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

DMX on the Madison Square Garden marquee

Madison Square Garden

For many managers, their playoff prospects are dark and hot as hell heading into the final week of the fantasy basketball regular season.

But before you can compete to be grand champ, you need to stop, drop, shut your duds down and open up the waiver wire for your last gasp this regular season. Here are some names you should be looking for to give you that push you need.

Rest in peace, DMX.

Booms

Kyle Anderson Forward Memphis Grizzlies

The former UCLA star might have taken the tale of the tortoise and the hare a little too seriously, but the "slow and steady" mantra has given him a successful NBA career and impressive fantasy numbers. For the past week, Slow Mo has averaged 16.3 points on 48.9 percent shooting, seven rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.3 made threes, two steals and one turnover a game.

Anderson has been a consistent contributor throughout the season and it's tough to see his numbers take a hit even when Jaren Jackson Jr. returns at the end of the month. If you haven't rostered him yet, it would be a huge mistake.

Jalen McDaniels Forward/Center Charlotte Hornets

Staying on the court has been a problem for McDaniels this season, but the absence of Gordon Hayward has forced the Hornets to look for other options on the court and the second-year player has been one of the beneficiaries. In the last three games, the San Diego State product averaged 16.3 points on 62.5 percent shooting, two made threes, five rebounds and 3.3 assists. He even threw in 1.3 steals and one block per game.

Hayward is expected to be out for at least three more weeks. Until he's back, expect McDaniels to continue his more proactive approach on this team.

Miles Bridges Forward Charlotte Hornets

McDaniels isn't the only one who has taken advantage of Hayward's injury. Bridges has cranked his game up a notch, averaging 21.7 points on 60.5 percent shooting, three made threes, six rebounds and one steal in the last three games. He may have even had the dunk of the year, posterizing Clint Capela on Sunday.

Until Hayward is back, Bridges will get a lot more freedom to operate and that means more fantasy contribution in the coming weeks.

Reggie Jackson Guard Los Angeles Clippers

Depth has not been a problem for the Clippers the last few seasons, but it has been trouble for fantasy managers looking for consistent contributors on that team. Rest and injuries haven't slowed the Clippers' winning ways this week because Reggie Jackson stepped up for them and gives fantasy participants a short-term high performer to lean on for the week.

In a week where Patrick Beverley, Rajon Rondo and Paul George missed time, Jackson thrived, averaging 17.3 points on 61 percent shooting, three made threes, 4.8 assists, and 1.3 turnovers in four games.

With Beverley out with a fractured hand and Rondo/George/Kawhi undoubtedly taking games off to save themselves for the playoffs, Jackson may not be a bad desperation option in standard fantasy and worth tracking in daily fantasy formats.

Busts

Tim Hardwaway Jr Guard/Forward Dallas Mavericks

The Dallas Mavericks' recent success has not translated into numbers for all players. Tim Hardaway Jr. is one of them.

The Michigan product averaged 12 points on 37.5 percent shooting, 3.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists in four games last week. He did make two three-pointers per game in that span, but that is like threading a silver lining on a used rag.

Hardaway is still the third scoring option on the team, so he will get more chances to increase his production, but this week was a tough pill to swallow for a lot of fantasy managers.

Derrick Rose Guard New York Knicks

Rose has found a home with the New York Knicks, but his role has not been kind to fantasy managers. We all know the former MVP can still score, but head coach Tom Thibodeau hasn't asked him to do much else.

In the last four games, Rose has averaged 14.3 points on 43.1 percent shooting, 0.8 made threes, 1.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists. That kind of one-dimensional play is a killer of many fantasy teams looking for a more diverse portfolio of contributions.

If you need a boost in scoring, Rose isn't a terrible option to consider, but if you need anything else, you should leave him on the waiver.

Lou Williams Guard Atlanta Hawks

Like Rose, Williams isn't asked to do anything other than score at this point in his career. But even in the past week, he can't even do that at an elite fantasy level. Only averaging 11.8 points per game, 1.8 made threes, 2.8 assists and basically non-existent in every other category in fantasy sports.

It's safe to say that Lemon Pepper Lou's effectiveness as a fantasy star is gone.

Jusuf Nurkic Center Portland Trail Blazers

Okay, I know Trail Blazers have been trying to ease Nurkic back into the lineup and giving him restricted minutes. However, with the fantasy managers looking for that final push to the postseason, there might have to be an executive decision on whether Nurkic needs to be played or pitched.

Teams firmly in playoff position can hold out for him to be used properly again, but other managers won't be able to stomach another week of missed games and low-end production.

Bogdan Bogdanovic

USA Today

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