Updated NBA Divisional Odds: Hedging Bets in the East

Is it time to double down on Kemba Walker and the Hornets to win the Southeast Division?

The playoffs are a little over a month away and the divisional odds have been whittled down to the teams that can actually finish on top. For most of the season, I’ve recommended future plays based on our model’s projections, but now it’s time to revisit our best divisional bets and decide whether to double down, stand pat, or hedge.

We’ll start in the Eastern Conference this week, as none of the divisions are quite locked up yet, even though Milwaukee is a massive favorite to edge out the Pacers.

Atlantic Division

Team FanDuel Odds numberFire Projected Wins
Toronto Raptors -1900 57.2
Philadelphia 76ers +1200 51.0
Boston Celtics +5500 48.4

Previous Pick: Toronto Raptors +100

Toronto has made this divisional race easier than anticipated and they’re now 5.5 games ahead of Philadelphia. They’ve won eight of their last ten, rank third in our model, and aren’t looking back. The Raptors made a shrewd move at the trade deadline to acquire Marc Gasol, replacing Jonas Valanciunas, and now they have one of the strongest rotations in basketball. When Valanciunas was on the court with Kyle Lowry, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, and Danny Green, the Raptors’ net rating was 21.4, according to, but sub Gasol in for Valanciunas, and their net rating has gone up to 30.7. Those five have only played 34 minutes together on the floor, but it’s flash of Toronto’s potential come playoff time.

Although Kawhi has only played in 46 of the team’s games, he’s proved to be their best scoring option as Kyle Lowry has taken more of a role as a facilitator. Both Leonard and Lowry rank amongst the top 15 players in Offensive Real Plus-Minus per ESPN, but perhaps the most important player for the Raptors’ rise this season has been Pascal Siakam, who’s currently one of the favorites to win Most Improved Player.

Siakam is the Raptors’ most efficient shooter besides Danny Green, and he’s one of the best two-way power forwards in the league. While Serge Ibaka has become somewhat of a liability on both ends of the floor with a Real Plus-Minus of -0.67, Siakam has stepped up to be the Raptors’ third option. While Toronto’s aforementioned lineup with Gasol has a net rating 30.7, the same lineup with Ibaka instead of Gasol has a net rating of 7.2. It’s scary to think that the Raptors could be even better, but the lineup with Ibaka has been on the floor for the vast majority of Toronto’s season. More time for Gasol and less time for Ibaka could be a subtle but major improvement for the Raptors, as Gasol is both a better passer and defender than Ibaka.

There’s really no value in betting either the Sixers or Celtics to come back and overtake the Raptors; the Sixers haven’t quite found their rhythm yet and the Celtics are beginning to rival the Lakers as the best soap opera in the NBA. However, since the Raptors division title is imminent, there’s not much value in doubling down, either. Bettors who had the Raptors should just sit back and enjoy the rest of the season.

Central Division

Team FanDuel Odds numberFire Projected Wins
Milwaukee Bucks -7000 60.9
Indiana Pacers +1600 50.8

Previous Pick: Indiana Pacers: +270

Bettors who bet on the Pacers to win the division or make a playoff run were disheartened by Victor Oladipo’s season-ending injury. Indiana is still a tough out every night, but they no longer have the firepower to keep up with the East’s top teams. Plus, they share a division with the juggernaut in Milwaukee, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, the current favorite to win MVP.

The Pacers’ supporting cast is still keeping their hopes for a little playoff run alive, led by Myles Turner, who has proven to be one of the best interior defenders in the league, evidenced by his top five defensive RPM. However, without Oladipo, Indiana lacks the type of player that can create his own shot on offense.

Currently, the Pacers sit 7.5 games back behind the Bucks, so they have a lot of ground to cover. Also, according to Tankathon, Indiana has one of the toughest remaining schedules left, while Milwaukee has one of the easiest. Giannis and the Bucks are essentially a sure thing at this point, which is reflected in the odds. Unfortunately for bettors, it would be extremely expensive to hedge a Pacers bet by backing the Bucks. This bet can likely be chalked up as a loss; hopefully Oladipo can recover and create betting value for Indiana next season.

Southeast Division

TeamFanDuel OddsnumberFire Projected Wins
Orlando Magic+13538.4
Miami Heat+15537.5
Charlotte Hornets+20037.8
Washington Wizards+160035.3
Atlanta Hawks+2500028.2

Previous Pick: Charlotte Hornets +440

The Southeast is home to the NBA’s tightest race, although it’s likely that the winner’s reward will be the eight-seed and a difficult series against Milwaukee. The three favorites are the Hornets, the Heat, and the Magic. Orlando and Charlotte are currently tied for the division lead, with Miami only a half game back.

These three teams are bunched up in our model’s projections, so the best value is on the team with the highest odds, meaning it’s time to double down on Kemba Walker and company. While Orlando has become one of the league’s best defensive teams behind the rebounding prowess of Nikola Vucevic, the Hornets have had success on the offensive end of the floor. Kemba can create shots for himself and his teammates when he drives to the basket; he ranks in the top ten in points and assists per drive. Kemba can both finish effectively at the rim, or dish to surrounding shooters like Marvin Williams, who has an effective field goal percentage of 56.6% on catch-and-shoot attempts.

Charlotte has two remaining games against Miami and plays Orlando at home in the last game of the season. Orlando is favored because they have the easiest remaining schedule of the three teams, but that final game could decide the division of the Hornets can hang tough. There’s still value in betting the Hornets at current odds despite their strength of schedule.

Obviously, this is the toughest division to call, so leaning on the team with the highest odds with the best player in the division is a solid choice. Although the stakes aren’t high to actually win the division, the race for eighth could be the most exciting part of the end of the NBA regular season.