Updated NBA Championship Odds: The East Improves at the Trade Deadline

Eastern Conference contenders made some flashy moves at the deadline, but which team should bettors target to win the title?

The NBA season marches closer and closer to the playoffs. Last week was the trade deadline; many players switched teams, but only some teams improved their odds to win the title.

Philadelphia finally moved on from the Markelle Fultz era, shipping him to Orlando for Jonathon Simmons and picks, while Houston shed cap space to get below the luxury tax threshold for next year. However, there were three major trades that caused the needle to move for three Eastern Conference contenders.

Significant Moves

First, the Sixers traded for Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, and Mike Scott from the Clippers. The price was steep, as Philly had to give up several future picks alongside Landry Shamet, Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala, but Harris ranks in our model’s top 50 players. Now the Sixers have five starters that rank in the top 65 and can claim to the best starting lineup in basketball -- or, at the very least, in the East.

Philly’s title odds decreased to +1200, according to the FanDuel Sportsbook, which is one of the best prices out there. That’s quite a drop from +1700 a few weeks ago, and it’s hard to say whether Harris is worth a 2% increase by implied probability, even with the career year he’s had thus far. Bettors should lay off the Sixers for now but ought to continue to monitor their chemistry as the season develops; if Philadelphia finds a rhythm, they could be the most dominant team in the Eastern Conference.

Milwaukee and Toronto both made significant moves close to the actual deadline. Milwaukee acquired Nikola Mirotic from New Orleans in what seems to be a perfect fit on paper. The Bucks typically play without a traditional power forward, surrounding Giannis Antetokounmpo with three guards, so Mirotic will allow coach Mike Budenholzer to be more flexible with lineups, potential deployed him as a stretch-five behind Brook Lopez.

Toronto traded away Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, and C.J. Miles to Memphis to obtain Marc Gasol. The Raptors make an upgrade at center, especially on the offensive end, as Gasol is a much better scorer and facilitator than Valanciunas. The difference on the court is evident in real plus-minus (RPM); Gasol’s RPM on the season is 3.07, while Valanciunas lagged behind with an RPM of 1.26, according to ESPN.

Alongside Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka, the Raptors have a formidable frontcourt rotation that can be paired with Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors’ current odds to win the title are the shortest in the East at +900, and even though there’s better value elsewhere in the conference, Toronto’s implied probability is lower than our model’s probability of 12.2%.

Top Value

However, even better value lies with Milwaukee, as they remain atop our model’s rankings, and they’ve only gotten better with the addition of Mirotic. Giannis is our model’s best player in the league right now and is fifth in RPM, one of only four players to rank amongst the top five in both (James Harden, Anthony Davis and Paul George being the others).

The Bucks have the perfect supporting cast around Giannis. In Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon, they have two lanky guards that score efficiently and defend well. The 30-year old Lopez has had a renaissance in Milwaukee, emerging as one of the best interior defenders in the league. Khris Middleton, and now Mirotic, will provide enough outside shooting to space the floor for the Greek Freak to operate.

Milwaukee doesn’t have the same level of firepower as Golden State or Philadelphia, but they have a deep rotation with players that fit well on the court together. The Bucks have the same title odds as Boston and Philly (+1200), but we give them a 24.2% chance at hoisting the trophy.

Bettors looking for value in the futures market should only look to one team out East: the Milwaukee Bucks.