On Friday night, the NBA unveiled its revamped schedule ahead of the league’s return. 22 of the 30 clubs will meet at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World to play out the rest season beginning July 30. These will be the first NBA games in over four months, so it’s easy to see why bettors are drooling over the prospect of some live action.
July 30 brings a pair of games, but the real excitement starts the next day with six games on the schedule. NBA betting sites have already posted point spreads, moneylines, and totals more than a month ahead of time. The odds are almost sure to change between now and tip-off, which means you might be able to find a decent amount of value if you get your bets in early.
If you’re trying to get ahead of the curve, how should you approach the first big NBA betting slate in months?
Orlando Magic vs. Brooklyn Nets
- Spread: Magic -1
- Moneyline: Magic -110, Nets -105
- Total: Over/under 213.5
With teams playing games across three different venues in Orlando, we’ll see staggered start times with several games every day. The first game on July 31 will pit the Magic, essentially the host team, against the Nets in a matchup between the teams currently occupying the bottom-two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
Brooklyn will be without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, while Orlando may get Jonathan Isaac back. Isaac was thought to be lost for the season back in January, but the long hiatus means there’s an outside chance he could return. While the team is being coy on the matter, Isaac said he plans on joining his teams in the “bubble.”
I ranked @OrlandoMagic’s Jonathan Isaac very, very high on my top-50 prospects list.
I don’t think nearly enough people recognized that not only did he take a leap on defense, but he became one of the absolute best defenders in the NBA. https://t.co/N3xM9lPuy5 pic.twitter.com/shBAf0cs6m
— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) June 25, 2020
Orlando has won both head-to-head meetings with the Nets so far this season, and the teams will play twice more at Disney World. The Nets have been one of the worst defensive teams against centers for several years now, which makes this a favorable matchup for Magic big man Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic has been held to an average of just 13.5 points on middling 37 percent shooting in the two games against the Nets on the year, but he’s also averaging 17 rebounds per contest.
Brooklyn has a decent group of role players, but they lack a bucket-getting star with Irving and Durant sidelined. The Nets are a team that lives and dies with outside shooting. Orlando has been one of the league’s stingiest defenses since the beginning of last season, as well. The one-point spread looks attackable if you’re on the Magic in this one.
The Bet: Magic -1
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Portland Trail Blazers
- Spread: Trail Blazers -1
- Moneyline: Grizzlies -105, Trail Blazers -110
- Total: Over/under 223
This game has serious playoff implications. Memphis is currently occupying the last playoff spot in the West, but they’re being chased by Portland, New Orleans, and Sacramento. The Blazers will have a golden opportunity to make up some much-needed ground when they face Memphis in each team’s first game back. Interestingly enough, Vegas slightly prefers Portland in this one.
These two teams have played just once against each other this season. Memphis won that game at home 111-104 back in mid-February. Portland will look different with Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins returning to full health, while Memphis may get Jaren Jackson Jr. back from his own injury. However, Portland swingman Trevor Ariza has opted out of playing, which leaves the Blazers a bit thin on the wing.
Current list of key players who won't play when NBA season restarts:
Players were asked to notify teams of opting out by today, but actual deadline is 7/1.
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) June 24, 2020
The Grizzlies have been one of the league’s biggest surprises this season, while Portland has been a disappointment. While oddsmakers are optimistic about the Blazers’ chances of forcing a play-in playoff against the Grizzlies, Memphis is still a minus-money favorite to ultimately win the No. 8 seed.
Damian Lillard will always be the X-factor. He’s certainly capable of winning games for the Blazers all by himself, though his individual efforts haven’t helped Portland to a winning record so far this season. The Grizzlies have been one of the better rebounding teams in the league, and the Blazers don’t match up too well with Memphis’ pace defensively.
I think there’s decent value in getting the Grizzlies as underdogs in this one. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Memphis favored by the time this game tips off, so bet on the Grizz as ‘dogs while you still can.
The Bet: Grizzlies +1
Phoenix Suns vs. Washington Wizards
- Spread: Suns -3
- Moneyline: Suns -140, Wizards +120
- Total: Over/under 230
This is a matchup between the two worst teams that will be making their way to Florida. Neither team stands much of a chance of getting into the playoffs, yet they’re here to bring the league to an even 22 teams. Despite having longer odds to make the playoffs, Phoenix opens as an early 3-point favorite.
Frankly, it’s hard to argue. The Suns have a slightly better record (26-39 to Washington’s 24-40), and they play in the West. The Suns will be without Kelly Oubre, but Devin Booker has helped lead Phoenix to a decent offensive season. The Suns are 15th in offensive rating, which puts them just behind the Wizards. Neither team is prolific on the defensive end, but Washington owns the second-worst defensive rating in all of basketball.
The Wizards have also lost sharpshooter Davis Bertans, who will sit out of the Orlando restart in anticipation of his free agency this offseason. There really isn’t a whole lot of impetus for either team once the games resume, but the Suns likely have a little more drive than the Wizards do. Washington’s brass reportedly supports Bertans’ choice, especially considering the Wiz plan on giving the player an extension this offseason. Next year, Washington could be formidable with Bertans and John Wall returning to join Bradley Beal and a young core.
Take Phoenix here. Washington will have no answer for Deandre Ayton inside, and they’re unlikely to put up enough defensive resistance to stop Booker, either. The over on 230 points is also intriguing. The last time they played back in November, the teams combined to score 272 points.
The Bets: Suns -3, Over 230
Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks
- Spread: Bucks -5
- Moneyline: Celtics +175, Bucks -210
- Total: Over/under 218
This is unquestionably the marquee matchup of the day. The top-seeded Bucks will come closer to locking up the No. 1 spot in the East with a win over the Celtics, who are chasing the Raptors for the No. 2 spot. The teams have split their two meetings on the year, with both teams winning at home.
The Bucks are the best team basketball has to offer. Milwaukee ranks first in defensive rating and third in offensive rating, and they feature an unguardable monster in Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Celtics make for an interesting long-shot bet to win the title, thanks in large part to Jayson Tatum’s rapid development.
Jayson Tatum x Jaylen Brown duo is going to be a force for years to come?pic.twitter.com/vBgQy0N37B
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) June 25, 2020
The Bucks really just have to use the eight-game schedule as a tune-up for the playoffs. While getting players back into game shape is obviously important, it’s hard to imagine Milwaukee going full-bore and putting much stock into these relatively meaningless games.
Beating Boston would make a statement, but the Celtics are the team that likely has more motivation once the games get back underway. I think there’s value in taking Boston as an underdog here, especially in a neutral, fan-free type of environment. Grab the Celtics as betting underdogs here.
The Bet: Celtics +175
Sacramento Kings vs. San Antonio Spurs
- Spread: Kings -3
- Moneyline: Kings -140, Spurs +120
- Total: Over/under 216.5
This is another game featuring playoff long shots. Sacramento is currently ahead of San Antonio in the standings, but both teams will have to leapfrog a few others just to force a play-in playoff. The Spurs’ hopes were also dealt a blow when LaMarcus Aldridge was ruled out of the restart after undergoing surgery on his injured shoulder.
Not many people have talked about the Kings, but Sacramento was playing its best basketball of the season at the time of the stoppage. The Kings had won seven of their last 10 games, including a pair of victories over Memphis and a particularly impressive win over the Clippers.
San Antonio is just 4-6 on the year with Aldridge out of the lineup. As a result, this looks like one of the worst teams we’ll see in Orlando. The Kings’ playoff chances aren’t much better, but Sacramento has a younger roster with a fully healthy complement of players. Seeing the Kings favored over the Spurs may look a little shocking given each team’s recent history, but I think it’s warranted here.
Not much stands out from a betting perspective, but betting the Kings’ moneyline makes some sense at -140.
The Bet: Kings -140
Houston Rockets vs. Dallas Mavericks
- Spread: Rockets -1.5
- Moneyline: Rockets -120, Mavericks +100
- Total: Over/under 226
The first big slate of games concludes with an all-Texas rivalry battle between the Rockets and Mavs. Houston currently holds a 1.5-game edge in the standings over Dallas, but both teams look like solid dark-horse bets to make some noise come playoff time.
James Harden/Russell Westbrook vs. Luka Doncic/Kristaps Porzingis makes for a fun storyline. The teams have split their two regular-season meetings on the year, though they haven’t met since the Rockets decided to go all-in on the small-ball approach. Without a true center on the roster, Houston may have a very difficult time matching up with the 7’3″ Porzingis.
Gonna be fun watching Porzingis duck Westbrook again on July 31st pic.twitter.com/AXB76bRnYL
— Rob (40-24) Rockets (@Hou5ton4L) June 26, 2020
The first thing that really stands out here is the over/under. These are the best offensive teams in basketball, but both leave plenty to be desired on the other end. Dallas is first in offensive rating. Houston is second. The teams combined to score 260 points in their first meeting, and 249 in their second. Yet, the total for this one is sitting at just 226.
While the lack of crowd atmosphere could result in some lower-scoring games in general, this total might be pushing 240 under normal circumstances. As a result, I think 226 is just way, way too low here. This is my favorite bet of any on the entire schedule. Hammer that over.