Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:53 AM

NBA Eighth-Seed Picks, Predictions, Odds for Restart

2020 NBA Restart
Who will be the No. 8 Seed?

With the plan to get back on the court fully realized in the NBA now, bettors now have an opportunity to figure out what type of results this unique format will bring.

That's because this format that the NBA came out with, one where it was only fair to give all those teams lurking for a playoff spot in the West a shot at getting in, ultimately ran into some fairness problems, and now we get this interesting market where betting on the final team in the playoffs becomes a highly intriguing question.
See, once the NBA decided that a #8 vs #9 play-in series was possible for a 9th seed that finished within four games of the 8th seed, you automatically have to have at least nine teams from each conference involved. So an idea that was hatched to give Western teams like Portland, New Orleans, and Sacramento a shot at playing themselves in, actually forced that Western field of teams to grow because the league needed that 9th place team from the East – Washington – to be involved.
That in turn forced the league to come up with the statement/rule that any team that was within six games of the final playoff spot in their conference would be continuing the season, bringing San Antonio and Phoenix to the bubble life as well.
In the end, we get a three-team race in the East, and a seven-team race in the West, and from a betting perspective, they couldn't require more different strategies. And even still, this is still going to be a situation that's entirely different then anything we've ever seen before, and who knows how any of these teams will react to playing basketball in a bubble with no fans. That in itself could lead to some surprising betting results in the end, and maybe one of those occurs in these races for eighth.

Eastern Conference
Race for 8th Predictions

Odds to win the 8th Seed

  • Brooklyn (-110)
  • Orlando (+100)
  • Washington (+2500)

Brooklyn and Orlando enter the restart separated by just a half-game, and it's quite likely that they'll be the last two playoff teams in the East as these odds suggest. Yet, it's the unique format that actually makes Washington the play at this price, because them getting into that 8th seed isn't as absurd as that +2500 price suggests.
Again, the complete unknown here is how teams will react to this new world of basketball in an empty arena on a neutral site, and that by itself can lend itself to chaos. Eight games left in the year doesn't leave a whole lot of wiggle room for the Wizards to make up at least two games on one of these teams, but that's all that's needed for them to get into that 8 vs 9 showdown where they'll just have to win two straight. All of that does sound like a lot, but I would suggest it happens more then the sub-4% of the time the line of Washington suggests.
Furthermore, team schedules are still likely to potentially change, but early reports have Washington getting a head-to-head matchup with Brooklyn, while the Nets and Magic will meet twice. The potential for Brooklyn to lose all three of those games definitely exists and that's already one of those two games Washington needs to pick up right there.
And even when two games against Milwaukee can be viewed as a negative for Washington, what if at least one of those happens near the end when Milwaukee's already sitting pretty with that #1 seed. Do you think they are going to risk suiting up some of their best guys in this environment for a meaningless game?
Now, all this is somewhat conveniently looking past the fact that Washington was far from a good basketball team on the floor all season, and may be one of those teams that doesn't react well to being in this environment, especially when they've got little chance to stay there awhile. But the format is so unique that strictly from a pricing standpoint, a play on the Wizards makes quite a bit of sense if they do decide that they are there in the quarantine bubble anyways, they might as well try to see how far they can take things.
It's not a bet I'd expect to win often, but in a situation like this where it's about as neutral as neutral sites get for everyone, it's a bet at this price I definitely want a piece of. The format almost suggests it's a must take in some ways.

Eastern Conference
No. 8 Futures Pick
Washington +2500

Western Conference
Race for 8th Predictions

Odds to win the 8th Seed

  • Memphis (-120)
  • New Orleans (+275)
  • Portland (+450)
  • Sacramento (+1200)
  • San Antonio (+2500)
  • Phoenix (+20000)
  • Dallas (+100000)

Handicapping the Western Conference is completely different in that the format and pricing really suggests no discernible angle in the same fashion it does with Washington over in the East. This is more about the typical handicapping approach in terms of breaking down the players on the floor and what to expect from them. But again, knowing what to expect from these guys in this situation is tough. For example, will the long layoff going to hurt older teams more as they take longer to get into “game shape?” or will younger teams/players look more lost out there not being able to feed off of the noise and energy in the building they are so accustomed to hearing?
That being said, there are a few teams you can comfortably omit from consideration for the 8th spot in the West, and it begins with the two teams from Texas; Dallas and San Antonio.
Dallas has a seven-game lead on Memphis in that 7/8 race, meaning the Mavericks would really have to choke things out in the restart to find themselves in a battle for a playoff spot. With the talent that they've got, that just won't happen and they are more likely to move up a spot or two in the playoffs then even make a battle for eighth a reality.
San Antonio is on the other side of that equation as they'll need a strong run to overtake all those teams ahead of them, but they'll have to do so without LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge is done for the year after going under the knife, and for the long-term prospects of his career it was likely the right thing to do. But it kills the Spurs chances of being a realistic selection here.

A lot of bettors believe Zion Williamson are going to make a good run at the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. (AP)
A lot of bettors believe Zion Williamson are going to make a good run at the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. (AP)

Phoenix is likely too far back as well, although if there weren't so many teams in front of them and they had a situation similar to what the Wizards are facing in the East, the Suns would at least garner a long second look. They've just got too many hurdles in terms of teams ahead of them to overcome.
That leaves the four favorites in terms of price left to choose from here, and while all the networks have to be salivating for a Memphis/New Orleans play-in series between last year's top two selections in the draft, neither of those two teams appear to be very appealing from a betting perspective.
Too many things could go wrong for the Grizzlies in these 8+ games to be taking them at a -110 price, as a rough restart could lead the Grizzlies to being in a play-in series as the #9 squad, let alone if they were to lose it as the #8 team. And even if Memphis ends up holding serve, there are too many unknowns in this situation where taking -110 here makes a whole lot of sense. It never hurts a bankroll to pass on a winner either.
In the Pelicans case, they are far too overvalued relative to the Blazers and Kings here, as all three of those teams are essentially tied going into the restart at 3.5 games back of that final playoff spot. Not sure I'd really want to take a team at +275 when I can get +450 or even +1200 on two other teams that essentially have to do the exact same thing in this scenario. That's even if the overall team New Orleans has looks/is better on paper then what Portland or Sacramento bring. The price point just doesn't invite an investment in the Pelicans.
Which does appear to make the decision in the West between Portland and Sacramento for wagering on that 8th spot. Again, probably not a bet you should expect to cash a high majority of the time, but both do already start the restart within that four-game threshold of #8, and just holding serve in that range will at least give the Blazers and/or Kings a shot at it.
From the on-court perspective, it would be backing Portland that brings more confidence, as their back court is one of the best in the game, and with the way Lillard and McCollum can shoot the basketball, it's not like seeing the Blazers get extremely hot for a five-plus game stretch is anything out of the ordinary.

Again, the price point on Sacramento as +1200 keeps them as a consideration on that price alone given Portland or New Orleans has to do the same thing as the Kings would do to get that spot, I'm just not sure that younger team is capable of going on the necessary run in this environment to get the job done.

Western Conference
No. 8 Futures Pick
Portland +450

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