This article is part of our Handicapping the NBA series.
We're still roughly a month-and-a-half away from the resumption of the 2019-20 NBA season, but that doesn't mean you can't start zeroing in on some betting angles.
Oddsmakers have been forced to adjust for some unprecedented variables as the league returns to play, and our friends at the Fanduel Sportsbook have issued updated odds on several team outcomes and individual end-of-season awards.
NBA Finals Winner
|Milwaukee: +240||LA Lakers: +260|
|LA Clippers: +340||Houston: +1300|
|Boston: +2000||Toronto: +2400|
|Denver: +2500||Miami: +2700|
|Philadelphia: +2700||Utah: +2900|
|Dallas: +3600||Indiana: +10000|
|Oklahoma City: +10000||New Orleans: +12000|
As has been the case for virtually the entire season, the Bucks (+240), Lakers (+260) and Clippers (+340) are on a tier of their own at the top. For all of the uncertainty brought on by the delay of the season, it would remain a major surprise if Milwaukee doesn't meet one of the Los Angeles teams in the Finals.
The next tier is quite a bit thicker, with seven teams holding odds between 13/1 (Houston) and 29/1 (Utah). The Rockets' position as the third-best bet in the West is interesting and likely speaks to the unpredictability – and, in turn, upside – of a team that relies so heavily on isolation and three-point shooting. That all-or-nothing approach has haunted Houston in the past. But as the numbers indicate, there's a belief that if any team out West can pull off an upset, it might be the Rockets – even if that would mean vanquishing both LA teams before a (likely) meeting with Milwaukee in the Finals.
In the East, oddsmakers see Boston (20/1) and Toronto (24/1) as having the best chance to topple Milwaukee, but Miami (27/1) and Philadelphia (27/1) are close behind. As has been the case all year, there's not much of a consensus as to which of those is the second-best team behind the Bucks. Both the Heat and Sixers have had varying degrees of success against the conference juggernaut, but taking down Giannis and Co. four times in seven tries will be a monumental task.
Also of note is the absence of the Pacers from that secondary Eastern Conference tier. Indiana is all the way down at 100/1, despite holding the same 39-26 record as Philly and trailing Miami by just 2.0 games. The same gap is reflected in Fanduel's Conference Winner odds, with Indiana sitting back at 29/1.
Eastern Conference Winner
|Milwaukee: -175||Boston: +700|
|Toronto: +800||Miami: +900|
|Philadelphia: +900||Indiana: +2900|
|Brooklyn: +8000||Orlando: +10000|
Western Conference Winner
|LA Lakers: +160||LA Clippers: +190|
|Houston: +700||Denver: +1000|
|Utah: +1300||Dallas: +1600|
|Oklahoma City: +3500||New Orleans: +6500|
|Portland: +8500||Memphis: +11000|
|Sacramento: +16000||San Antonio: +18000|
If you're looking to pick the exact matchup in the NBA Finals, Fanduel offers 39 different options ranging from Bucks-Lakers at +300 to Magic-Clippers at +25,000 (would not recommend).
NBA Finals Matchup
|Bucks-Lakers: +300||Bucks-Clippers: +370|
|Bucks-Rockets: +1100||Bucks-Nuggets: +1600|
|Celtics-Lakers: +1900||Bucks-Jazz: +2100|
|Raptors-Lakers: +2200||Celtics-Clippers: +2300|
|Heat-Lakers: +2500||76ers-Lakers: +2500|
|Bucks-Mavericks: +2600||Raptors-Clippers: +2600|
|Heat-Clippers: +2800||76ers-Clippers: +2800|
|Celtics-Rockets: +5500||Bucks-Thunder: +5500|
|Raptors-Rockets: +6000||Heat-Rockets: +6500|
|76ers-Rockets: +6500||Pacers-Lakers: +7000|
|Celtics-Nuggets: +8000||Pacers-Clippers: +8000|
|Raptors-Nuggets: +9000||Celtics-Jazz: +10000|
Milwaukee being involved in five of the six lowest odds is no coincidence. For as talented as the top of the East is this season, there remains a sizable gap between the Bucks and the rest of the field.
Oddsmakers do see the Lakers as slight favorites out West, but the gulf between the Los Angeles teams is relatively minuscule. That Fanduel views Bucks-Jazz (21/1) as a more likely matchup than Raptors-Lakers (22/1) speaks volumes about the overall confidence that Milwaukee can pick up where it left off.
Fanduel also offers odds on whether the bubble teams in each conference will ultimately qualify for the playoffs following the eight-game finish to the regular season.
To Quality for Playoffs
Unsurprisingly, Memphis is the favorite to hold on to its current eighth spot in the West, but New Orleans (+360) and Portland (+420) aren't too far behind.
In the East, Orlando and Brooklyn are each heavy favorites to stave off Washington. Currently sitting 5.5 games back, the Wizards' best hope is to climb within 4.0 games of the eighth seed and take their chances in the subsequent play-in "tournament". The format would require the ninth seed to beat the eighth seed in two consecutive games to steal the final playoff spot.
Player Awards Futures
In terms of individual bets, Fanduel posts wagering opportunities for five of the major season-long awards: MVP, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, and Most Improved Player.
Most Valuable Player
|Giannis Antetokounmpo: -2000||LeBron James: +1100|
|James Harden: +8000||Luka Doncic: +8000|
|Anthony Davis: +9500||Kawhi Leonard: +9500|
|Damian Lillard: +10000||Nikola Jokic: +10000|
|Russell Westbrook: +10000|
LeBron James may have started a conversation about the MVP back in March, but any chance James had to catch Antetokounmpo disappeared as soon as the season was suspended. Even if things had continued as normal, Antetokounmpo likely would've cruised to a second straight MVP with relative ease. Now, it's a virtual lock.
Rookie of the Year
The Rookie of the Year award followed a similar narrative to MVP before the shutdown. Ja Morant was probably going to win, but Zion Williamson was building his case on a night-to-night basis. With only eight more games before votes are cast, Williamson, who's played only 19 games to date, simply won't have time to narrow the gap.
Defensive Player of the Year
|Giannis Antetokounmpo: -140||Anthony Davis: +105|
|Rudy Gobert: +1400||Ben Simmons: +6000|
|Brook Lopez: +6000||Kawhi Leonard: +6000|
|Joel Embiid: +9000||Hassan Whiteside: +10000|
|Jimmy Butler: +10000|
Here is where things start to get a little more interesting. Antetokounmpo is the favorite to take home the award, but not by much. It's essentially a two-horse race, with Rudy Gobert (14/1) trailing the top two by a sizable margin.
Both Antetokounmpo and Davis have been fantastic on the defensive end this season. One helms the best defensive unit in the NBA, while the other protects the paint for the third-ranked defense, while also leading the league in combined blocks and steals.
Voters really can't get this one wrong, but it's worth noting that if Antetokounmpo were to win both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, he'd join Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players in league history to accomplish the feat in the same season.
Sixth Man of the Year
A three-man race between Schroder, Harrell and Williams, the value lies in the two Clippers players. Schroder has enjoyed a surprisingly resurgent year playing behind Chris Paul, but voters may ultimately give Harrell the edge for his contributions to a potential title team. This one is probably a stay-away.
Most Improved Player
|Bam Adebayo: -140||Brandon Ingram: +260|
|Luka Doncic: +550||Jayson Tatum: +1000|
|Devonte' Graham: +1100||Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: +2700|
|Trae Young: +2700||Davis Bertans: +10000|
|Domantas Sabonis: +10000||Fred VanVleet: +10000|
|Jaylen Brown: +10000||Lonzo Ball: +10000|
|Markelle Fultz: +10000||Pascal Siakam: +10000|
This is easily the most interesting awards race of the season. In a typical year, any of the top-seven players above would have a strong case to take home the award. And the same could even be said about some of the players – like Domantas Sabonis and Fred VanVleet – in the +10,000 cluster.
As the numbers indicate, Adebayo and Ingram are the projected top-two, and it's hard to argue against that. Adebayo made his first All-Star Game and emerged as one of the best young two-way players in the league this season. Meanwhile, Ingram completely flipped the narrative on his career, transforming his offensive profile and becoming a lethal scorer at every level. Choosing between the two is an impossible task.
Even bigger names lie beyond the top-two, with Luka Doncic (+550), Jayson Tatum (+1000) and Trae Young (+2700) lurking as dark-horse contenders. All three were All-Stars this season, but their respective leaps were more in line with expectations than Adebayo's or Ingram's.
Right or wrong, this award historically rewards players whose improvement was less anticipated.