As the NBA goes back to work – and hopes for no more Bubble trouble – the trading team at Cloudbet, the leading crypto sportsbook and casino, breaks down the latest market movers, telling you who’s hot and who’s not in the Disney World Laboratory.
- League leaders reassert their claims over the championship: While they both dropped a game apiece during the scrimmages, the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers showed enough to firm up their respective chances to take the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy home.
- The long layoff has benefited teams with older or injured star players: For the Lakers, the hiatus allowed Lebron James to give his 35-year-old body a solid rest. The last time he did so, for the All-Star break in February, James then went on a tear to lead his team on a 7-2 run. He certainly bounced back in style during Thursday’s thrilling nightcap win.
- For the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo – a clear favourite this season to win his second-straight Most Valuable Player award – was able to rest a sprained knee sustained in a March game against the Lakers.
- Both teams come to the restart refreshed and recharged. The Lakers are favourites to win the 2019-2020 title, with their line moving to 3.31 (~ 9/4; or +231;), from 3.34 (+234) prior to the scrimmage. Strong showings from their second and third-string players, especially in the third scrimmage game with James and Anthony Davis on the bench.
- The Bucks are just behind, at 3.45 (~ 5/2; or +245), from 3.53 (+253). Antetokounmpo clearly shone during the practice matches, with more-than-ample support from fellow starters Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez.
- Los Angeles Clippers lose ground in title race: While still third-favourite to win the championship, the Clips have been big drifters in the market since the scrimmages began.
- Among the top units, this team has been most impacted by the Covid bubble restrictions, with two key players (Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley) in quarantine after temporary family-related absences.
- Williams, the Clips’ leader in assists, was pilloried in social media for a much-publicised and ill-advised visit to an Atlanta strip club while on leave.
- Another player, Montrezl Harrel, has yet to return from family leave.
- This means a much diminished squad takes on the Lakers in their restart opener on July 30, and they’re unlikely to be back at full strength until at least the second week of the rebooted competition – that’s tough, given that there are only eight seeding match-ups to play.
- With these travails in mind, bets on the Clips to win it all are currently paying 4.15 (~ 3/1; or +315). Their probability of a championship now stands at 24.1%, roughly a percentage point lower than before the practice scrimmages began.
- Houston Rockets cement their status among the top four title favourites: Even though they ended the pre-Covid season with the league’s 10th-best win-loss record, the Rockets have worked their way in as fourth-favourites to win the title.
. One train of thought has it that they more than others will benefit from the long break: four of their key players, including stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook are 30 or older, and the shorter season will shelter them from the extended wear-and-tear of a normal season.
- Harden worked out like a fiend during the layoff, coming to Disneyworld with a noticeably slimmer physique. Already the league’s top scorer this season, he unsurprisingly led his team’s point production over the three scrimmage matches.
- Westbrook was a question mark after testing positive for Covid in mid-July, but emerged from the NBA’s quarantine protocol in time to play solid minutes in all of his team’s three scrimmages.
- Houston’s odds of a championship this season firmed over the past week to 15.1 (~ 14/1; or +1415) from 15.6 (+1460).
- One setback emerged this week, with starter Eric Gordon injuring his ankle during H-Town’s victory over Boston. No clear movement in prices yet, as the market awaits test results to determine his immediate playing future.
- Toronto Raptors gain ground in title race: The defending champions’ performance this season prior to the league’s suspension (72% win rate) shows that they’re still a force to be reckoned with even after losing star player Kawhi Leonard to the Clippers.
. The Raps won two out of their three scrimmages, which also saw the return of center Marc Gasol, who spent the hiatus rehabbing his dodgy hamstrings and dropping a significant amount of weight.
- Clipper odds for a repeat championship have narrowed from 18 to 16.9 (~ 17/1; or +1591).
- They’ve now displaced the Boston Celtics at fifth in the outright lists to take the title.
- New Orleans firms up its chances for a playoff spot in the West: The Pelicans won its three practice match-ups, including a 21-point drubbing of the Bucks on July 27, all without its star rookie Zion Williamson, who had been in quarantine following a family-related absence from the bubble.
. The big news this week was Williamson resuming practice, an appearance warmly welcomed by teammates: He’s the Pellies’ second-highest scorer and has missed 44 games this season due to knee and ankle injuries.
- His return plus a solid scrimmage showing has improved the prospects for their performance in the West (see below).
- Also increases the interest over the tussle for the final play-off spot in that conference. The Memphis Grizzlies are current favourites to take that spot, paying 1.64 (~ 4/6; or -156), with New Orleans next at 3.81 (~ 11/4; or +281).
- Western Conference outcomes have been reframed, thanks to the above reasons: The Clippers’ personnel issues means they’ve lost the slim edge they previously had over the Lakers as favourites to take the West.
- Team Lebron is now tops with odds of 2.58 (~ 6/4; or +158) over the Clips at 2.66 (~ 13/8; or +166).
- The biggest improvement in fortunes belongs to the Rockets, with a line of 7.28 (~ 6/1; or +628) currently giving them a 13.7% chance of winning the conference, or 2.1 percentage points higher than before scrimmages began.
- The other big move was New Orleans: While they’re still unfancied as conference champs, their line moved from 54.6 into 31.1 (~ 30/1; or +3013).
NBA quarantine protocol:
New NBA protocol implies that players could be tested as often as daily during this resumption. If a player has a confirmed positive test, he must undergo treatment and rest for at least 14 days without exercising. In order to return, the player must pass cardiac exams and also test negative for the coronavirus twice in a 24-hour period.
On July 21, the NBA reported zero cases of the coronavirus following the testing of 346 players, and the league has gone three weeks without a positive result.
Prices are as compiled by Cloudbet and are current as of 4pm HK time on July 30