The 2020-21 NBA season has been a long, strange journey, but we are nearly to the finish line. There are just two weeks left before the play-in tournament gets underway, which should make for some compelling television before the playoffs start for real shortly thereafter.
The play-in festivities get underway on May 18. We saw a play-in tourney in the Western Conference in the bubble last year between the Trail Blazers and Grizzlies, but this year’s edition is mandatory in both conferences. The teams seeded Nos. 7 and 8 in each conference will face each other in a one-game format to determine the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. No. 9 will host No. 10, with the loser of that one game eliminated immediately. The loser of the 7-8 matchup will face the winner of the 9-10 game in order to determine the eighth and final playoff team in each conference.
While some players and owners have voiced their displeasure with the format, that’s probably a good sign that the format is already having its desired effect. Teams will spend the final couple of weeks of the season trying desperately to avoid the play-in scenario, and NBA betting sites are giving you the opportunity to wager on which teams will ultimately make it through the play-in and into the postseason.
Let’s take a look at a few potential contenders and where they stand as we get ready for the NBA playoffs.
To Make Playoffs (+155)
To Miss Playoffs (-200)
The Grizzlies have had their fair share of injuries this season, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a team that hasn’t struggled with health. Entering play on Tuesday, the Grizzlies sit in the No. 9 spot in the West at 32-32. If the season ended today, Memphis would face San Antonio in the 9-10 matchup of the play-in tournament.
The 76ers Are the Only Team in the NBA With an Easier Schedule Than the Grizzlies From Here on Out
Memphis’s remaining eight opponents have a collective winning percentage of just .422, and the schedule features five lottery-bound clubs. The only playoff teams left on the Grizzlies’ schedule are Dallas and Golden State, with that Warriors game looming large for seeding.
Memphis is building a nice young core of talent, but this team is still too inexperienced to have lofty playoff aspirations this season. The 28-year-old Jonas Valanciunas is the most experienced player on the roster, which says an awful lot. The Grizz may be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come, but they’ll face an uphill climb against Golden State, Portland, Dallas, or the LA Lakers in the second game of the play-in.
The Grizzlies have shown some fight with a 2-1 record against the Blazers so far this season, but I’d bet against this team advancing beyond the play-in at -200.
Memphis Grizzlies –Miss (-200)
Golden State Warriors
To Make Playoffs (+100)
To Miss Playoffs (-125)
The Warriors have been up-and-down all season, as evidenced by their 33-32 record as of now. That said, Golden State is one team nobody wants to see in the play-in tourney or in a playoff series. The reason for that? Steph Curry, of course. Curry has been on fire over the past month, and the former two-time MVP appears as determined as ever to try and drag his Warriors across the finish line.
Curry is a lethal enough offensive force to keep Golden State relevant against anyone, but the team’s lack of depth may ultimately cost them in the advanced stages of the postseason. Curry averaged a ridiculous 37.3 points per game in the month of April, and he’s picked up right where he left off through two games so far this month (35.5).
Golden State’s remaining schedule features three playoff teams and four non-playoff opponents, which should be favorable enough to get the Dubs into the play-in. Adam Silver and NBA TV executives everywhere are licking their chops in anticipation of a potential play-in matchup between Curry’s Warriors and the reigning champion Lakers, but we’ll see what happens.
The Warriors would be a good underdog bet to get past Portland in their current play-in matchup, but it won’t be an easy game by any means. I still think Curry’s presence alone is enough to get the Warriors through to the first round of the playoffs, especially given a potential second play-in matchup against Memphis or San Antonio.
Golden State Warriors –Make (+100)
Los Angeles Lakers
To Make Playoffs (-3300)
To Miss Playoffs (+1000)
Things aren’t going too smoothly in LA right now. The Lakers did pick up a much-needed win over Denver on Monday night, but LeBron James missed the game with a sore ankle. Dennis Schroder is also out of the lineup for the next couple of weeks due to health protocols. Anthony Davis is back, but betting on AD to remain injury-free is never a safe wager.
Last night’s win lifted the Lakers back into the No. 5 spot in the standings, which puts them a full game ahead of No. 7 Portland.
I would expect LeBron to return for LA’s next game against the Clippers on Thursday, but he has already said that he likely won’t get back to 100 percent health before the end of the campaign. Los Angeles also faces an absolutely massive game in Portland on Friday, which could go a long way toward determining whether the Lakers plummet into the play-in tourney.
The Lakers missing out on the playoffs is extremely hard to imagine, but it’s not impossible. This team just isn’t at full strength, which makes them vulnerable. I still think LeBron will be healthy enough to guide them through the play-in scenario if it comes to that, but I’m very bearish on this team’s chances of repeating as title winners if they do advance.
The Lakers will make the playoffs, but there’s no reason whatsoever to try the -3300 odds.
Los Angeles Lakers –Make (-3300)
To Make Playoffs (+155)
To Miss Playoffs (-200)
The Pacers have plenty of talent, but this team just hasn’t been able to string it together this season. Indiana is safe as far as making the play-in tournament goes, but that’s likely as far as they’ll go. Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon are All-Stars, but neither quite rises to the level of superstar.
“Things don’t seem good there right now (Indiana). I’ve heard from quite a lot of people that players aren’t super into Nate Bjorkgren. There are some issues with the way the style is there…” pic.twitter.com/GbaXqJevwA
Frankly, this team plays with a general lack of enthusiasm. So, it comes as no surprise to hear that many of the players aren’t too fond of first-year head coach Nate Bjorkgren. Most expected this to be a team competing for home-court advantage in the first round given the general weakness of the Eastern Conference, but Indy is currently four games under the .500 mark.
Boston, Charlotte, and Washington are all playing better basketball than the Pacers are at this stage of the season. I’d pick all three of them before I picked Indy to make it through to the playoffs, so bet against the Pacers at -200 here.
Indiana Pacers –Miss (-200)
San Antonio Spurs
To Make Playoffs (+340)
To Miss Playoffs (-500)
Gregg Popovich has done an admirable job this season with an inexperienced roster. San Antonio is now 2.5 games ahead of New Orleans for the 10th spot in the West and final play-in seed. If the season ended today, the Spurs would take on Memphis in the play-in.
Betting against Popovich hasn’t been a profitable endeavor over the years, but these clearly aren’t the Spurs of old. DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray could give the Blazers and their defensive woes some matchup problems, but San Antonio isn’t exactly peaking at the right time. The Spurs have lost each of their last four games as of this writing, though their recent schedule hasn’t been too easy.
The Spurs do have the NBA’s most difficult schedule the rest of the way (.624 opponent winning percentage). Just one of San Antonio’s last eight opponents is a non-playoff team, so I suppose there is still a chance the Pelicans can sneak past them in the standings. Even if the Spurs do slide into a play-in spot, this is pretty clearly the worst team in the Western Conference field. The Spurs’ -500 odds of missing the postseason look fair.
San Antonio Spurs –Miss (-500)
To Make Playoffs (+140)
To Miss Playoffs (-180)
The Hornets recently got LaMelo Ball back from his wrist injury, which is obviously helpful to their playoff case. Gordon Hayward is still out, which leaves Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham with an awful lot of offensive responsibility. Miles Bridges was also just lost due to health protocols, which puts another dent in Charlotte’s wing rotation.
Hornets list Miles Bridges out with health and safety protocols tonight vs. Detroit.
Charlotte is just 31-33 on the year, but they would face a winnable matchup against Boston if the play-in was held today. The Celtics seem to have all sorts of chemistry issues, so I don’t think it’s impossible that a motivated Hornets squad could pull the upset there. If they lose, however, they’ll likely face either Washington or Indiana for the No. 8 seed.
The Wizards are playing so well right now that it’s hard to imagine Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal, and co. being denied. Charlotte could hope to get lucky and take on Indiana, but a matchup against Washington looks more likely as of now. I do think the Hornets have a good enough chance of ousting the Celtics to be worth a flier at +140 to make the playoffs, but they’re a much safer bet to miss out at -180.
Charlotte Hornets –Miss (-180)
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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