Are the Miami Heat in danger of missing out on a playoff berth after winning the Eastern Conference crown last season? Will the Heat be beat out by conference title hopefuls in Philadelphia, Boston and Milwaukee or will Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets emerge in the suddenly competitive East?
Out west, there’s only one question that needs to be answered. Can anyone stop LeBron James and the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers as they attempt to repeat? With the NBA regular season rolling into Week 6, it’s time for some early betting predictions for the long-off NBA playoffs. With that in mind, let’s get right to it so you can plan ahead your bets and place them against their NBA Playoffs odds.
Early Betting Predictions for 2020-21 NBA Playoffs
Eastern Conference Playoff Participants
As it stands right now, I’ve got Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Boston, Indiana, Atlanta, the NY Knicks and Cleveland as Eastern Conference playoff participants. Brooklyn is the prohibitive favorite to win the Eastern Conference crown, but I don’t think the Nets are ‘locks’ to come out of the East despite their trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. Case in pint, Brooklyn is off to a modest 10-8 start and ranks a dismal 27th in points allowed (116.8 ppg) to almost neutralize the 120.3 points per game they average (2nd).
I’m expecting Milwaukee (10-6) and Boston (9-6) to challenge Brooklyn for the Eastern Conference championship. As far as Miami is concerned, the Heat (6-9) have some legitimate concerns right now. Miami ranks an uninspiring 21st in scoring (109.3 ppg) and points allowed (113.1 ppg) and Jimmy Butler (15.8 ppg) looks exhausted even though he’s only played in six games.
For me, I love the Philadelphia 76ers and believe they could very well beat everyone in the Eastern Conference – if Ben Simmons ever gets the aggressive he is so clearly lacking. Philly ranks eighth in scoring (114.3 ppg) and 12th in points allowed (110.2 ppg) and all-star center Joel Embiid is playing at an MVP-caliber level as he’s putting up 27.7 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. Unfortunately, Simmons is averaging a pedestrian 12.9 points per game, although he is contributing 8.7 boards and 8.1 assists per game.
They’re On The Bubble
The NBA will stage a “Play-in tournament” for teams ranked seventh through 10th in each conference from May 18–21. In the East, I’m expecting Toronto, Chicago, Orlando and Miami to be right in the thick of reaching the playoffs, along with the Knicks, Hawks and a surprisingly competitive Cleveland Cavaliers team.
No Way Jose
Detroit and Washington are completely awful, but as far as Charlotte is concerned, the Hornets are mostly, just too young. The Pistons and Wizards are tied with a league-low, three victories heading into the new week. The Pistons rank 22nd in scoring (108.9 ppg) and 23rd in points allowed (113.6 ppg). Washington ranks a stellar first in scoring (120.5 ppg), but plays no defense whatsoever in ranking 30th in points allowed (121.3 ppg).
Eastern Conference Final Four
I’m going with Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Brooklyn and Boston to be the final four teams standing in the Eastern Conference. Sorry, not sorry, but I don’t see the Heat – or anyone else – cracking this group.
Western Conference Playoff Participants
I’m going with the LA Lakers, Utah, LA Clippers, Denver, Portland, Dallas, Phoenix and Golden State to all reach the Western Conference playoffs. The defending champion Lakers look even better than they did a year ago and Anthony Davis hasn’t hit his stride yet as he averages a modest 22.1 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. I like the way Utah looks early on and I believe the Jazz could challenge for an appearance in the conference finals. I’m also thinking the LA Clippers have a different and more serious – feel this season following last season’s playoff collapse.
Denver will challenge as long as they have Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray playing at a high level, but the Nuggets have looked sluggish to start this season so far. I love the near-look future in Phoenix with the Suns now a competitive team that features a bunch of young talent to go along with the newfound leadership of Chris Paul. Dallas really needs Kristaps Porzingis to get on the floor and play at a high level to help Luka Doncic, but I’m starting to think it may never happen for the talented, but off-injured big man.
Golden State has Steph Curry playing phenomenal basketball, but Kelly Oubre Jr. has struggled immensely in his first season with the Warriors and Andrew Wiggins is seriously lacking in the aggressiveness department. Last, but not least, I was excited about Portland coming into the season, but until I see the Blazers start to play some competent defense, I just can’t believe in the Blazers as much as I’d like.
It Could Happen!
I’m expecting Memphis, San Antonio and Houston to all challenge for a playoff berth out west. Not only is star point guard Ja Morant stunningly good, but I believe the young floor general has some of the best leadership skills of any young player in the league. The Grizzlies have also found a pair of ‘hidden gems’ in rookie shooting guard Desmond Bane (8.6 ppg) and rookie power forward Xavier Tillman (8.6 ppg). San Antonio doesn’t have a singe superstar, but the Spurs do have a handful of savvy veterans and some nice youth, not to mention, the best coach in the league. As far as Houston is concerned, I love gifted young big man Christian Wood (23.5 ppg) and the Rockets‘ recent addition of Victor Oladipo (20.6 ppg). John Wall (17.1 ppg) and DeMarcus Cousins (7.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg) have a chip on their collective shoulders and I love veterans, Eric Gordon and PJ Tucker.
On The Outside Looking In!
Minnesota (4-11) has a Western Conference low four victories while Sacramento is 6-10. The Timberwolves rank an identical 25th in scoring (107.1 ppg) and points allowed (115.8 ppg). The Kings have a blossoming star in point guard De’Aaron Fox (20.9 ppg) and Sacramento ranks an encouraging 12th in scoring (1124 ppg). Unfortunately, the Kings also rank 29th in points allowed (121.2 ppg).
New Orleans (5-10) has a ton of young talent, starting with Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson, but I think the Pelicans have gone from a scary up-tempo team under former head coach Alvin Gentry last season to a slower paced unit that ranks an uninspiring 23rd in scoring (108.2 ppg) and 19th in points allowed (111.5 ppg) under Stan Van Gundy this season. Oklahoma City is also going to get left on the outside looking in come playoff time, although I trust the future will be brighter for the Thunder under sage GM Sam Presti.
Western Conference Final Four
Right now, it’s looking like a final our out west featuring the LA Lakers, Utah, LA Clippers and Denver. I’m expecting Portland, Memphis and Phoenix to challenge to crack this foursome.
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