It's been nine years and it would be just as big a surprise as it was back then - but it could happen!
If the NBA is to resume at any point this year, it’s most likely the games are played on neutral (for most) grounds and in quick succession. The time is running out for completing the playoffs in its full format, so there are options of best-of-five series, knockouts and the like – nothing is set on stone as of yet. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has referred to “campus-like” environment where the competition could be finalized before the preparation for the next season is put to jeopardy.
Be as it may, if the NBA indeed returns, there are some teams that are likely to fare better in the uncertain circumstances and unorthodox environment than some others. The usual suspects, league leaders at the time the games were stopped, are the big favorites to win the title even after the hiatus. Here are the NBA odds for each Championship hopeful: Lakers and Bucks are valued at +250 respectively, followed by Clippers +333, Rockets +1300, Raptors +1800 and then Celtics, Heat and 76ers with +2000.
Speaking of underdogs with a chance to win, Accuscore simulations indicate a surprise team to have a much bigger chance to win than their odds of +4000 would suggest. It’s a team from a city that is not used to being left out of conversation, no matter what sport it is: Dallas and their Mavericks. Admittedly, Accuscore simulations had little faith in the young Mavericks team to start the season, despite encouraging leadership shown by their 2018 1st round 3rd overall pick Luka Doncic.
After being selected Rookie of the Year 2019, Doncic took a natural step forward and has carried his team this season to 40 wins in 67 games, putting them 11 wins into the playoffs in the highly competitive NBA western conference. Doncic is a valid superstar and one of the best ball handlers in the league: he records 8.7 assists per game (4th in NBA) and 28.7 points per game (6th in NBA) with somewhat limited playing time of 33.3 minutes per game. But Doncic is not the only reason Dallas can contend already this season.
The emergence of almost left-for-dead Kristaps Porzingis after a tough last season has been remarkable and the 24-year-old Latvian has become a true defensive force for the Mavericks. And he is still shooting 19.2 points per game while grabbing 9.5 rebounds. Behind the European powerhouses, Mavericks are fielding reliable journeyman veterans like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Seth Curry, with “local” products Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber.
While Mavericks are only 7th in the west, they have remarkably better win% on the road, 63.6 than at home, 55.9%, which might prove an important stat if the rest of the season is played in neutral location. Although the people who are making NBA expert picks are picking Dallas to advance far, but you have to know Dallas is 3th in the NBA in points per game, 4th in rebounds and have made the most 3-pointers with not too shabby percentage of 36.9% (8th in NBA, 4th in West). The defense is not exactly a strength, but decent and the team plays well as a unit – with their own, dynamic way.
In shortened playoffs and neutral venue, Dallas Mavericks are definitely better than their 11th position according to the odds would indicate. When you look back at the start of the year the NBA over under odds for the Mavs was set at 40.5 wins, this team had 40 wins as the NBA paused. A team that is already playing above expectations could be a real contender. Young, energetic and productive star players complimented by enough veteran presence will be a tough nut to crack to any higher-caliber team.