Updated NBA Conference Odds: The Eastern Conference Contenders
The NBA is heating up – the Super Bowl is over, football bettors are flocking to basketball, and the trade deadline is around the corner. There has already been a major trade with Kristaps Porzingis going to Dallas, although it doesn’t affect the title odds amongst the contenders. Meanwhile, the Lakers are trying to put together a package enticing enough for the Pelicans to give up Anthony Davis so that Los Angeles can compete with the seemingly unbeatable Warriors.
Over in the East, there is no equivalent to Golden State; instead there are four contenders our model deems as potential NBA finalists. Before Victor Oladipo’s injury, the case for five could be made, but it’s difficult to envision the Pacers beating any of the model’s top four East teams without him.
Here are the most recent odds from FanDuel Sportsbook to win the Eastern Conference, along with the best bets to make the NBA Finals.
|New York Knicks||+25000|
Our model’s top-ranked team resides in Milwaukee, led by the freakishly athletic Giannis Antetokounmpo, who sits atop our player power rankings, even ahead of James Harden. Over the last couple months, the Bucks have cemented themselves as the best defensive team in the league. They’re first in defensive efficiency and contest more of their opponents shot than any other team, according to NBA.com.
The Bucks have an unbelievable rotation of long, athletic defenders, and Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon combine to be the best defensive backcourt in the league. Both guards rank in the top fifteen players (that average at least 20 minutes played per game) in defensive rating, along with teammates Giannis and Brook Lopez. When those four are on the court together, it’s extremely difficult to score on the Bucks.
Milwaukee has the third best odds amongst the Eastern Conference contenders and are therefore the best value to win. Giannis will be the best player on the court against any team they’ll play in the playoffs and as long as he continues his dominance, the Bucks should be the frontrunners in the East.
Another team that’s been outstanding on the defensive end is Boston, who’ve won nine of their last ten games. We’ve already discussed how good Marcus Smart and Al Horford have been on defense, but the real difference maker for the Celtics is Kyrie Irving. Despite the drama that he’s brought to the table, he’s been a phenomenal scorer, ranking among the top five in offensive real plus-minus (RPM), per ESPN.
Irving has showcased his excellent driving ability; he averages 11.6 drives per game and is shooting 57.1% on those looks. He also passes out of a drive at a rate of 36.6%, averaging at least one assist on drives per game. Kyrie’s finishing ability has created points not only for himself, but also for his teammates, which is why Boston is one of the best teams on catch-and-shoot opportunities, where they rank fourth in effective field goal percentage.
The Celtics are still five games out of first place, but they’re getting closer to putting it all together and fulfilling their lofty preseason expectations. Kyrie has a deep supporting cast and a great coach in Brad Stevens behind him, so they’re in a great position to make a run, but they need to keep winning in order to prove they’re a favorite to make the Finals.
Oddsmakers have Toronto as the favorite to win the East, but they have a completely new look from last season’s team that finished with a disappointing playoff loss at the hands of LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Kawhi Leonard has retaken his spot amongst the league’s best players and Pascal Siakam has burst on the scene as a solid secondary scorer and defender.
One of the areas the Raptors will need to improve in before the playoffs is rebounding; they rank 22nd in defensive rebounding percentage per Basketball Reference. Both of their starting big men, Siakam and Serge Ibaka, grab fewer than eight rebounds per game. Toronto plays good defense, as they rank eighth in defensive efficiency, but they'll need to improve on limiting opponents' possessions if they're going to make a postseason run.
Toronto doesn’t have great value at current odds, as they’re just our model’s third best team from the East. Leonard, Siakam, and Kyle Lowry form one of the most formidable cores in the East behind their efficient shooting, where they’re eighth in effective field goal percentage, but they’re not dominant in either phase of the game. Toronto would be worth a look at a better price, so bettors should be inclined to monitor their odds throughout the remainder of the season.
The Sixers are the wild card. They have an exciting young roster led by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, but their trade for Jimmy Butler hasn’t elevated them to the Eastern Conference favorite as some thought. They’re above average on both ends of the floor, sitting 10th in offensive efficiency and 12th in defensive efficiency, but they aren’t great at any one aspect.
Embiid has emerged at the next level to become one of the best players in the league. He shoots too many threes (4.0 per game) while shooting under 30%, but he’s an overall efficient scorer, especially because he averages 8.1 free throws made per game. Besides Embiid, the Sixers have the best core on paper with Simmons and Butler, they just haven’t found their rhythm yet this season.
Philly has the same odds as Milwaukee to win the East right now, so they’re definitely a team to avoid. We've discussed what it would take for Philadelphia to show value in the title odds market, and the same goes here: the Sixers need to find their identity as a team and develop chemistry come playoff time.