The Lakers didn’t have the best record or point differential when the season was suspended, but they’re heading to Orlando as the title favorites.
The NBA restart will kick off with eight regular-season games for each other 22 participating teams and most of the intrigue there is whether anyone can play their way into a postseason spot at the No. 8 seed in either conference.
But once we’re past that, the playoff start and our attention will shift back to the top of the standings and the title contenders. FiveThirtyEight just released an update to their NBA predictions and their model (details below) gives the Lakers and the Clippers the best chances of winning it all.
"These forecasts are based on 100,000 simulations of the rest of the season. Our player-based RAPTOR forecast doesn’t account for wins and losses; it is based entirely on our NBA player projections, which estimate each player’s future performance based on the trajectory of similar NBA players. These are combined with up-to-date depth charts — tracking injuries, trades and other player transactions — to generate talent estimates for each team."
The latest betting odds from Caesar’s Entertainment have the Lakers as 2-to-1 favorites to win it all, just ahead of Milwaukee who sit at 11-to-4. Statistical models and Vegas agree on the Lakers as the favorite and your average NBA fan would probably say the same thing.
Why aren’t the Milwaukee Bucks the title favorites?
The obvious answer is that for most people, LeBron > Giannis, but there are some holes. The Bucks has the best win percentage and point differential before the season was suspended. The difference in point differential between the Bucks (+10.7) and the second-place Lakers (+7.1) is about the same as the difference between the Lakers and the seventh-placed Houston Rockets (+3.4). The Bucks also had the best defense in the league, by an enormous margin, to go along with the fifth-most-efficient offense. The Lakers ranked third and fourth, respectively.
I’m lucky enough not to have the disposable income to really be concerned with betting odds but if I was and I couldn’t bet the field, I think my money would be on the Bucks.