Written by Miles Wigby
It’s that time of the season again, the NBA is starting to heat up and get really interesting. This season has had its ups and downs, struck by the pandemic, the league was forced to play a crazy amount of games in a much shorter time frame. As an NBA bettor myself, I have really seen the effects this has had. Injury lists have been crazy! High amounts of injuries but also a lot of uncertainty, as players are being overworked, decisions to rest them are very last minute and have been very tactical based on who they are playing. So, I definitely recommend waiting until close to tip off for all injury updates for the remainder of the season if you haven't been doing so already.
Well the idea of teams targeting certain games and going on runs of good and bad form goes out the window now. It’s game time, every game from here on out is important. There will be less rotations and starters will see more minutes.
For those who are not familiar with the play-in tournament, it’s a new addition this season where teams seeded 7-10 will play for the chance of filling those final two spots in the playoffs.
Layout is as follows:
7thv 8th= Winner proceeds to 7th seed in the playoffs.
9thv 10th= Winner gets the chance to play for a playoff chance.
Loser of match 1 vs Winner of match 2 = Play for the final 8th seed in the playoffs.
I’m unsure of my opinions of the play-in tournament. While it adds a new dimension to the season and more intense games for fans, it couldn’t be clearer that it’s a money grab from the NBA and the players have shown their clear dislike of this addition. However, this sort of addition is nothing new to sports in the US and definitely provides us fans with talking points and us punters with new betting opportunities, so let’s discuss.
Boston Celtics are the clear favourite to get to the playoffs, on paper they are by far the strongest side. Personally, I think they’ll make light work of the Wizards in the first round and go through easily enough. Wizards have hit form but winning one off games in the regular season is much different to postseason. Wizards just don’t have much squad depth but the play-in isn’t out of their reach, just not at the expense of the Celtics. As for the 2ndteam to get through it’s much more difficult to judge. The Wizards have Westbrook and Beal who are putting up silly numbers every game lately. However, I expect they will be too short odds for betting and possibly a good bet to take on. Pacers are a strong side but have had injury after injury this season, missing Turner and Warren indefinitely and Brogdon is questionable as to whether he will make it back in time. The Hornets have been a lot stronger side this season than many expected. They also have a key injury to Hayward, however, they welcome back Bridges for the play-in tournament which is huge as they will have a size advantage against the Wizards with him fit. I’d think that the Hornets would beat the Pacers for an interesting 8th seed final.
This one is a little more straight forward for me prediction wise. I think the Lakers will have a tough game vs the Warriors. Steph will do his thing and ultimately it will end with fine margins. That game will be tough to predict and find any value as it’ll be a toss-up for me, Steph is such a wild card as he can drop 40 points on any given night. Although the Lakers go through for sure, it’s a matter of which game and most likely the first, price wise, it’ll be awful to take on Steph. I’d be shocked if Spurs get out of the first round of the play-in. Grizzlies have a lot of offensive threats and if they play the Warriors it would be very high scoring. I just believe Curry can get this team to the playoffs. (Probably to get knocked out in the first round, but getting there is an achievement in itself.)
The East is stacked this year with talent, possibly the most the East has seen in a long time! The Nets are the obvious favourites to win it all, I personally have a bet on them to do so, however, I placed this a long time ago as soon as the news about Blake Griffin signing came out, the odds are much shorter since then. However, it’s not as simple as they have Kyrie, KD and Harden so they win, as defensively they can’t compete with the Bucks or the Heat, possibly the two best defensive teams in the NBA right now. The 76ers also have an ultimate wildcard in Embiid who has been lethal this season and they have the roster around him to compete this year.
So, who has a chance against the Nets? While I do really like the 76ers this year, I can’t see them outscoring the Nets and they don’t have the defensive unit to stop the Nets going forward. Simmons alone can’t defend all the big 3, Nets simply have too many shooters. That doesn’t mean the Nets won’t get knocked out before facing the 76ers! If anyone is going to beat the Nets, it’s the Bucks or possibly Heat. If they can expose Nets defensively, both the Bucks and Heat have the defensive units to ‘somewhat’ stop the lethal offence of the Nets. I’d expect both series’ to go pretty deep as Nets can definitely lose games and defensively aren’t dominant enough to 4-0 many teams, so possibly some good betting angles there. Note I emphasis ‘somewhat’ stop the Nets, they are most definitely the favourites for good reason.
My Top 3:
Despite the West being weaker than previous years, it’s actually an even playing field, especially with uncertainties around Lebron. Never look past Lebron coming back, him and AD doing their thing, and Lakers winning the Western conference. However, with very little of the season left, Lebron will essentially be returning from injury and walking straight into the playoffs, which is no easy task even for the king himself. Utah Jazz have finished top of the West however they will miss their all-star Donovan Mitchell due to injury. Despite them winning a lot of games even since he has been out, it’s hard to see Jazz winning a full playoff series against tough sides without ‘Spider’ Mitchell. The Nuggets are in a similar situation without their star of last year’s playoffs, Jamal Murray. They still have MVP candidate Nikola Jokic but in a playoff series you need multiple clutch shooters and squad depth just to compete, so I have questions over them too. Besides the Lakers, the two I’m looking at are Clippers and Suns. The addition of CP3 to the young team in Phoenix really has been refreshing to watch. I've added a photo of the CP3 effect on teams below.
If the Suns go out they will go out fighting. If I see the Suns 2-0 down or more to anyone, I will definitely be betting on them, clutch shooters and game winning ability. The only questions to ask is can their squad and bench players step up when needed?
The Clippers have something to prove after blowing that 3-1 lead last year, Paul George has something to prove and he is easily one of the top 5 players in the NBA beside him in Kawhi. If their squad can hold up an entire series, which we’ll find out early on, then they could be an underrated force in the East.
My Top 3:
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