- Lakers now listed as +210 favorites to win NBA title, surpassing Bucks (+275)
- Milwaukee has the league’s best overall record, and Bucks are -225 to win Eastern Conference
- Lakers are +120 to win Western Conference, ahead of Clippers (+210)
Later this week, the NBA’s Board of Governors is expected to vote to approve commissioner Adam Silver’s return-to-play plan. It seems like fait accompli at this point that the 2019-20 basketball season will be completed at the Disney World complex in Orlando, Florida. People around the league expect teams to get to Orlando in mid-July before resuming the season in some form or fashion on July 31.
There were fears that the league would have to cancel the season entirely, but that’s highly unlikely at this point. So, the 2019-20 season will have a resolution, after all.
As a result, NBA betting sites are still taking bets on the league despite no games having been played in almost three full months. The Milwaukee Bucks, who own the league’s best record at 53-12, are now listed as massive -225 favorites to win the Eastern Conference, per the latest odds at BetOnline.
Milwaukee is 6.5 games ahead of the second-place Toronto Raptors for the top spot in the conference. While Toronto has put together a hugely impressive season despite the loss of Kawhi Leonard last summer, oddsmakers aren’t optimistic about the Raps’ chances of repeating as NBA champs. Toronto is at +800 to win the conference, which gives them the third-best odds behind the Bucks and Boston Celtics (+650).
Lakers Now Title Favorites
While the Bucks obviously stand an excellent chance of getting out of the East, Milwaukee is no longer the presumptive favorite to win it all. That title now belongs to the Los Angeles Lakers, who have nudged past Milwaukee. BetOnline has the Lakers at +210 to win the 2020 NBA title, while the Bucks have dipped to +275.
This despite the fact that the Lakers, unlike the Bucks, are not even minus-money favorites to win their own conference. BetOnline has the Lakers at +120 to come out of the Western Conference, which puts them just ahead of their Staples Center bunkmates, the Clippers (+210). The Clips are also at +300 to win the championship.
No other Western Conference team has odds better than +1000 to represent the West in the Finals. The Houston Rockets (+1000), Denver Nuggets (+1200), and Utah Jazz (+1500) are the only other teams with odds better than +2000.
Playoff Format Will Shift Odds
One factor that could throw a wrench into the betting odds is the format the league chooses to roll with upon its resumption. There seems to be momentum for having 22 of the league’s 30 teams invited to play in Orlando. There will likely be more Western Conference than Eastern Conference teams invited, as the race for the last playoff spot in the West had six teams within six games of one another in the standings. 5.5 games separate the eighth-place Magic from the ninth-place Wizards in the East.
As a result, the league may scrap the traditional East-West playoff format for this season. The NBA has already considered seeding teams 1-through-16 for the playoffs in normal circumstances as a means of pitting the two best teams against one another in the Finals.
However, with every team quarantined in the same place, there isn’t much reason beyond keeping with tradition for the league to continue with the East-West format this year.
Obviously, reseeding teams regardless of conference will be more welcome news to teams like the Lakers and Clippers than it will be to the Bucks. Rather than getting to plow their way through the lesser Eastern Conference playoffs, Milwaukee may suddenly have a more daunting path to the Finals that includes more imposing Western Conference foes.
The Lakers and Clippers, meanwhile, would theoretically get to feast on lesser squads like the Nets and Magic in the early rounds. If the league opts to keep the traditional East-West format, those teams would face more threatening opponents like the Pelicans or Thunder early on.
It’s safe to assume odds may shift considerably once the NBA’s plans are finalized and released.