NBA Eastern Conference Odds Update: Ranking the Top 5 Teams
Are the Nets Still the Team to Beat?
To say the teams at the top of the Eastern Conference favorites are in a state of turmoil would be an understatement. Except for maybe the Miami Heat, every one of the top eight teams has their own version of a soap opera happening inside their team facility.
As we stand today, two-and-a-half weeks into the season, who looks poised to come out of the East in June? Every other week I will look at the odds of the top teams in each conference to see who is poised to return good value and who has seen their title hopes crumble?
On Friday, we will take a look at the Western Conference Futures.
Chicago Bulls (+1800)
The Bulls came bursting out of the gate at 4-0 but have gone 2-2 since that time, including losses to the Knicks and 76ers. Both are upper-tier playoff contenders, so no real worries there, but the two losses do coincide with the thumb injury Zach LaVine sustained a week ago.
Perhaps the toughest test for the Bulls will be winning their division. They will have to fend off the Bucks when they are fully healthy, which could be a large task. If they can’t take down the division, they will have to contend with the members of the Atlantic Division who could legitimately have all five teams in the playoffs, plus the Miami Heat and the Atlanta Hawks out of the Southeast.
The Bulls have plenty of offensive weapons now with LaVine, Demar DeRozan, and Nicola Vucevic. In addition, they have a strong distributor and defender in Lonzo Ball and an extremely competent backup in Alex Caruso. Look for the Bulls to try to gain some frontcourt depth around the trade deadline, where they currently are very thin.
Philadelphia 76ers (+1000)
The injuries and drama are already starting to pile up for Philadelphia, and we haven’t even played one month of the season.
We all know the Ben Simmons saga, and there seems to be no end in sight there. Now Tobias Harris is out multiple games for health and safety protocols, and Danny Green is injured. Joel Embiid has already missed one game with an injury and one more for rest.
Philadelphia does have an outside shot at the number one seed in the East and home-court throughout the playoffs, but they seem to be more interested in having their players rested and healthy for when May arrives. Without home court and without their point guard, I don’t see the 76ers having much value at this point in the season.
Miami Heat (+700)
The Heat seem very content to just sit back and let all the other drama play out on other teams. Meanwhile, they have the best record in the East and, besides a couple of minor issues for Bam Adebayo, don’t have any major injury concerns.
The Heat’s +16.7 point differential through seven games is more than double any other team in the conference, and they are also scoring the most points per game of any team in the East.
With a core of Jimmy Butler, Adebayo, Kyle Lowry, Duncan Robinson, and Tyler Herro, this team has everything: shooting, defense, inside presence, veteran leadership. Right now, the Heat are my pick to make it out of the East, which makes a +700 futures line seem extremely valuable.
Milwaukee Bucks (+360)
Here’s another team that is hoping their injury worries for the year are getting out of the way early. They lost Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez to short-term injuries recently and now will be without Khris Middleton while he is out in health protocols.
But the reigning champs know what it takes to get through a grueling playoff grind, including winning elimination games on the road. They also have the most complete player in the conference in Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Without 60% of their core lineup, they are struggling to a 4-4 record. They are outside the top-12 in both offensive and defensive rating in the early going after finishing top-10 in both last season. But assuming they get back to full health, they will deservedly be one of the top two favorites all season long.
Brooklyn Nets (+150)
Considering the favorites in the West (Los Angeles Lakers) are sitting at +260, the +150 it takes to bet on the Nets seems like a lose-lose proposition to me.
First, you aren’t drawing near the value that a currently superior team like the Heat or Bucks will give you. Second, this team may have a 5-3 record, but that record sits on a potential landmine of headaches, injuries, and inconsistency.
I never thought I would be following a New York City mayoral race to help determine the future value of a basketball team or individual player, but that’s where we are with Kyrie Irving. With the current New York City COVID guidelines, Irving cannot be in the team facility. He had hoped to play on the road, but the team asked him to stay away. That could change in January, but a lot of basketball has to be played before then.
Both James Harden and Kevin Durant are over 32 years old, and their bench looks like an All-Star team from 2011. At this price, I’m fading the Nets until we have clarity on the Irving news.