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NBA Futures Betting: 3 Teams Worth Fading for Conference & NBA Champion (2020)

by July 3, 2020

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Resumption of the NBA has been announced to commence July 30th and the race to the postseason begins. The Lakers and Bucks are the respective betting favorites to win the title and represent each conference in the NBA Finals this season. 

This year could be the most open NBA Finals we will have mainly because the Warriors dynasty is hold and the three-month hiatus is going to affect every team differently. There’s no telling which favorites will be prepared and which underdogs can make a run at a title, but there are teams worth avoiding this postseason.

The NBA has transitioned into three-point shooting and Run ‘N’ Gun offenses combing for record-breaking points. Scoring and shot attempts in the NBA have gone up, but there are three teams worth noting that haven’t developed their roster to fit that offensive trend. Here are three squads worth avoiding when betting on being crowned NBA Champion or Conference Champion.

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Denver Nuggets

+2500 to win Championship / +1200 to win West at DraftKings Sportsbook

Denver hasn’t had many problems in the regular season over the last two seasons posting a Western Conference-best 97 wins since the start of the 2018-19 season, but the playoffs have been a different story. Denver made the postseason for the first time last year since 2012-13 and lasted 14 games falling in the Conference Semifinals after back-to-back seven-game series.

In 2019-20, the Nuggets offense was one of the slowest-paced units in the league (99.6) ranking 29th, only ahead of Charlotte (98.1). Denver currently ranks 20th in points per game (110.4) in the league and 13th-of-15th in the West. The defense has carried the Nuggets all season, allowing 107.4 points per game (8th) ranking second in the West, trailing only the Lakers (106.9).

Denver’s offense only sees 34.2% (26th) of its field goals attempted to come from the three-point line and 29.6% (23rd) of its points from there. A lack of three-point shooting and a mere 10.6 fast-break points per game (22nd) leaves Denver relying heavily on the half-court game in multiple seven-game series.

Six Nuggets average double-digit points and four players average 30 minutes or more per game. Denver has wanted more from Gary Harris this season who’s taking a serious step back in production. He’s recording a 9.79 Player Efficiency Rating despite starting in 55 games while his scoring and assists have declined every season since 2017-18.

Nikola Jokic was diagnosed with COVID-19 a week ago, but is clear and feeling asymptomatic while in Serbia. The franchise center has been the motor to this team once again this season, leading the team in points, rebounds, and assists. Jokic averages 20.2 points (28th), 10.2 rebounds (9th), and 6.9 assists (15th) in 32.3 minutes per game.

Jokic’s expected to play for the Nuggets once he’s cleared for travel, but even when they were healthy as the two seed in 2018-19, the Nuggets struggled to put away both the Spurs and Trailblazers. Denver is currently the No. 3 seed and will be seeded anywhere from No. 2 to No. 6, depending on the final eight games.

This season’s Western Conference playoff field is arguably much deeper than last season’s, which is going to make a case for Denver being a regular-season team even more relevant following this postseason.

Philadelphia 76ers

+2800 to win Championship / +900 to win East at DraftKings Sportsbook

The tournament being on a neutral court is either a blessing or a curse for the 76ers this season. The 76ers were one of the NBA’s worst road teams in the league at 10-24, but at home, Philly posted the best record in the league of 29-2. Only the Hawks had more road losses than the 76ers in the Eastern Conference, and Philadelphia allowed 111.8 points per game away from Wells Fargo, and an NBA-best 102.5 at home.

Philadelphia was one shot short of an NBA Eastern Conference Finals appearance. Still, that shot was enough to lift Kawhi Leonard to superstar status and the Raptors to an NBA Finals Championship. Last season could have been the 76ers best shot at a title, and this year’s team hasn’t quite put it together offensively.

Joel Embiid and Al Horford struggled to co-exist in the lineup, moving Horford to the six-man role in an attempt to open the floor. On the entire season, the 76ers rank 21st in points per game (109.6), behind Denver, and ahead of Indiana (109.3). All three of those offenses are prime examples of units that won’t be able to get the job done in the modern-day NBA.

The 76ers are 14th in three-point shooting with 36.2% on 31.6 attempts (22nd) and a potentially disastrous 75.2% from the free-throw line (23rd). The 76ers defense is one of the best in the league, but the home-and-away splits combined with the offense will be the downfall for Philly.

As the potential No. 4, 5, or 6 seed, the 76ers will likely face the Pacers, Heat, or Celtics in round one. In the semifinals, the 76ers opponent could be any of those three teams, plus the Bucks or Raptors depending on the final seeding. The 76ers won’t have the firepower to hang with the Bucks, Celtics, or Raptors in a seven-game series even though their defense has found success versus all three at different points in the season.

Fade the 76ers and wait for the organization to fire Brett Brown or make a franchise-altering trade before the 76ers are NBA Title material.

Utah Jazz

+3300 to win Championship / +1400 to win West at DraftKings Sportsbook

The Jazz’s chemistry has been called into question by the media and teammates after the Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell dispute over the COVID-19 outbreak and Gobert’s handling of the situation. Utah sits at 41-23 in the four seed, 1.5 games back of Denver, and one game ahead of Oklahoma City. Utah is 21-16 versus the Western Conference this season and a mediocre 5-5 in the Northwest Division.

Gobert has won consecutive NBA Defensive Player of the Year Awards, but likely will be a runner-up to the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo. Gobert is tied-third for rebounds per game (13.7) with Giannis and sixth in blocks per game (2.0). Gobert’s third in field goal percentage with a career-high 69.8%, and he’s not the only Jazz player to record career numbers this season.

Mitchell is averaging career numbers in points (24.2), rebounds (4.4), assists (4.2), field goal percentage (45.3%), and 3-point percentage (36.4%). Forward Bojan Bogdanovic has been the most pleasant surprise ranking second on the team with 20.2 points per game and one of two players shooting over 40% from three on the team (41.4%).

The Jazz has been hampered by injuries at point guard this season with Mike Conley missing 23 games and Emmanuel Mudiay missing 16. They traded for Jordan Clarkson in December to man the point when either player misses time, but none of the three have been the answer opposite of Mitchell. Utah remains a defensive powerhouse, but an offensive question mark. 

Utah will likely meet Denver or Houston in the first round of the postseason as the No. 4 or 5 seed. A second-round matchup will probably feature the Lakers or possibly the Clippers in the second round. I have my doubts that Utah survives the first round this season, and if they do, the Lakers or Clippers would more than likely put an end to the Jazz’s season.

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Vaughn Dalzell is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Vaughn, check out his archive and follow him on Twitter @VaughnDalzell or @VmoneySports for his picks.