Three months ago, the sports world began to stop when the NBA suspended its season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The league reportedly is slated to restart with 22 teams heading to Orlando to play in a bubble beginning July 31. When the league paused the Los Angeles Lakers were the top team in the Western Conference with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks running away with the East.
LeBron James and the Warriors’ rival Lakers sit atop the betting odds for when the season resumes with the club boasting 5-2 odds (meaning you bet $100 to win $250), with Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers sporting 3-1 odds to win the title, per SuperBookUSA at Westgate. Meanwhile, James Harden and Houston Rockets — who have to be smiling that the Warriors won’t be in their way this year — and Boston Celtics sit at 16-1. The Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers rounding out the top of the board at 20-1.
These are unprecedented circumstances so it’s hard to analyze a betting board when the teams will have been off for almost five months once they return to action.
When the action was paused it appeared the Bucks were destined to meet either the Lakers or Clippers in the NBA Finals, but there is little telling how rusty teams will be when play resumes. While the long layoff might ding rhythm initially, the layoff could end up being a good thing for James and the Lakers. The pause gave a 35-year-old James a break to let his body recharge for a playoff run. James takes excellent care of his body, but at 35 there’s a chance all the minutes would wear on him at the end of a normal playoff run. That shouldn’t be a problem now.
Playing games in Orlando should, in theory, help a team like the 76ers who have struggled mightily on the road this season. With all games being played in Orlando, the 76ers now can rely on their talent and not have to worry about opposing arenas.
The Utah Jazz seem a bit too high on this board given they will be without Bojan Bogdanovic when the season resumes.
As for the longshots, the Zion Williamson-led Pelicans at 80-1 are an intriguing bet. A young team with fresh legs and star power who doesn’t know any better absolutely could play spoiler and upend the unusual playoffs.
Warriors fans no doubt will be rooting hard against James and the Lakers, as well as Antetokounmpo and the Bucks as they hope another playoff failure will help push The Greek Freak to the Bay.
With no home-court advantage, no fans and a long break, it’s impossible to look at this board as anything other than a dart throw. But the good news is that we have a board.
The NBA is back.
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NBA championship odds: Lakers favored as league restarts in Orlando originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area