Canada’s COVID Policies to Affect NBA Finals Betting?
The 2022 NBA season is just a few days away from the finale of the regular season. The Phoenix Suns have already locked up the top spot in the Western Conference and have the best odds at winning the NBA Finals, while the Miami Heat hold a two-game lead over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference.
Preseason odds favored the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets to meet in the NBA Finals— however, the Lakers have been eliminated from the postseason entirely, and the Nets have been relegated to the play-in tournament and could be sent home before the real bracket begins.
Lost in the anticipation of the postseason action is Canada’s COVID vaccination policy, which could drastically impact the several teams’ chances.
The path to the NBA Finals runs through… COVID?
The Toronto Raptors are almost guaranteed to finish the season as the fifth seed in the East— the only other option is the sixth seed, and they would have to lose out and the Chicago Bulls would have to win out.
As things stand, they would take on the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the NBA playoffs; Phili would host four of the seven games, but they would have to go on the road without Matisse Thybulle, who is not vaccinated.
Thybulle is regarded as one of the best wing defenders in the National Basketball Association and would likely guard Pascal Siakam, Toronto’s biggest scoring threat, in the series. His absence would significantly hinder Phili in their pursuit of their first championship in the Joel Embiid era.
The Sixers are not the only team facing issues, however; according to the Boston Gobe’s Gary Washburn, “at least two frontline [Boston Celtics] players” are not vaccinated. Celtics star guard Jaylen Brown declined to provide any clarity as to who the players in question were, although it is already known that Al Horford is not vaccinated.
However, Boston’s big man stated that he would be “good to go,” if the Celtics have to travel North of the border, implying he would get the shot if necessary to compete.
The Heat and Milwaukee Bucks are reported to be at 100% vaccination status and would be all systems go if forced to play in Canada.
Impact on NBA Finals betting
The most well-known case of an unvaccinated NBA player is Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets; it would be next to impossible for the Nets to meet the Raptors in the first round, but the second round is an entirely different prospect.
Brooklyn has the second-best odds to win the East according to most sportsbooks, trailing only the Bucks. Boston is third in the pecking order, and Phili is fifth.
Not every game played in Toronto with affected teams would automatically result in a loss, but it would impact their performance. So, as if Milwaukee was not already the clear favorite, the fact they will have all players at full availability makes them an even better futures bet to win the conference.
Players still have time to get vaccinated, but time is running out. Canada’s new policies require all players to be fully vaccinated before crossing the border.