The NBA All-Star break is set to extend until action resumes on March 11, which means teams get to recharge their batteries. Only a handful of teams will return after the respite without realistic playoff expectations, and NBA betting over the next few weeks needs to take into account the remaining strength of schedule in addition to just how busy all these teams are about to be as they try to wrap up a unique 72-game schedule in a season that began on Dec. 22.
League officials opted to split the slate into two parts, scheduling out games until March 3 in the hopes of being able to put together an All-Star break that has now come to fruition. They announced the second-half slate on Feb. 25, creating situations that clearly favor some teams over others.
Although the next twists as we navigate this unprecedented road playing a season that began in spite of a pandemic will arrive when the trade deadline generates action on March 25, a key variable is no longer unknown. We’ve got some second-half schedule release winners and losers to key on when considering betting NBA futures.
Southwest Second-Half Schedule Winners
Due to COVID-19 issues, the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies will have played much fewer games than everyone else entering the All-Star weekend, so they’ll face the biggest challenges over the next few months since the league is expected to do whatever it can to have all teams play the scheduled allotment of games so long as it can safely do so.
Spoiler alert – that’s not going to happen.
Still, the NBA will do its best to try and make it so, which makes winners out of the Southwest Division’s top contenders that have been able to play regularly over the regular season’s first few months, the New Orleans Pelicans and Dallas Mavericks.
Due to the presence of Zion Williamson, the Pelicans will play nine nationally-televised games prior to the playoffs. They’re still listed at +800 to win the Southwest Division at FanDuel due to a 5-12 road record entering the week and a porous defense Stan Van Gundy hasn’t gotten fixed, but don’t be surprised to see New Orleans make a run. Its longest road trip won’t come until the end of the regular season, stopping in Philadelphia, Charlotte, Memphis, Dallas, and Golden State from May 7-14. While challenging, the Pels should be ready for that type of challenge by then if truly a contender.
The Mavs are the betting favorite to win the division at every shop and are a -145 chalk at BetMGM despite the fact they’ll be trailing San Antonio when the season resumes.
Miami, Other L.A. Set Up to Thrive
The Miami Heat are the heavy favorite to win the Southeast (-335) at BetRivers, and you might want to go ahead and pull the trigger on that. After defeating the Atlanta Hawks at home despite star Jimmy Butler sitting out due to knee inflammation, the defending East champs reached .500 again with their sixth consecutive conquest. The Charlotte Hornets are a nice story and LaMelo Ball legitimately looks like top rookie in this 2021 class but it’s hard to get behind anyone except the Heat here and I’d imagine the odds are only going to become steeper and losing all value whatsoever.
Some may argue that’s already the case, but the fact is that the second-half schedule creates opportunities for Miami to start strong and continue its surge is something that couldn’t have been counted on weeks ago.
The Heat will join most teams in returning to action on March 11 and host division rival Orlando. After a quick road trip to Chicago the next night, Miami returns to the Sunshine State to play the Magic again in Central Florida before making the quick trip south to host slumping Cleveland. That’s a light week that presents the opportunity to open 4-0 if the Heat can take advantage, putting everyone else in the Southeast in the rear-view mirror permanently.
Despite losing the final nationally-televised Sunday afternoon game prior to the All-Star break after fading late in Milwaukee, the Clippers look the part of being one of the NBA’s most highly-regarded teams again. The Clips fell off in the bubble but were ranked among the title favorites alongside the Lakers and Bucks all of last season, so there’s value in potentially getting behind this new version now that new head coach Tyronn Lue has settled in. Serge Ibaka and Nicolas Batum continue to look like shrewd offseason pickups and the fact the team doesn’t have to leave the city from March 29-April 13 creates a great opportunity to find a groove. The Clips will play nine home games in a 15-day span.
NBA Second-Half Schedule Losers
Over a span of 68-days, the aforementioned Grizzlies and Spurs will be tasked with catching up on all those homework assignments they missed.
Memphis caught the worst of it, drawing second-half schedule that includes 40 games, a seven-game road trip, and a demoralizing 11 back-to-backs.
If you were thinking that getting Jaren Jackson Jr. back at some point could elevate the Grizzlies considering there’s a value as high as +800 for them to win the Southeast at DraftKings, that second-half slate doused that idea with some cold water. Nothing is impossible, but Memphis risks burnout if forced to go all out without mixing in some load maintenance for the likes of point guard Ja Morant and center Jonas Valanciunas.
San Antonio also has 40 games to make up in the 68-day span but only has seven back-to-backs to tackle with its deep roster.
The Wizards were the Eastern Conference team most affected by cancelations and are scheduled to play 38 games and seven back-to-backs in order to catch up.
New York opened the Monday prior to the All-Star break ahead of the Celtics and Raptors as the entire Atlantic Division checked in at .500 or better. Unfortunately, the Knicks’ reserved seat at the rear of the division schedule will probably be waiting for them since their final run is brutal. Tom Thibodeau’s team opens May on the road with a six-game trip that starts with a back-to-back in Houston and Memphis and against the Nuggets, Suns, Clippers, and Lakers.