NBA Eastern Conference Futures Odds: the Search for Betting Value
The Eastern Conference of the NBA is shaping up to be much more interesting in the playoffs this year than it has been in a long while. For so long now it just hasn't been much fun. Other teams have scrambled to become the squad that inevitably gets to lose to LeBron's team in the conference finals. It has been as boring as it has been predictable. But this year it feels like there is at least a chance for something different to happen - more of a chance than ever. The best player in the world means that the Cavs are still favored, but they are far more vulnerable than they have ever been, and teams are far more positioned to do some damage than in recent years. It will be required viewing - which has only been true about the West in the playoffs for too long. Here's a look at how the NBA East champion futures stack up with an eye on value ( odds are from Bovada ):
Cleveland Cavaliers (+135): At this point it is basically impossible to be accurate in predictions about this team. They have made over pretty much every aspect of their lineup beyond the two biggest stars, they have issues with their coach, turmoil in the locker room, and all sorts of drama coming out of the locker room at a daily pace. And this defense is just plain ugly - so far below what it has been in the past, and yet it doesn't particularly feel like they are underachieving. But the King is still the King, and as he showed against the Raptors the other day that can be good enough. He is so good and still somehow so hungry that he can carry his squad of spare parts on his shoulders and take them where they need to be. And the team is getting healthier finally, too, so he should have a bit more support.
There are two obvious questions, though - how long can he hold up under the strain of being the all-everything for this team in what should be the most competitive playoff run he has faced, and what can other teams do to minimize his teammates and force him to do even more? I get why they are favored, and I would never bet real money against him, but I sure don't feel like I need to pick this team automatically like I have for so long.
Toronto Raptors (+160): This team went through a lot of changes in the offseason, but they kept the core, and they have truly had addition by subtraction. Kyle Lowry is what he has been, and that's a very good thing. DeMar DeRozan has found an incredible new level, and the rest of the starters have done what they need to do. And they have stayed healthy unlike last year, which makes such a difference. What is so impressive, though, is the bench. You couldn't have guessed coming into the season that this would not only be the best bench in the league but such a ferocious unit. You don't mind when any guy leaves the court. It is impressive and so valuable heading into the postseason.
They lost to Cleveland last week, yet they likely drew confidence from it. James played absolutely out of his mind and Cleveland only won narrowly. They showed they can compete, and they know even he can't play like that every night. I like so very much about this team, and they will have home-court advantage throughout. I have flirted with this all year, but I am now fully on board - this team is going to finally beat LeBron James and reach the NBA Finals.
Boston Celtics (+350): Man, is it tough to win in this league. The Celtics did absolutely everything right in the offseason. But Gordon Hayward only played slightly longer this season than I did, and now Kyrie Irving can't walk and injuries extend well beyond that. I remain bullish about this team in the long term, but it just isn't meant to be now. I hate this price.
Philadelphia 76ers (+1100): What do we do with the Sixers? They are playing their best ball of the season - and of the decade - to win seven in a row. They are only a game back of Cleveland and could conceivably pass them down the stretch. Their two young megastars are doing their jobs, top pick Markelle Fultz is finally back in action, and the roster is gelling. The upside here is enormous. But they would likely have to go through both Cleveland and Toronto to win, and they don't feel ready for that. Not yet. They need to see what the playoffs feel like first, and they need to taste games that matter. The future is stunningly bright, and I have to admit that this price is more than a little tempting but the head says to be patient.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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