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The NBA is set for a return to action. With the MLB still questionable to start play this season, the NBA promises to dominate the sportsbooks handle at least up until the NFL kicks off. While there is a distinct favorite to emerge from the East, all of the teams discussed below figure to have a chance in a conference many have already awarded to the Milwaukee Bucks. Let’s dig in to ascertain which team represents the best value on the board. And find our consensus odds for Eastern Conference Winner here.
Eastern Conference Winner Odds (via DraftKings Sportsbook)
Milwaukee Bucks (-165)
As suggested by the current listed odds at DraftKings, the Milwaukee Bucks are the runaway favorite to emerge from the Eastern Conference. Kawhi Leonard leaving the defending champion Toronto Raptors made Milwaukee the toast of the East, and they seem all but certain to at least make a return to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Toronto Raptors could provide a tough test, but the Milwaukee team we saw before the suspension of the season should easily be able to dispatch every other Eastern Conference foe. Giannis is going to need to be clicking from outside the paint, as the blueprint on stopping Giannis in the playoffs was on display for the world to see during the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals. Win probability alone suggests that Milwaukee may be the best value on the board regardless of what odds were attached to them. Their current odds of -165 implies a 62.3 percent chance of winning the conference. This number should likely be 70 percent, which should equate to -233.
Boston Celtics (+700)
Arguably the team with the most talented starting lineup in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics are currently posted with the same odds as the second-place Toronto Raptors to win the conference. Boston has been good this season, but a closer look at their record reveals a team that has had its struggles against its own division. In fact, they had the lowest division winning percentage of any team on this list and went a combined 3-4 against the Toronto Raptors and the Philadelphia 76ers. The Celtics will need their individual talents to come together and prove that they can succeed in the grind that is postseason basketball. A strong showing in the seeding contests could put them in the best position to make the semi-finals, as anything other than the second seed could lead to a disappointing first-round exit from the playoffs. Despite their obvious talent, the Celtics may still be a year or two of Jayson Tatum’s development away from being able to truly compete.
Toronto Raptors (+700)
The Toronto Raptors continue to be written off due to the offseason losses of 2019 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Clippers, and 3-and-D swingman Danny Green to the Los Angeles Lakers. They were able to silence many doubters with their stellar regular season that currently has them sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference, but as we all know, the NBA Playoffs is a different animal entirely. The championship experience this team garnered last season should do them well in the first two rounds, but getting past Milwaukee in the NBA Finals could prove to be a tough task. Noted Giannis stopper Kawhi Leonard is now in the West, so the Raptors will have to throw a committee of players at him and hold out hope that they can be somewhat close to as effective as Leonard was on him last season. Still, they are a favorite to make the Eastern Conference Finals, something that is enough to suggest potential value at +700.
Miami Heat (+900)
Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and the Miami Heat have an excellent chance of making some serious noise in the Eastern Conference. It would be hard to argue against them being the third-best ‘team’ in the East, and they have grit and grind to beat just about any team on any given night. They appear to have the goods to succeed this postseason, with Milwaukee being the only team that they may have serious issues with. With that being said, they did win both of their contests against the Bucks so far this season. They will be looking to complete season sweeps in their neutral ground matchups against Milwaukee and Toronto, but will still likely be the underdogs if they have to face either team in the postseason. Miami will be a tough out for either team, making them a potential tremendous value at +900.
Philadelphia 76ers (+900)
The shot. The Philadelphia 76ers were one miraculous Kawhi Leonard shot away from the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Many believe that they would have had a very real chance of advancing to the NBA Finals, and potentially beating a battered and bruised Golden State Warriors team. Philadelphia is a shell of the team they were last year as they were unable to adequately replace star player Jimmy Butler or three-point marksman J.J. Reddick. With that being said, the Eastern Conference is significantly less talented with Kawhi Leonard in Los Angeles, Butler in Miami, and Kevin Durant ruled out for the season. The Philadelphia 76ers team we have seen for most of the season has been too inconsistent to make it past the second round, so finally finding some semblance of synergy will be essential to their hopes to better their playoff result from last season.
Indiana Pacers (+3300)
The Indiana Pacers are a longshot at best to even advance past the first round, but if Victor Oladipo has found his game during the COVID-19 forced break from the season, they could suddenly become a tough out. Indiana may lack the depth to be a serious consideration to make it out of the East, but if they can make it through the playoffs healthy, and Oladipo can give them 32 plus minutes a night, they could surprise. With that being said, they do not match up very well with the Miami Heat or Milwaukee Bucks and may be internally hoping that they get Boston or Philadelphia in the first round. Indiana, despite their puncher’s chance, are a questionable value at only +3300.
The Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors are the two teams most likely to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, but Miami, Boston, and Philadelphia are talented enough to beat either of those teams in a seven-game series. This suggests that depending on what you think of each of these squads, there is potential value in all five teams. Milwaukee is the smart bet, and at -165 they should be the favorite target for income bettors. Toronto has some appeal at +700, as they are the team that has a proven track record of shutting down Giannis (albeit with different personnel). However, Miami at +900 is the best odds based value. The suggestion here is to seek a two-unit return on Milwaukee while laying a single unit on your top pick of the other four squads. This hedge will allow you to profit if either Milwaukee or the other team you choose make the NBA Finals. However, if you are looking to lay a single unit and are not a longshot seeker, Milwaukee is the bet to make.
Pick: Milwaukee Bucks (-165)