Okay, so if you’re one to bet on the NBA and NHL during their pandemic-marred 2019-2020 seasons, you have a nice, little sample size on what to expect for a full year of potential bubbles, games behind closed doors, and other oddities.
Expect the entire NBA and NHL seasons to remain the way they did in the bubble over the latter portions of their seasons, plus the playoffs. Not that we won’t see the teams back in their home arenas playing in front of thousands of fans.
But for intents and purposes, let’s play the conservative card until league brass states otherwise.
This post will cover six tips that you can use when betting on NBA and NHL games for the 2020-21 season, which should begin in December 2020 or January 2021. So if you’re betting on your favorite teams, this is a post to pay attention to.
Expect Potential Sports Betting Abnormalities
You can place the winning bet that no one saw a four-month stoppage in play would occur, but that’s exactly what the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak brought to the sports landscape. And while the bubble theory worked well, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let your guard down.
In any strange season, the unexpected can always occur. Look for abbreviated training camps and lack of preseason to put a strange damper on every team playing this season. Expect a longer learning curve for the league’s rookies, expect opt-outs, and other curveballs.
While it isn’t likely that we will see another stoppage in play, never rule it out. If it happened once, it can easily happen again.
So when you’re looking to bet on the NBA and NHL seasons, expect some strange and mysterious things to happen. Track player opt-outs, rookie progress, playing venues, and any potential unexpected disruption to the NBA season.
The same goes for the upcoming NHL season. You will see a similar setup to what occurred when the league restarted back in August and like the NBA, player opt-outs are likely. Given the circumstances of COVID-19 and travel, expect little exchange between the NHL and their AHL affiliates.
While the players are against a full-time bubble environment because of revenue losses, you also can’t rule it out. We should eventually see teams in their home arenas, but we won’t know how many fans the league will allow.
Expect Cellar Dwellers to Heat Up
The Phoenix Suns proved this one last season when they became the only team in the bubble to win all of their games. It resulted in the lowly team many experts proclaimed as “just happy to be there” to come within a game of making the NBA playoffs.
That said, you can probably throw out your NBA and NHL preview magazines when they hit the store and online shelves. With the potential lack of home-court or home-ice advantage, player opt-outs, and potential disruptions in the schedule as seen in the NFL and MLB, it is anything goes this season.
The only question is: Who will be this season’s version of the Phoenix Suns?
Expect the League’s Best to Grow Cold
And as with expecting potential Cinderella stories, you can also expect some potential collapses among powerful teams with new coaches, front office, and player personnel.
While it’s still a safe measure to bet that the LA Lakers and Tampa Bay Lightning will still rule their respective leagues, it’s also safe to bet that more than a few teams will collapse.
Where is the proof?
It’s right there with the Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Toronto Raptors in the NBA. All of whom collapsed in the bubble, prompting the fourth-seeded Miami Heat to earn a trip to the NBA Finals.
This will hold especially true in the NHL if they keep the same playoff format for another season. Some of the league’s best teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, Nashville Predators (courtesy of the Arizona Coyotes), and Toronto Maple Leafs collapsed early.
A sixth-seeded team, the New York Islanders, played Cinderella in the bubble, knocking off the third-seeded Washington Capitals and the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers, guaranteeing the 45th season since the Flyers’ last Cup.
So, when you’re betting on NHL playoff games, Stanley Cup appearances, and the ultimate Stanley Cup Champion, just as with the NBA, know that a few curveballs are coming to those top-ranked teams this season.
If a COVID outbreak stops a team from playing for a couple of weeks or if the games are still on yet their top players test positive and are forced to sit out, you can expect a strange NHL and NBA season. Stay on top of things, because those top-ranked teams may suffer.
But even if COVID is not a factor in roster shuffling, the sheer atmosphere can change a lot of things for the upcoming season.
Don’t Expect Revamped Teams to Contend
So, you can expect teams who finished in the league’s cellar to potentially contend, and you can also expect teams among the league’s elite to fall flat on their faces. In the last two subheadings, I discussed your stable franchises.
But what about those franchises who saw a roster makeover, new coaching staffs, and a new front office? What should you make of them?
If you’re placing a bet on them, it’s wise to bet against them. And if you can turn to proof anywhere, it is in NFL sports betting, where I’ve never seen such a discrepancy between the league’s best and worst teams in my near-three decades of following the sport.
In the NHL, the same holds true with the Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks, Washington Capitals, Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars, and New Jersey Devils.
Again, you’ll find a few teams were contenders, with the Stars earning a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. But with new coaches often come new systems and learning curves. Also, new coaching staffs also love to bring in new players who fit their system.
The above teams are hard to bet on, even if the talent is there for them to make a run.
As for teams who have the same coaching staff in place but faced roster makeovers, miracles occur, but it’s never safe to place a bet and hope for a miracle.
Don’t Expect Home Court or Home Ice Advantage
At least early in the season. This could always change, but let’s assume limited crowd numbers, at least for the upcoming season.
Perhaps we will see teams return to somewhat decent arena capacity in 2020. But let’s play the conservative card and think otherwise until our eyes see packed houses again. Until then, teams with the greatest home-court and home-ice advantage will lack it.
Similar to what we saw in the MLB and NFL, it’s safe to bet the players must motivate themselves other than feeding off the hometown crowd’s energy. So at least in the early stages of the season, don’t expect the home team to hold an advantage.
If the seasons begin in a bubble atmosphere, this is a given. But even with limited fan attendance to say, 500 to 1,000 fans, don’t expect the hometown crowd to make much of a dent in swaying the game toward their team.
Until we at least see a respectable number of fans in attendance, it’s safe to bet on each game as if they’re played in a neutral spot, as during the NBA and NHL playoffs.
Expect Lower Seeds to Advance in the Playoffs
We saw a preview of this in both the NBA and NHL, so when you’re betting on playoff matchups, don’t make the sports betting mistake of not considering the upset.
But if you see both teams with winning records or the lower-seeded team playing the higher seeds tough during the regular season in the projected environment, we may see more than a few upsets. That said, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to see the fourth-seeded Miami Heat advance to the NBA Finals.
Or the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks struggle with lower-seeded opponents. Ditto for the NHL, especially in the round-robin portion of their playoffs in which teams like the Coyotes pulled off major upsets against heavy favorites.
If there is one common denominator listed here, it’s expecting the unexpected during the 2020-21 NBA and NHL seasons. In the sports betting landscape, it also means that we can rule out factors like home court/ice advantage.
Projected favorites could falter, and we may see our fair share of Cinderella stories. Of course, for those of us looking to eek out a profit in the betting landscape, it means we’re looking at quite a chess game here.
But expect an abnormal season and don’t write off the underdogs this season. Especially if a potential COVID outbreak causes scheduling disruptions or sidelines a few star players for an upcoming contest.
If there is one thing to place a winning wager on it’s that this is poised to be an interesting season.