mightily at times this season and is now the subject of a massive distraction in the form of Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell’s tenuous relationship. Mike Conley is a shell of himself and to top things off, the Jazz will be without Bojan Bogdanovic (wrist) for the restart.
15. New Orleans Pelicans
What a raw deal for the talented young Pelicans. After playing the toughest schedule in the NBA before the season was suspended, they’re now locked into facing playoff-caliber teams for an outside chance at a playoff berth. Oddsmakers at DraftKings are still giving the Pels +265 odds to reach the postseason, which is ahead of the Blazers (+400).
16. Memphis Grizzlies
While they were originally assigned -150 odds to hold onto the final playoff spot in the WCF, the Grizzlies are in trouble in this format considering they have a rough 8-20 record against teams with winning records and hold a slim 3.5-game lead over the Blazers, Pelicans, and Kings.
17. Sacramento Kings
The Kings were pushing for a playoff berth with 13 wins in 20 games and were about to face off with the Pelicans on March 11 when the season was suspended. Marvin Bagley (foot) still won’t suit up after the long layoff, but De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic will make the Kings remaining games fast-paced and interesting.
18. Orlando Magic
After the ASB, the Magic fixed a putrid offense with a league-best 117.8 offensive rating, but shuffling lineups caused their usually stout defense to rank 26th (115.9) during that span. They will get a big lift with Jonathan Isaac (knee) returning to the lineup.
19. San Antonio Spurs
Their 22-year playoff streak will likely end this year since the Spurs are one of the oldest teams in the league and were likely focusing on bigger issues than basketball during the long layoff. Even before the suspension, they struggled mightily with a 129.8 defensive rating in clutch time since the start of February.
20. Phoenix Suns
Frankly, the Suns lack leadership and could be considered the team most likely to break out of the Disney World “bubble” and risk their health. Some have speculated that Phoenix could tank and drop deeper into the draft lottery by going 1-7 or worse in this modified format.
21. Brooklyn Nets
Kenny Atkinson was fired shortly before the break and the Nets have become the center of anti-bubble sentiment with Kyrie Irving (shoulder) floating the idea of boycotting the season. They won’t have Irving, Kevin Durant (Achilles), Spencer Dinwiddie (COVID) or DeAndre Jordan (COVID) for the restart and will rely heavily on Caris LeVert.
22. Washington Wizards
With news that Bradley Beal (shoulder) will sit out the restart, John Wall (achilles) also declined to return this summer and that leaves the Wizards basically punting on their long shot to erase a 5.5-game deficit in the standings and force a play-in against Brooklyn or Orlando for the final playoff spot in the East.
23. Golden State Warriors
If the Warriors were invited to Orlando, they might have been able to activate Klay Thompson (ACL) along with Steph Curry (hand) and really give fans something to watch. They will clearly be a contender when the 2020-21 season starts later this year.
24. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Wolves were in free fall most of the year, but flashed potential after an aggressive approach at the trade deadline landed them D’Angelo Russell and other key pieces. Karl-Anthony Towns (wrist) will be ready to team up with Russell next season.
25. Atlanta Hawks
Trae Young should spend the offseason working on his pick-and-roll game with new addition Clint Capela. The Hawks are on the rise even if they may be a couple years away from playoff contention.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers
While Collin Sexton caught fire before the season was suspended, the Cavs should have questions about his ability to fit next to Darius Garland long term. Their frontcourt situation also needs to be sorted out with Andre Drummond joining Kevin Love, Larry Nance, and Tristan Thompson in a crowded frontcourt.
27. Chicago Bulls
Zach LaVine is a superstar on the rise and the Bulls have promising frontcourt players around him. They just need a better coach.
28. Charlotte Hornets
A solid young team that plays tough, the Hornets are badly missing an offensive center piece since they declined to pay Kemba Walker the max.
29. New York Knicks
The Knicks should be docked points for James Dolan’s ridiculous refusal to make a statement against racism. This franchise remains a joke with little hope of landing a capable coach to develop their young talents.
30. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons unloaded Drummond and began tanking for the future. Will Blake Griffin (knee) ever be healthy enough to serve as a piece to build around? Or will his contract become an albatross for this franchise.
How to use NBA Power Rankings
When placing bets on the NBA, it’s crucial to consider factors such as travel time, home court advantage, and playoff positioning versus the rest that so many stars value. By using these rankings, or creating your own criteria for a Power Rankings system, it can be possible to evaluate the prospects of a team more thoroughly based on those factors.
Oddsmakers tend to overreact in the NBA based on the status of star players, but often underreact to trends such as a teams’ performance on back-to-back sets, or at the end of a long road trip. Read our full NBA Betting Guide for more strategies on gaining an edge against sportsbooks.
If you develop a system that helps you stay a step ahead of oddsmakers, it’s certainly possible to cash on over 50 percent of NBA bets and turn a profit. Trust your data and use our Power Rankings as a guide for identifying value on a nightly basis.
Read more on beginner NBA betting strategies here: