When the NBA season resumes in Orlando at the end of the month, the drive will not be for the Eastern Conference or Western Conference titles or even the NBA Championship, at first. During the eight games before the playoffs, the race will be for the No. 8 seed in each conference.
- 2019-2020 NBA Eastern Conference – 8th Seed
- Orlando Magic +200
- Brooklyn Nets -250
- Washington Wizards +2100
This season, it will not be as easy as just having a better record when the regular season comes to an end. If the No. 9 seed happens to be within four games of the 8-seed, they will have a play-in series. If the 8-seed wins, the 9-seed is out. But if the 9-seed wins the first game, it becomes a best of three.
Heading into the restart, the Nets are the seventh seed with a 30-34 record and a half-game lead on the Orlando Magic (who are 30-35).
The Washington Wizards are a distant 9-seed with a 24-40c record (4.5 games behind the Magic). Washington would be hard-pressed to actually take over the 8-seed, but there is a distinct possibility that they get in a position to force a play-in series.
But where things get interesting here is the fate of the Brooklyn Nets. While they may appear to have a healthy lead and should be safe, they will be entering the season minus quite a few guys. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are injured. Spencer Dinwiddie, Wilson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan, and Taurean Prince are sitting out to make matters worse.
It wouldn’t be shocking to see them struggle even to win a game with so many guys out. However, the Wizards will be without their top two scorers, Bradley Beal and David Bertrans. It is not unreasonable to think a team that has won less than 40 percent of its games could lose out without their top scoring threats.
Conditions seem dire for the Nets and Wizards, but much better for the Magic. They don’t appear to have anyone sitting out but will be getting someone back from injury, Evan Fournier. They are not good enough to run the table when the season restarts, but they will be in good shape compared to the Nets and Wizards.
So—who should you bet on?
Don’t bet on the Magic to be the No. 8 seed. Since they are the one team not missing several key players, chances are good they will end up being the No. 7 seed. As for the No. 8 seed, the Nets are the safe bet simply because they have a big lead on the Wizards. That, and because Washington is also missing at least two key guys.
If your primary interest is not losing, then take the Nets. But if you are willing to roll the dice a little, put some down on the Wizards. With the Nets missing so many guys, it is not hard to see the Wizards winning a play-in game (or series).