As we have recently heard, it looks like the NBA season is set to restart (fingers crossed) in July, woo hoo! And, now that we know that eight games remain in the regular season and what the format for the play-in is, we can bet on who’s going to come out of this race for the 8th seed. So, after crunching some numbers and looking at the NBA standings and schedules, to me, this is a three-team race in the Western Conference when basketball returns.

Western Conference Return Odds & Picks

First, let’s start with the favorite for the Western Conference when it returns:

Memphis Grizzlies -150

Looking at this thing from a schedule point of view, even if they somehow manage to go 0-8, you’d still need two teams to go 4-4 or better. This means they should still be able to get into the play-in tournament no matter how they come out of the gates. That alone is why they are such favorites to get into the 8th spot.

But they have the third-worst win %  vs. teams over-.500, and they play six of those teams based on the schedule (unless it changes). They haven’t gotten a win vs. any of those teams.

So, if things play out the way I see it playing out, they would be the 9th seed in the play-in. While I do not want to bet against them in this spot, it is not worth the risk. That is why I am going to sprinkle my money on the next two teams I touch on.

New Orleans Pelicans +400

Some say that one of the main reasons that the NBA is doing this version of the return format to finish off the season is to get Zion Williamson into the race. I would say that some people are 100% correct. I’m personally excited to see Zion put on a show and I’m a believer in this Pelicans squad. They have solid pieces and an experienced coach in Alvin Gentry to guide them through this.

Schedule wise, they will face Memphis twice, Sacramento twice, the Spurs once and the Magic once. The Magic game is the one that really sticks out to me, and why I like the Pelicans in that spot. If the schedule holds and Orlando is their final opponent, there is a good chance that the Magic have already clinched 7th or a play-in spot. This would mean they have nothing to play for, and would be a huge advantage for the Pelicans. NOLA went 6-6 during the regular season (second highest of remaining teams) vs. its projected opponents, so they should fare well with the schedule. The Pelicans also went 2-0 vs. the Grizzlies, so if the scenarios play out as I see them doing and it is Memphis vs. Nola for the 8th spot in a play-in, give me the Pelicans!

The team as a whole was on fire before the stoppage occurred, so I see them picking up where they left off. At 4-1, I like the value when the Western Conference returns.

Portland Trail Blazers +800

If you are looking for a longshot, PDX is calling your name. While Portland might be a sexy pick, there is a reason for it. They have an experienced coach in Terry Stotts. And, above all else, they have one of the best backcourts in the game in CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard. Carmelo Anthony also brings a veteran presence and they get Jusuf Nurkic back from a broken leg. If he is healthy, him and Hassan Whiteside in the frontcourt would be a load for anyone to handle.

This is a squad that has been there before, as they made it to the conference finals last season before losing to the Golden State Warriors. I’ve looked at the schedule and if they can just start off hot, they have a real chance to get into the play-in. To me, it is definitely worth sprinkling a little on the Blazers at these NBA odds.

So, that’s it for our look at the Western Conference, when the NBA returns. See you next time!