NBA Champion Opportunities: Lakers, Clippers, Bucks Are 2020’s Best NBA Finals Candidates In The Bubble
The odds of winning this year’s NBA Championship haven’t changed much, even though the title is decided in an unprecedented environment. No one is sure how exactly the NBA bubble will affect the 2019-20 NBA playoffs, but one thing remains clear.
According to most sports books, if you’re not the Lakers, the Bucks or the Clippers, you have little to no chance of winning this year’s NBA Championship.
MORE: Everything You Need To Know About The NBA Bubble
The Lakers were favorites to win the 2019-20 NBA Championship when they landed Anthony Davis in June to pair him with LeBron James. Many sports books subsequently put the Clippers as the title favorites after landing both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in free service. As Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks worked their way to the best NBA record before the season was suspended on March 11, Milwaukee joined the LA teams on top of the championship odds boards.
As the NBA season in Orlando continues after a nearly five-month hiatus amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the same three teams are the most popular choices to win the title despite such a unique scenario. Partly because the Clippers are facing a number of roster problems, the Lakers and Bucks are now the co-favorites to win the championship.
Below is the full list of NBA championship odds for each of the 22 teams in the Orlando bubble, plus a breakdown of the top five contenders.
NBA Championship Opportunities 2020
Thanks to Sports Insider, below are the odds for all 22 teams in the NBA bubble to win the 2019-20 championship.
|Los Angeles Lakers||+225|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+300|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+10000|
|Portland Trail Blazers||+25000|
|Pelicans from New Orleans||+25000|
|San Antonio Spurs||+50000|
The list of NBA bubble teams consists of the 16 teams that were in the playoffs based on NBA leaderboards when the season was suspended in March, plus the six teams that were six games or less behind in eighth place in their respective conferences.
Those six teams are the Pelicans, Trail Blazers, Suns, Kings, Spurs and Wizards, so the 2019-20 seasons for the Hornets, Bulls, Knicks, Pistons, Hawks, Cavaliers, Timberwolves and Warriors have ended prematurely.
After each team has played eight seeding games through August 14, the playoffs – normally formatted despite all the games played in Orlando – begin. Game 7 of the NBA Finals (if required) is scheduled for October 12.
Below is the outlook for each of the top five teams based on the NBA Odds Board Championship.
Lakers championship opportunities
Some have said that this is James’ best chance of winning his fourth NBA championship, even if it’s only his first season with Davis in Los Angeles. Part of the reason is the fact that for the most part the Lakers have continuity on their side, as opposed to the challenges faced by the Clippers in the Western Conference.
The Lakers don’t have a strong defender in Avery Bradley after he decided not to participate in the NBA season restart, and Rajon Rondo is working back from a broken thumb. That will put a little more on the likes of Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso (and James, of course) to pick up the clearance on the perimeter defensively, as the Lakers can’t expect much help in that area from recent roster additions JR Smith and Dion Waiters.
The bottom line is that the Lakers started clicking in March when the season was suspended, hence their No. 1 is to the west and the core of the roster remains intact.
The question is whether they can rediscover their stride and whether the star power of James and Davis is stronger than that of Leonard and George and / or Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.
Bucks champion opportunities
The Bucks are a strange case, as few seem afraid of the deer, although Milwaukee dominated opponents before the season was suspended.
Led by a cheat code from a player in Antetokounmpo, the potential NBA MVP, the Bucks rolled in their 65 games through March 11 to a difference of +11.2 points in their 65 games, easily the best in the league for the Lakers at +7.4 and the Clippers at +6.5. They are also defending a top-five team, allowing an average of 107.4 points per game.
Perhaps the most important thing in this strange NBA bubble situation, Milwaukee is blowing the LA contenders out of the water in terms of continuity. For the time being, notable Bucks players are not expected to miss any matches during the restart of the season. In addition, Antetokounmpo and Middleton have played together for seven seasons.
If the Bucks can stay healthy, there’s no reason to believe they can’t be as strong in Orlando as they were before the season was suspended. That is specifically the case for the Greek freak, who scored 67 points in 61 minutes of scrimmage time leading up to the restart.
Clippers championship opportunities
Many consider the Clippers the most talented team in the NBA because of their Leonard-George duo. If that pair clicks in Orlando and the team finds the groove it was looking for before the season was suspended, the Lakers and Bucks should be concerned.
The problem for the Clippers is that they haven’t had the time this season to build up the chemistry that the Lakers and Bucks take advantage of. Both George and Leonard have missed games due to injuries or tax management, and a few key players in Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson only joined the squad in February.
The Clippers have also faced a number of speed bumps entering Orlando as five of their top 10 players, including Patrick Beverly and Montrezl Harrell, have missed time after late arrivals and leaving the NBA bubble.
The good news for LA is that Leonard and George have not had such problems. The Clippers are counting on those guys to do the work they were signed to last summer.
Celtics championship odds
Yes, there has been a significant increase in the chances of the NBA Championship from Milwaukee to Boston in the Eastern Conference, but the Celtics should feel pretty good about their chances in the NBA bubble.
No notable Boston player will miss the restart and the core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward, Daniel Theis, Marcus Smart, Enes Kanter and Brad Wanamaker have built solid chemistry this season. This is also one of the best defensive teams in the league as the 106.8 points allowed per game are second after Toronto 106.5.
However, Celtics duo Tatum-Brown is not as strong as the couples leading the NBA’s top three. Boston also hopes that Walker’s knee problems won’t flare up in the bubble, a development likely to mark the team’s demise.
Rockets Championship opportunities
If for some reason a small ball is more beneficial in the NBA bubble environment than before the season was suspended, the Rockets will be up and running.
As usual, Houston goes as James Harden (and to a lesser extent Russell Westbrook) goes. They can certainly get hot, which is why General Manager Daryl Morey is so publicly convinced of his team’s chances of winning the NBA Championship.
The Rockets are in the NBA bubble without Thabo Sefolosha after he decided to forgo, but the bigger problem is Eric Gordon’s recent ankle injury. This team is hard to read, but while they have some promising aspects, there’s a reason Houston has entered the Orlando bubble as the number 6 in the West.