Just over a month ago, members of the Los Angeles Lakers hoisted the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. The Lakers’ championship capped off one of the strangest and most exhausting NBA seasons in recent memories.
While it seems like the season just ended, gamblers have little time to lick their wounds or celebrate their wins. Earlier this week, the NBA announced that the 2020-2021 season will tip-off on December 22.
Let’s face it, winning money gambling on basketball last season was a chore. COVID-19 completely changed the way the NBA conducted its business and altered what seemed to be a potentially profitable season.
As case numbers continue to rise in the United States, the NBA will not return to a state of normalcy. The on-the-court product will look slightly different, as will the schedule.
To get yourself ready to gamble, here are things to consider about betting on the NBA for the upcoming season.
NBA Rosters Are Still in Transitional Period
In a typical year, teams typically have around a 4.5-5 month break between seasons. But, due to COVID, that break has been cut in half.
Because of this, teams are forced to prepare for the draft, make trades, sign free agents, and ultimately finalize rosters at an alarming rate. Next season tips off in a month, and several teams still have plenty of work to do.
There’s no way to know when gamblers can expect to have complete clarity about finalized rosters. While several teams have already announced moves, the free agency period doesn’t officially begin until Sunday, November 22.
You read that correctly: free agency will begin exactly one month and one day before the season starts.
If you’re already desperate to scratch your basketball gambling itch, you should seriously consider pumping the breaks. While certain powerhouses should maintain some consistency, many rosters will look very different in a matter of weeks.
The Top Contenders Might Start Slow
The basketball season is incredibly demanding. A standard 82-game season, combined with travel and a brutal playoff schedule for the top teams, is exhausting for players.
The biggest superstar in the game, LeBron James, already came out and said he’s looking at the early stages of the season as a warm-up.
While a shorter offseason has more implications on aging stars like LeBron, expect many top teams to be cautious early on. If certain teams decide to engage in load management, those decisions will impact futures, win totals, and player props.
Futures Will Be Challenging to Hit
As it stands, the Lakers (+350) are slight favorites to win the NBA Championship. Los Angeles is followed by Milwaukee (+500) and the Clippers and Nets (+600).
Each of the top teams has already experienced several shakeups. The Lakers will feature a new point guard in Dennis Schröder, after the team shipped off Danny Green and draft capital to the OKC Thunder.
The Bucks, who are coming off another incredibly disappointing playoff performance, also made significant moves. In what many think is a hail mary to retain Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks traded for Jrue Holiday.
Milwaukee is all in on this season, as one year of Holiday cost Milwaukee Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, and 3 first-round picks.
Both of those teams should be safe bets if you’re desperate for action. But, don’t be surprised if either squad continues to make somewhat significant moves.
Meanwhile, it might be a sound decision to stay away from any of the other top contenders, to avoid any betting mistakes. Brooklyn is too unpredictable given the injuries to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Additionally, the Nets’ pursuit of James Harden makes any sort of bet completely inadvisable.
Once again, it would be best if you considered monitoring roster moves and signings as free agency continues. Until gamblers have a better idea about opening night rosters, it’s going to be tough to get proper value on futures.
Consider Starting Out With Low Volume Betting
After the 2019-2020 season resumed earlier this year, basketball fans were greeted with a different product than they are used to it.
The NBA effectively eliminated potential exposure to COVID by playing the rest of the season in isolation. The Florida bubble was highly effective, and the rest of the season went off without any significant drama. Having said that, the version of basketball the NBA gave its fans was different. That difference resulted in some confusion amongst the gambling public as everyone scrambled to figure out the bubble’s impact on outcomes.
While it seems like the NBA has a solid plan in place, there are still several irregularities that you’ll need to account for when gambling. For this reason, professional NBA gamblers should avoid high volume betting until there is a strong enough sample size to base your decisions on.
Some Superstars Will Coast Early
As I mentioned earlier, teams who made deep playoff runs will be reticent to play their rosters to their maximum capabilities. That means stars might see fewer minutes, and teams will demand more from backups and role players.
The load management movement has already dramatically altered the way teams approach the regular season. Now, it seems as though certain teams are perfectly content to play well enough to secure a decent seed without burning out stars.
That might make it challenging to predict player props and the MVP of the regular season. Giannis Antetokounmpo is listed as the favorite (+390) to repeat as MVP. Trailing closely behind is Luke Doncic (+440), who should be a potential MVP candidate for the next decade.
It’s safe to assume that both Doncic and Antetokounmpo will be firing on all cylinders in the first half of the regular season. Antetokounmpo becomes a free agent after this season and is looking to put his postseason woes behind him.
Meanwhile, Doncic will initially be without the assistance of Kristaps Porzingis, who will miss the beginning of the season. If Doncic can continue to improve and carry the Mavs to the playoffs, he will be a formidable MVP candidate to beat.
Both Giannis and Luka very well could be the outliers this season.
Many notable stars, including LeBron, Anthony Davis, James Harden, and Kawhi Leonard, could get off to slow starts.
The Clippers’ sad showing in the bubble led to the firing of head coach Doc Rivers and raised questions about team chemistry. Kawhi Leonard might have something to prove, but his notable absences on back-to-backs decreases his value as an MVP candidate.
Meanwhile, Harden is trying to negotiate his way out of Houston, and it’s unclear which jersey he will be wearing in December.
The NBA Will Be Less Impacted By COVID-19
Both the NCAA Football and NFL seasons have been a whirlwind to follow from a gambling perspective.
Under normal circumstances, Sunday mornings are reserved for fantasy lineup adjustments and last-minute wagers. Now, gamblers have to be hyper-aware of which players and even teams aren’t playing due to exposures.
COVID has dramatically changed the football gambling landscape.
But, betting on the upcoming basketball season should be slightly less unpredictable for gamblers.
The one difference between the NBA and the NFL that works in the NBA’s favorite is its smaller scope.
There are far fewer players, coaches, and team personnel to manage. Teams should be able to handle the virus more efficiently, which will provide gamblers with some consistency.
The NBA will get back to action in a matter of weeks. For some, that may provide a nice change of pace from a wild NFL season. But, others might struggle with the changes the league has made in response to COVID-19.
Before placing early bets, keep in mind that teams are still tinkering with rosters and will continue to make moves in the next few weeks.
Teams that made deep playoff runs will still be recovering, especially if their roster features aging superstars. Instead of placing ill-advised, under-informed bets, consider betting less frequently early on.
Futures will be challenging to bet on, but several potential wagers should gain value as we get closer to tip-off.
Expect teams to rely on load management to avoid fatigue and early-season injuries.
The sheer unpredictability of 2020 will require you to be locked in if you want to win money this season.