Four NBA futures bets you want to make before July 31

Zion Williams of the New Orleans Pelicans dribbles the ball up the court.
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Ricky Dimon

NBA

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

Sports are on the way back, and—if the coronavirus pandemic allows—they are only going to reassert themselves more and more back into mainstream life. The NBA will join the party in late July, but there is no reason to wait for the regular season’s return before putting in your best bets. Plenty of futures and prop bets for the resumption of the 2019-20 campaign are already available.

Let’s take a look at some of the most intriguing plays.

Boston Celtics to win the Eastern Conference (+600)

The Milwaukee Bucks were (and still are) running away with the Eastern Conference, but this sudden break in basketball action could level the playing field. Who really knows how these 22 teams are going to fare when they all descend upon Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla.? Given the uncertainty, underdogs are going to be a good option. And as good as the Celtics are, they are just that: underdogs. At +600 to win the East, Boston has to be given a long, hard look. Head coach Brad Stevens’ club sits in third place behind Milwaukee and the Toronto Raptors with a 43-21 record. Nobody—not even the Bucks—wants to go up against a roster featuring Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward in the playoffs.

New Orleans Pelicans to earn the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference (+325)

The NBA won’t come right out and call it “The Zion Williamson Rule,” but all teams currently within six games of playoff position got the invite to Orlando. With that the league found a way for Williamson and the Pelicans to continue their season. At 28-36, New Orleans trails the Memphis Grizzlies by 3.5 games for the eighth and final spot in the West. If the ninth-best team is within four games of No. 8 when the regular season ends, a play-in tournament will be held to determine the final playoff representative. The Pelicans, who are a solid 22-14 since a dreadful 6-22 start (without Williamson), should be able to edge out the Portland Trail Blazers for the No. 9 spot and there is no reason why they cannot sweep Memphis in two straight play-in games.

Milwaukee Bucks to win fewer than six of their eight-regular season games (+100)

Milwaukee’s over/under win total for the resumption of the regular season is six (be sure to check out our daily NBA expert picks when it does resume). At the very least you will push an under play on that prop bet, and there is a good chance you will win it outright. Sure the Bucks are sporting a 53-12 record, and at such a winning percentage they would be expected to prevail in seven of their eight remaining contests. Obviously, though, a lot can change—and will change—now that the NBA finds itself in this unprecedented situation following what will be four-month hiatus from games. Milwaukee’s momentum has been halted and it no longer has the benefit of playing at home, where it was 28-3 this season. The Bucks’ upcoming schedule is expected to include Boston, Miami, Houston, Dallas, and Toronto. That is not easy; plus they may lose some interest after inevitably clinching the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference after just one or two games. Head coach Mike Budenholzer’s squad lost three straight prior to the stoppage and it will likely lose three out of eight in Orlando.

LeBron James to average more than 26.5 ppg in the playoffs (-120)

Although James remains one of the best players in the world, 35 years of age is 35 years of age. Even for borderline non-mortals, a four-month break from the burden that is a basketball season is going to benefit a 35-year-old. James is currently averaging 25.7 points per game and it is a safe bet that added motivation from playoff basketball will take that average up a notch. Heck, he was already up to 26.0 ppg in the month of February and 30.0 ppg through five March games. Don’t bet against a well-rested king.

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