NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Betting Odds and Expert Predictions
Let's be honest - eight teams made the playoffs in the NBA's Eastern Conference, but there are only four that have a real chance of winning it. And really that number is three, but we are only including the fourth out of charity and respect for coaching. Milwaukee has a megastar and does a lot of things well, but not enough. Indiana has had a surprising year behind a breakout star, but they don't have the depth. Washington is proving that chemistry really is at least as important as talent. And Miami is a nice enough team that should just be happy to be here. And that leaves four. Let's look at each in turn (Odds to win the Eastern Conference are from BetOnline ):
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Cleveland Cavaliers (+125): How do you figure out this team? There are so many questions right now. Ty Lue has basically come out and admitted that the team is all but uncoachable. And he's totally right. LeBron James is having a great year - perhaps another MVP one. He played every game for the first time in his career this year. That's good because he's healthy. But it's also insane. He is 14 years in, so that is a lot of wear and tear to put on a body before the games even matter. And besides, playing all 82 games only got the team to fourth place. It's just not worth it, but he has cast himself in this Messiah role that means that he is convinced that the team can only function if he does everything. And in that he's not really wrong.
The path is very tough for this flawed Cleveland team. Indiana is a feisty first-round matchup. Toronto deservedly won the East and will be out for blood in the second round. And then Philly should be rested and waiting because their path is much easier. That is by far the toughest road to the Finals that LeBron has faced in the East. And this is by far the least ideal supporting cast he has had around him. And his coach is a bit of a useless muppet, which isn't a bonus.
At the very least there is no value here. Not even close. But I'll go a step further - the Cavs are not winning the East this year.
Toronto Raptors (+150): The Toronto starting five is not the best in the conference. But it's their second five that is so good. They can shift to backups almost seamlessly, and that bench has been such a part of their success this year. They have the experience of building this team over the last few years to fall back on. And the hunger to make good after falling short against the Cavs last year. I wish they had been a little stronger down the stretch, but they did what they needed to do.
It's a tall task, and the price isn't enough to offer value, but it's right here in print - the Toronto Raptors are going to win the East this year.
Philadelphia 76ers (+350): They have won 16 straight games. That is impressive no matter what, but doubly so when you consider that Joel Embiid was injured halfway through the streak. This is an amazingly-talented team, and the sky is quite literally the limit - and they will quite likely add another lottery pick in this year's draft to the current embarrassment.
But I don't think they are quite ready yet. They haven't been in the playoffs, and they are young, so they don't yet know what they need to be doing here. They haven't been tested like this, and they are going to run into a team - either Cleveland or Toronto - that is much more seasoned and tested in battle.
If I was looking ahead right now to next year I'd probably take Philadelphia, but this year I just can't do it. The price isn't horrible - especially given that the first two rounds are manageable - but I'll look elsewhere.
Boston Celtics (+1800): This is a sad tale of what could have been. With a healthy Gordon Hayward and a healthy Kyrie Irving I would very likely be picking this team - and they would very likely be favored. But the basketball gods clearly hate Boston, and nothing has gone right. They just don't have anywhere near the firepower they need to compete with the top three.
But there is one factor that keeps them at least marginally under consideration. Brad Stevens is the best coach in the NBA. Full stop. He hasn't won anything yet, but the way he motivates guys, and his ability to manage games, is incredible - and he's young enough that he's still only going to get better. He won 55 games with a roster that, at many times this year, was downright scary - and not the good kind of scary. He's a wizard, and he has drawn everything there was to draw out of this team. If he can keep the voodoo rolling then the Sixers could be in tough.
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