Being the No. 8 seed in the NBA playoffs is usually nothing worth getting too excited about since the 8th seed rarely beats the No. 1 seed. Since the 8-seed format was introduced in 1984, a No. 8 team has defeated the 1-seed only four times. There doesn’t seem like much of a reason to get excited.
But someone has made it to the NBA Finals before as the 8-seed. The ’99 Knicks made it all the way only to lose to the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals, 4-1. So, there is value in being the 8th seed. Who would not want the chance to make history by becoming the first to win it all?
When the season resumes at the end of the month, the push for the No. 8 seed in the West looks like it could come down to the wire (odds via WilliamHill.com):
2019/20 NBA Western Conference 8th Seed Odds
- Memphis Grizzlies -140
- New Orleans Pelicans +350
- Portland Trail Blazers +400
- Sacramento Kings +1000
- San Antonio Spurs +1600
- Phoenix Suns +10000
- Dallas Mavericks +25000
The Memphis Grizzlies were positioned to be the 8-seed when the season was halted, with a 32-33 record. They were seven back of the Dallas Maverick for the 7-seed with a 3.5 game cushion on the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, and Kings.
However, it is worth noting that having the best record will not necessarily be enough to win the 8-seed this year. Should the No. 9 team be within four games, there will be a play-in series between that team and the No.8. If the 8-team wins the first game, they are in. The 9-seed will have to win twice.
With that in mind, who should your NBA pick be to bet on?
That question needs to be answered in two parts: Can the Grizzlies push their advantage out to 4.5 games to lock up the 8-seed without a play-in? If not, who could overcome them and/or beat them in a play-in series?
With how their young core was playing before the season came to a halt, they could do it. But the Grizzlies’ chances of doing so would be greater if Justice Winslow plays (something which is still up-in-the-air). With him—yes, but without him, the answer is ‘maybe.’
If Zion Williamson can pick-up where he left off, the Pelicans have a good shot. The Kings have a talented young core and were playing well when the season ended. But they have been a streaky team this year. If they get off on the wrong foot, they may not recover.
Portland could shock the world, though. They have not been healthy all season. While Trevor Ariza will be sitting out, but with Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins coming back, they will be a tough team to beat.
The Suns and Spurs will need to get red hot while everyone else goes ice cold. Don’t count on it. As for the Mavericks, they are going to be the No. 7 seed.
So—who should you bet on?
The Grizzlies are the safe bet. New Orleans would not be a bad bet but put more of your money on Portland (than the other two).