Photo of Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers

Now that the NBA board of governors have approved the plan for basketball to resume activities, we know what to expect come July 31.

There will be a total of 22 teams that will play out an 8 game regular season schedule to determine final playoff seeding and to allow for players to have a small window to ramp up for postseason play. The 22 teams that met the qualifications to be invited to Orlando for the remaining duration of the NBA season include 13 teams from the Western Conference and 9 from the Eastern Conference.

Once the 8 game regular season is played out, the final regular season standings will be in place. If the 9 seed in either conference has a record that's within fewer than 4 games of the 8 seed, those teams will have a play-in game to determine who advances into the playoffs. For example, if the Memphis Grizzlies end the regular season with a record of 36-37 and the Portland Trailblazers end with a record of 33-41, they will be 3.5 games out of the 8th and final playoff position for the Western Conference and will trigger a play-in matchup between Memphis and Portland.


The higher seed (the Grizzlies in this example) would only need to win 1 of 2 games against the lower seed (Portland in this example) whereas Portland would need to win both games in order to advance.

Vegas has released the betting odds for the 22 teams that still have meaningful basketball games ahead of themselves, and we're going to detail a few teams to target as good bets to raise the Larry O'Brien in October that experts may be discounting.

Indiana Pacers (Currently 5th Seed in Eastern Conference, +10,000)

The Pacers have already clinched a playoff berth and are one of the most intriguing teams left in the race. While the brand of basketball they play is as boring as driving through the cornfields in their home state of Indiana, the frontcourt of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner give the Pacers two big men that can stretch the floor out to the three point line, yet who are the most comfortable dominating in the paint on both the offensive and defensive ends.

Add to that Malcolm Brogdon, a 6'5" guard that can defend, small forward T.J. Warren, who has led the Pacers in points per game this season, and perimeter shooting support from Doug McDermott and the brothers Justin and Aaron Holiday, and you have a team that can control the pace of the game and prevent opposing teams from getting easy buckets in the restricted area.

The extended break may have been beneficial for a team that has thrived without its biggest star for most of the season, Victor Oladipo, by allowing the rest of the cast to get healthy themselves. Oladipo has announced he will sit out the restart ,so we won't get to see how Brogdon and Oladipo can produce together in playoff basketball as the team envisioned when acquiring Brogdon in the off season. But the Pacers may have a roster that can go all the way to winning the championship in a truncated season, as they've shown the ability to play winning basketball without Oladipo most of the season–riding the coattails of their breakout star Domantas Sabonis.

With 100 to 1 odds, the Pacers are one of the best bets you can make going into the NBA Playoffs this year.

Miami Heat (Currently 4th Seed in Eastern Conference, +3,000)

The Heat has been one of the biggest surprises of the 2019-2020 season led by the steady coaching of Erik Spoelstra and the play of their often controversial superstar, Jimmy Butler. While Butler's All-Star-highlighted 2020 campaign was to be expected, the play of fellow All-Star Bam Adebayo and the undrafted G-League star-turned-Rookie-of-the-Year-contender Kendrick Nunn have helped elevate the Heat into a team to fear leading up to the playoffs.

As a league shutdown like we've experienced this year is unprecedented, it's still to be seen how players will react to the layoff and how long it will take to shake off the rust. What is known, however, is that Spoelstra has experience coaching deep into the playoffs with two championships to show from the Lebron James-era in Miami.

Furthermore, Butler is one of the game's most intense competitors who is now in a situation where he is looked to as the unquestioned leader in the clubhouse. Goran Dragic (16.1 PPG), Duncan Robinson (13.3 PPG), and Tyler Herro (12.9 PPG) have provided scoring support throughout the season, and the additions of Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala bring veteran leadership to a young squad eager to make their mark as a championship contender.

With current odds at 30 to 1, the Heat are a great option if you want to place a bet on a team that isn't one of the preeminent favorites and would provide a nice payout if they managed to win it all.


Philadelphia 76ers (Currently 6th Seed in Eastern Conference, +2,800)

Last season the 76ers were eliminated from the playoffs in the conference semifinals by one of the most memorable buzzer beater shots in NBA history, as Kawhi Leonard hit the game winner for Toronto that danced on the rim before going in, effectively sinking the title hopes for Philadelphia. Toronto went on to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks and advance to the NBA Finals where they beat the Warriors to earn their first NBA Championship. This was an outcome that many believed would be the 76ers' destiny before the start of the playoffs; but instead, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris saw the team retool this past offseason, replacing Jimmy Butler with Al Horford to shore up their frontcourt and give Simmons more opportunity to affect the offense with Butler no longer there to eat up possessions.

Embiid can be one of the most unstoppable forces when he's in good form, but injuries have plagued him throughout his career, which has prevented him from being able to optimize his talents when the team needs him in the postseason. Conditioning is no problem for Ben Simmons, but his inability to shoot from distance lets teams focus on clogging the paint and limiting the effectiveness of the point-forward.

While these are all the negatives to think about when considering the 76ers, there is a lot of good to focus on as well. This team has good size at every position and can match up with the Eastern Conference favorites the Milwaukee Bucks, going 1-2 against them on the season with their victory being a game in which Embiid and Simmons both scored 15 points or more. One of the losses came in a game where Simmons scored 5 points but left the game early after aggravating a back injury.

The 76ers have the pedigree on the roster to make another deep run this postseason, and the extended time off may have allowed Embiid and Simmons to nurse their bodies back to full health. With the Vegas odds having them just a shade above Miami at 28 to 1, they are a safer bet to come through and win the championship this year at a payout that may be the best value of the remaining teams going to Orlando this summer.

Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets Nikola Jokic's presence will determine the Nuggets outcome this yearPhoto by Keith Allison Sports Photography


Denver Nuggets (Currently 3rd Seed in Western Conference, +2,500)

It was a toss up for me to decide if I wanted to put the Nuggets here or the Dallas Mavericks, and it came down to the supporting cast of players. While Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis make up a formidable duo, I struggled to point to who could step up if either of those two had an off night in a must-win game.

The Nuggets, however, have contributors deep into their bench and have 6 players averaging double digit points per game this season. Denver's 43 wins are only bested by the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers in the superior Western Conference, and the versatile play of center Nikola Jokic has seen him lead his team in points, rebounds, and assists per game.

While the Houston Rockets are more likely to win based on Vegas odds, I don't think they can create a matchup in which Jokic won't pick them apart as they would deploy a mix of Robert Covington (6'7"), Jeff Green (6'8"), or P.J. Tucker (6'5") to defend the 7 footer. The Nuggets have a strong mix of shooters and finishers, allowing them to score at every level and Jokic gives them a centerpiece for the offense to revolve around which also lets them control the pace of games which can take faster paced teams out of rhythm in a series.

At 25 to 1 odds, the Nuggets may be able to get hot and ride the mismatch that Jokic presents all the way to the championship this year. The only downside to placing a bet on the Nuggets is that their All-Star center was diagnosed with coronavirus on June 23. As an increasing number of players have been receiving similar news, it's unsure how it will affect rosters once play resumes in Orlando.

Some teams have already begun to proactively sign replacements for players that don't expect to play the rest of the season. Keep an eye on what Denver is doing, and if they sign a free agent big man, then it surely indicates that they don't expect Jokic to make the trip back from Serbia, which would mean you can forget about Denver winning the title this season. Currently, the plan is still for Jokic to make it back for the restart, but it's a situation worth monitoring closely.


NBA Futures Odds obtained from vegasinsider.com

Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Tom Pennington, Getty Images

In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Bam Adebayo's 31-point and 10-rebound double-double led the Miami Heat to a 109-103 victory over the Celtics on the road. That was followed by a dominant second-half performance by Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins who led the Warriors to a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals.

Tonight, we'll get the first of these two matchups. Boston will look to come back in their second home game against a Heat team that is clearly not at 100% healthy. Tyler Herro has been ruled out for Game 4 while Kyle Lowry remains questionable. Here are some of the best bets for tonight's and tomorrow's big Game 4s.

Please note that all odds and lines are from FanDuel Sportsbook and were accurate at 3:30 PM EST. Be sure to check for line movement or odd changes.

ECF Game 4: Miami Heat at Boston Celtics -7 (MIA Leads 2-1)

In Game 4, the Celtics rallied back from double-digits to make things interesting in the fourth quarter. However, Boston conceded Game 3 to the Miami Heat 109-103. On Sunday, Bam Adebayo was getting everything he wanted down low. He finished with 31 points, 10 boards, six assists, four steals, and one block. Ime Udoka will need to boost the presence of his big men down low, perhaps by extending Daniel Theis’ minutes or having him share the floor more with Al Horford. The major reason for which the Heat are considered the seven-point underdogs for tonight’s game is injuries. Tyler Herro has already been ruled out for Game 4, and the Heat have four or five other players in their lineup currently listed as questionable. This includes Max Struss, Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, and P.J. Tucker. Butler is dealing with knee inflammation which sidelined him for the second half of Game 3.

Even if all of the players in the Heat’s rotation are good to go tonight (outside of Herro), Boston has not lost back-to-back home games since late October. Plus, Jaylen Brown is shooting much better than he did earlier in the postseason. In fact, he’s elevated his shooting to 50% from the field through the 2021-22 playoffs through 14 games played. Expect Boston to bounce back big in Game 4, with multiple players on the Miami Heat not at full strength.

The Pick: Boston Celtics -7 (-110)

WCF Game 4: Golden State Warriors at Dallas Mavericks -1 (GSW Leads 3-0)

Well, it’s looking like the Golden State Warriors are returning to the NBA Finals. With the emergence of Jordan Poole late this season and into the postseason, Andrew Wiggins’ First-Team All-Star season, and Klay Thompson’s return to basketball, Golden State has been simply phenomenal. Golden State is simply that good this year, with anyone on the team capable of stepping up. Stephen Curry erupted in Game 3, while it was Andrew Wiggins that caught fire in the second half of Game 4. Any given night, the Warriors have one or two guys who they can count on for scoring approximately 25+ points. Considering the Mavericks' struggles this round, particularly behind the three-point line, bettors should go with the Warriors as the slight underdog. Teams get swept sometimes. Just ask the Brooklyn Nets. The Warriors will bring out the brooms and sweep the Mavericks as they punch their ticket to the NBA Finals Tuesday night.

The Pick: Golden State Warriors ML -104

NBA Player Props

Golden State Warriors at Dallas Mavericks -1 (GSW Leads 3-0)

Prop #1: Stephen Curry, Over 27.5 Points

Stephen Curry has scored 31 points and 32 points over the last two games. He’s done so by converting at least 50% from the field in each contest. It makes sense that he would score at least 28 points in a series-clinching victory tomorrow night. Curry is averaging 27.1 PPG on 45.9% this postseason but has certainly put up more points and done so more efficiently over the last few games.

Prop #2: Luka Doncic, Over 3.5 Threes

Luka has drained nine three-pointers over the last two games. He’s knocked down at least four threes in three of his last four contests. Facing elimination and hoping to not let down the home crowd in back-to-back home playoff games, Doncic will convert at least four baskets from downtown in Game 4.

Tyler Herro (Left), Bam Adebayo (Right), Miami Heat

Getty Images

Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo, and the Miami Heat held their own against the Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Likewise, Andrew Wiggins and Stephen Curry led the Warriors to a 112-87 blowout over Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks. Tonight, the Celtics play their second game on the road against the Heat. On Friday night, the Mavericks will look to bounce back after shooting horrifically in Game 1.

Let’s take a look at the best bets for the two NBA Conference Final Game 2 matchups set for 8:30 PM EST. tonight and 9:00 PM EST. tomorrow night.

Please note that all odds and lines are from FanDuel Sportsbook and were accurate at 4:30 PM EST. Be sure to check for line movement or odd changes.

Best Bets of the Night

Game: Boston Celtics at Miami Heat -2 (MIA Leads 1-0)

After a nail-biting series with the Milwaukee Bucks that the Celtics won in grandiose fashion, Boston conceded Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Miami Heat. Tonight, they play Game 2 of the series at the FTX Arena and hope to bounce back from Tuesday’s 11-point loss. One of the principal reasons for their defeat in Game 1 was the absence of Marcus Smart (foot sprain) and Al Horford (health & safety protocols). It remained a relatively close game until the third quarter in which the Celtics were outscored 14-3 to begin the second half. Derrick White filled in for Marcus Smart and was terribly inefficient from the field. He scored three points (1-4 FG) and had four assists in 29 minutes filling in for the Defensive Player of the Year. In contrast, Max Struss and Gabe Vincent did a terrific job of filling in for Kyle Lowry, combining for 28 points on 9-of-19 shooting. In addition, Tyler Herro had a good night with a pivotal 18 points (7-15 FG) off the bench. Fortunately for the Celtics, both Smart and Horford are expected to return tonight.

Head Coach Ime Udoka indicated to reporters today that Smart was probable to play this evening. Horford was cleared of health and safety protocols today making him available for tonight’s contest. For those of you who have watched the Celtics this postseason, Horford and Smart have upped their play and have been absolutely integral to the team’s success. Tonight, let’s take the Boston Celtics to take a game on the road in the same fashion that they took two road games from the Bucks in the last series.

The Pick: Boston Celtics ML +108

Tonight's Best NBA Player Props

Game: Boston Celtics at Miami Heat -2 (MIA Leads 1-0)

Prop#1: Gabe Vincent Over 9.5 Points
In Game 1 without Kyle Lowry, Gabe Vincent scored 17 points in 34 minutes on 50% shooting from the field. As Kyle Lowry is out again for Game 2 tonight, expect Vincent to score at least 10 points. Vincent has performed admirably while filling in for the veteran. Even when Lowry returns, it's quite possible that Erik Spoelstra will give some of Lowry's minutes to Vincent.
Prop#2: Al Horford Over 9.5 Points
After five straight double-digit scoring performances, Al Horford scored eight points or fewer in the last three games of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Bucks. He missed Game 1 of the Celtics' series against the Miami Heat after entering Health & Safety protocols. Since he was only out for one game, he shouldn't face any minute restrictions tonight. Horford should score at least 10 points in 30+ minutes on the floor.

Tomorrow Night's Best NBA Bet

Game: Dallas Mavericks at Golden State -6 (GSW Leads 1-0)

Dallas was annihilated by Golden State in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. This comes after the Mavs blew out the Phoenix Suns on the road in impressive fashion, punching their ticket to the next round of the playoffs for a series against the Warriors. Golden State shot an impressive 56.1% from the field in the opening game and finished with 112 points. Just as important as the offensive production, Golden State clamped down on defense. The Warriors contained Luka Doncic, who converted just six of his 18 field goals on his way to 20 points. Andrew Wiggins did an excellent job guarding the young playmaker. Luka's teammates didn't help out much either as the Mavericks shot 36% from the field in Game 1, and 22.9% from downtown (11-48 3PT FG) for just 87 points on the night.

While I think the Warriors will win again on Friday night, expect the Mavericks to keep things more interesting after such an abysmal night shooting from the field. Dallas will make the adjustments needed to make this a competitive Game 2 in the Bay area.

The Pick: Dallas Mavericks +6 (-110)

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Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Klay Thompson is coming off one of his signature Game 6 performances. Thompson dropped his second-highest point total of the postseason, punching Golden State's ticket to the Western Conference Finals after defeating the Memphis Grizzlies in six games. In the elimination game, Thompson led the team with 30 points (11-22 from the field and 8-14 from beyond the arc), eight boards, two assists, and three blocks. Considering the multitude of injuries he has fought back from and the adversity he has faced, it's quite amazing that the five-time All-Star has converted at least 50% of his three-point shots in three of his last four outings. He seems to be in great form entering this pivotal series with the Mavericks.

Dallas stunned the top-seeded Phoenix Suns and reigning Western Conference champs on the road in Game 7, 123-90, and earned a trip to the Western Conference Finals. Let's see if Thompson can remain scorching hot as Stephen Curry and the Dubs host Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals tonight. Now, let's take a look at some of the best bets and player props to consider for tonight’s big matchup!

Please note that all odds and lines are from FanDuel Sportsbook and were accurate at 3:30 PM EST. Be sure to check for line movement or odd changes.

Best Bets of the Night

Bet #1: Golden State Warriors -5 (-110)

Following a tough loss in Game 5 to the Grizzlies despite Ja Morant’s absence from the lineup, the Warriors bounced back and closed the series at home in Game 6. They take on the Dallas Mavericks, who’ve been absolutely unbelievable on defense. Changes made to the Mavs’ rotation by Jason Kidd worked flawlessly against Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and the Suns in the previous round. One surprise for Dallas this postseason has been former New York Knicks lottery pick, Frank Ntilikina. He's a player who has stepped up immensely this postseason, especially on defense. Throughout the series, Ntilikina held Chris Paul and Devin Booker to a combined 3-of-40 shooting from the field when he guarded them.

It will be interesting to see if Jason Kidd keeps his minutes up, or perhaps increases them after what was truly an astonishing defensive performance against the Suns. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, the Golden State Warriors have four efficient scorers who will need to be contained. The Warriors will cover the spread tonight and win by more than five points on their home floor.

Bet #2: Over 214.5 Total Points (-110)

Dallas scored an impressive 123 points in Game 7, and they did so on the road. I expect them to reach at least 110 points in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors shot on and off throughout their series against the Memphis Grizzlies. Nonetheless, they averaged 111 PPG in their series against Memphis (666 total points scored by the Warriors over six games). Both teams play a style of basketball that stresses ball movement to find an open man beyond the arc. When Dallas or Golden State shoot 40%-45% from the field, they can score in the hundreds because of the high volume of shots they take. Dallas started taking more shots and playing at a faster pace in the second half of their series against Phoenix. By the half in Game 7, Dallas was up 57-27. In the game, the Mavericks went 19-of-39 from downtown (48.9%). Even more impressive was Dallas’ 56.8% shooting from the field. Although the Warriors are one of the best defensive teams in the league, a 214.5-point Over / Under for tonight’s game is quite low. Smash the Over.

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NBA Player Props of the Night

Prop #1: Jordan Poole Over 1.5 Threes (-174)

Jordan Poole has finally cooled down after a stretch of three 20-point games against the Grizzlies. Over the last three contests, Poole has only hit two or more three-pointers in one contest. Over those last three games, he shot a combined 3-of-17 from downtown. While Poole has been highly inefficient over the last few games, he’ll hit at least two three-pointers in Game 1 tonight. The odds of this prop reflect how likely it is to happen. Although Poole isn't seeing as high a usage rate as when Curry and Thompson were injured during the regular season, Poole should still see plenty of open looks in the 25+ minutes he should log tonight. Given that Dallas will most likely try to stop Curry and Thompson from beating them, Poole should see a few wide-open looks. He will knock down at least two from deep range tonight.

Prop #2: Klay Thompson Over 20.5 Points (-112)

Klay Thompson has averaged just about 20.5 points since he came back this regular season. Throughout the postseason, he’s played strong and for the most part, been efficient from the field. Through 11 games in this postseason, Thompson is averaging 20.4 PPG on 45% shooting from the field. I like him to hit the over here in his first Western Conference Final matchup in three years. After getting his swagger back and dropping 30 points to eliminate the Grizzlies last round, Thompson should have all. the confidence in the world heading into Game 1 in the bay.

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