When the NBA resumes its 2019-20 season in late July, there will be five Western Conference teams with a realistic shot at earning the eighth and final playoff spot. Memphis currently holds the No. 8 position and four others are within four games of the Grizzlies.
In my opinion, one team has a greater chance of securing the No. 8 seed than all the rest. Before deciding whether my conclusion is sound, one must understand the format for the remainder of the season.Return to Play Plan
When NBA commissioner Adam Silver, team owners, and the NBA players association met to determine how to complete the 2019-20 season, there was no shortage of ideas. Ultimately, the powers-at-be decided to finish the regular season, include a play-in tournament, and incorporate a postseason.
When the season restarts at the end of July, the 22 teams that were invited to Orlando will each play eight regular season games. Once those games are finished, the top eight seeds in each conference can be determined.
The idea of a play-in tournament received an overwhelming amount of support If the No. 9 seed finishes within four games of the No. 8 seed at the conclusion of the regular-season, the two teams will meet in a two-game play-in tournament.
The No. 8 seed has to win just one game while the No. 9 seed must win two in order to claim the eighth and final playoff spot. Once the top eight teams are set, the postseason will continue as normal with seven-game series in each round to determine the NBA champion.
Understanding the Return to Play Plan, bettors can find the best value bets while also finding a longshot in the mix.Playing It Safe
Mathematically, the remainder of the season favors the Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis (32-33) checks as a modest favorite to make the postseason. The Grizzlies will earn the No. 8 seed (-190 at BetOnline
) as they are seven games behind seventh-place Dallas Mavericks. It’s difficult to imagine a scenario under which Memphis makes up seven games on the Mavericks.
The Grizzlies can go 0-8 (+550 for any team to go 0-8 after restart at BetOnline
) and still finish with the eighth seed if the other teams involved – New Orleans, Portland, Sacramento, and San Antonio – go 3-5 or worse. The likelihood of four teams going 3-5 or worse does not seem all that probable until you consider the opponents.
The final eight games for the 22 remaining teams will be against very good teams. There will be games against the Lakers, Clippers, and Rockets, for example. When you think of it that way, four teams at the bottom of the conference going 3-5 is possible.
With rookie Ja Morant at the point, it’s hard to imagine the Grizzlies losing eight straight. Morant is shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor and averaging 17.6 points and 6.9 assists for the season. Morant and New Orleans star Zion Williamson are the top two candidates for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year.
Memphis is worth a consideration for grabbing the No. 8 seed in the West.The Longshot
Of the five teams realistically in the mix – Phoenix trails Memphis by six games and should not be a factor – one stands out as the best of the underdog bets.
Portland is given +450 odds at BetOnline
to make the playoffs and if you’re willing to take the risk, is worth a wager. The big reason why is the return of two Trail Blazers that will make a difference up front – Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins.
The Trail Blazers backcourt is outstanding with perennial All-Star Damian Lillard (28.9 ppg, 7.8 apg) and C.J. McCollum (22.5 ppg) running the offense. Portland’s issue is on defense where both Nurkic (7-feet) and Collins (6-11) can shine.
All Portland has to do is maintain its hold on ninth place. Currently, Portland, New Orleans, and Sacramento are tied for ninth place. They are all 3.5 games behind No. 8 Memphis. Remember, the format … if the eighth-place team is within four games, there is a play-in tournament.
But, what if all three teams remain tied? Who advances? That would be Portland. Yes, the Pelicans beat the Trail Blazers in all four matchups this season, but the Trail Blazers would still get the nod to advance. The tiebreaker, in this case, is winning percentage. Heading into the remainder of the season, Portland has a .439 winning percentage. New Orleans and Sacramento are tied at .438.
With Portland in ninth place at the end of the regular season, they would then have to beat Memphis twice to advance to the playoffs. In the two teams’ only meeting this season, Memphis won 111-104. However, that game was played with Nurkic and Collins. That pair makes Portland a solid bet to advance to the postseason.