NBA Resumes in July – Then What?
The National Basketball Association was roughly 80 percent of the way through its season before the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, forced a halt to the proceedings. As of this point, it’s unclear if play will resume and under what conditions. And if it does return, at some point after June according to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, then there will be reverberating effects for the following season, slated to begin in October. And here could be the silver lining in all of this. A revamped NBA schedule which allows players more rest due to fewer games and thus renders a better product for the fans.
However, fewer games mean less revenue and that’s a bitter pill for any business to swallow. But the truth be told, the early part of the NBA season gets overshadowed by the granddaddy of North American sports – the NFL. There is also the NHL gearing up and playoff baseball in October that steals the media spotlight from professional basketball.
In fact, if we listen to former NBA player Jay Williams, currently an ESPN commentator, we can see that he believes changing the landscape to something more palatable for the players and ultimately a better product for the fans makes perfect sense.
“Unless you’re a die-hard basketball fan, we don’t have people pay attention to the NBA [in October and November] unless there are crazy storylines that come out,” Williams told CNBC. “We don’t have people pay attention to basketball until we get to Christmas Day; the kickoff season for basketball, in my opinion.”
And Williams is not alone in his opinion. Atlanta Hawks COO, Steve Koonin, speaking at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, also remarked that Christmas is a much more natural starting point than October.
“Many times, at the start of the NBA season, we are competing with arguably the best Thursday Night Football game with the NBA on TNT, our marquee broadcast, and we get crushed and we wonder why,” Koonin said, according to ESPN. “It’s because, at the beginning of the season, there’s very little relevance for the NBA.”
Which Teams Likely to Improve?
If we cruise on over to SportsbookReview (SBR), we can see how the oddsmakers are dealing with the NBA Championship.
Odds to Win the 2020 NBA Championship
- Los Angeles Lakers +225
- Milwaukee Bucks +225
- Los Angeles Clippers +300
- Boston Celtics +1200
- Houston Rockets +2000
- Toronto Raptors +2500
- Denver Nuggets +3300
- Philadelphia 76ers +3300
- Miami Heat +4000
- Dallas Mavericks +5000
- Utah Jazz +5000
- Brooklyn Nets +6600
- Indiana Pacers +8000
- Oklahoma City Thunder +10000
- Memphis Grizzlies +25000
- New Orleans Pelicans +25000
- Portland Trail Blazers +25000
- Orlando Magic +50000
- Phoenix Suns +50000
- Sacramento Kings +50000
- San Antonio Spurs +50000
If you are counting, you will notice there are 21 of 30 teams with corresponding odds to win the title while the remaining nine clubs are so hopelessly out of contention that they have been removed from consideration, despite the Golden State Warriors being the only team mathematically eliminated.
Yet the prevailing NBA odds make sense in that the two top contenders this year, the Beasts of the East – Milwaukee Bucks, and the Best in the West – Los Angeles Lakers, are the favorites to take home the hardware this season. And this respite, however long it might last, will undoubtedly benefit the Lakers and their living legend, LeBron James. At age 35, King James is getting a bit long in the tooth and has taken a statistical backseat to the young heir to the throne, Anthony Davis. Of course, the unexpected sabbatical will allow every player, young and old, to recuperate from the bumps and bruises that manifest over the course of an arduous 82-game season. However, veteran players benefit the most and there is no bigger or better veteran than LeBron James and when he does inevitably return, we can expect the Lakers to be heavy favorites against all but a few, select teams.
But according to James, he’s far from a fan of restarting the season, especially if the games will be played in empty arenas, without fans in the seats as a social distancing precaution.
“I ain’t playing. I ain’t got the fans in the crowd? That’s who I play for,” James stated to USA Today. “I play for my teammates; I play for the fans — that’s what it’s all about.”
James further elaborated, “If I show up to an arena and there are no fans in there, I ain’t playing. They can do what they want to do.”