The NBA is on track to complete the 2019-20 season beginning in late July. The 22 teams selected by the league to continue the season will report to Orlando, Florida, where they will meet at the Walt Disney World Resort.
Teams will play eight regular season games and the top eight teams in each conference will once again make the postseason. There is a twist though. If the ninth place team is within four games of eighth place, the two teams will have a two-game play-in tournament to decide the No. 8 seed.
With that in mind, it’s time to take another look at the betting board. Specifically, it’s time to re-examine the odds in search of the best sleepers.
BOSTON CELTICS (+950)
The Celtics are currently third in the East and are a top-5 team in both offensive rating (112.9) and defensive rating (106.8). Their trio of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker each average over 20 points per game. Walker had missed some time with a knee injury just before the season was suspended on March 11. The time off will have him back to 100 percent.
Few teams are as balanced as the Celtics, which is an advantage that could also become a disadvantage should one of Boston’s top three scorers miss time. Still, Boston’s record against Milwaukee, Toronto, and Miami – No. 1, 2, & 4 in the East – is a collective 5-2 this season. That makes the Celtics an intriguing bet at +950.
PHILADELPHIA 76ers (+2300)
The Sixers might have the best starting five in the NBA when they are all healthy. That has been an issue this season. The break allowed Joel Embiid (23.4 ppg, 11.8 rpg) and Ben Simmons (16.7 ppg, 8.2 apg, 7.8 rpg) to heal their shoulder and back issues, respectively.
With a healthy starting five, Philadelphia could get hot and surprise some people. The 76ers would need to get hot as their offensive rating is a surprising 17th in the NBA right now. At +2300 to win it all at HRWager Sportsbook, it’s a longshot but the talent is there.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (+7000)
A real longshot is Portland. The Trail Blazers are one of four teams that will battle for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. What makes Portland a bet worth considering is the return of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins.
Nurkic was supposed to miss the entire season due to a leg injury and Collins hadn’t played since Week 1 of the regular season. The time off has allowed both to get healthy. The addition of Nurkic and Collins will be a huge plus and help Portland defensively.
With Damian Lillard (28.9 ppg, 7.8 apg) and C.J. McCollum (22.5 ppg) in the backcourt, anything is possible. Portland has to capture that eighth seed first, but the roster is built for a long and surprising playoff run, and are a team that sharp bettors should look at.
TORONTO RAPTORS (+2000)
The real sleeper bet is on defending NBA champion Toronto to repeat at +2000. Yes, the Raptors lost last year’s NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, but Toronto is outstanding on defense and the rise of Pascal Siakam (23.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.6 apg) makes them a real threat.
Toronto is second in the NBA in defensive rating (105.2) and allows the fewest points per game in the league. The Raptors also have the NBA’s best bench, one that averages over 40 points and 20 rebounds per game.
Remember, it was Toronto that ended Milwaukee’s run last year in the Eastern Conference finals. The Raptors and Bucks split two games this season. The return of Marc Gasol from a hamstring injury will allow Toronto to do what it did last year and force league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to beat the Raptors from the perimeter.
It didn’t work last year, which is why Toronto is a great sleeper bet at +2000 to win it all for the second consecutive season.