After several months without pro basketball, the NBA will return to the court on July 31.
Last week, the NBA rolled out a plan for a return that includes 22 teams and a complete 16-team playoff.
That news should excite Milwaukee Bucks fans and Iowa sports bettors who may think the Bucks have a shot at the 2020 NBA Finals.
Restart plans in place
On June 4, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver unveiled the restart plans. All 22 teams will report to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. There, all games will take place over the remainder of the season.
As of now, NBA games would resume on July 31. Of the teams participating, nine are in the Eastern Conference and 13 are in the Western Conference. Team selection was based on the top eight teams in each conference. The top eight teams of both conferences will be joined by teams within six games of the No. 8 seed.
Seeding games will be the eight games remaining for each of the 22 teams. When those conclude, a standard playoff format will be in place in the East and West.
The only change will be if the No. 9 seed in either conference is within four games of the eighth seed. Should that happen, a two-game series between the teams will be played. The ninth seed will have to win both games to take over that final playoff spot.
From there, standard playoff rules begin for the 16 teams; eight in each conference. The goal is for the NBA Finals to end no later than Oct. 12.
Bucks remain odds-on favorite in East
The Bucks have a 6.5-game lead for first in the East. They are likely going to be the top seed in the conference playoffs.
Oddsmakers see them as the clear favorite to win the conference title this season.
FanDuel sees the Bucks as a -175 favorite in the East, and the NBA Finals favorite at +240. The sportsbook lists the Lakers at +260 to win the NBA Finals.
William Hill likes the Bucks as a -190 favorite in the East while giving them +260 odds to win the NBA Finals. The sportsbook sees the Lakers as a +240 favorite for the title.
Milwaukee stuffing the stat sheet
The Bucks were running through the East prior to the NBA league stoppage on March 11. Milwaukee was 53-12, the best record in the NBA.
Statistically, the Bucks have the league’s top offense at 118.6 points per game. They were second in shooting (48.5%) and fifth in 3-pointers made (13.7 per game).
Milwaukee was also strong on the glass, pulling down 51.7 boards per game, which led the league by more than three per contest.
Defensively, Milwaukee allowed 107.4 points per game, which ranked in the top five of the NBA. They led the league in defensive field goal percentage at 41.3.
Giannis not alone
While Giannis Antetokounmpo is the face of the Bucks, Milwaukee has a solid balance of players this season.
The “Greek Freak” is still an MVP candidate with 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game.
However, Khris Middleton has put up a strong season with 21.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.
Eric Bledsoe and Brook Lopez also average double-figure scoring while George Hill and Donte DiVincenzo aren’t far off.
Additions of Kyle Korver, Robin Lopez and Marvin Williams also provide some needed experience and depth for the playoffs.