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NBA Eastern Conference Champion Odds: The Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers Close In on the Brooklyn Nets

As the Nets continue to struggle without their Big Three in the lineup, the 76ers and Bucks continue to gain ground from oddsmakers. Which team is the best value to win the Eastern Conference?
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Eastern Conference Champion Odds: The Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers Close In on the Brooklyn Nets

The Ben Simmons for James Harden rocked the NBA and shook up the rosters of two Eastern Conference Teams with Finals aspirations. How do the East contenders look now that the dust has settled? Here are the top five teams with the best odds to win the Eastern Conference.

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Boston Celtics (+1000) (Bet $100 to Win 1000)

Before I break down the Celtics, let me go on a mini-rant about something. Where are the Chicago Bulls on this top-five list? They are in second place in the East, have Lonzo Ball returning from injury before the playoffs, and DeMar DeRozan now in the top four in MVP odds. Their Big Three can compete with anyone in the league and they deserve a spot on this list. I would bet them to win the title over the Nets as things stand right now.

But the Celtics also deserve their place on this list after an 8-2 stretch bumped them up to fifth in the East. They ranked first in defensive rating in February, beating the next team by more than four points per 100 possessions. Their offense also exploded into the top-ten as well, checking in with an identical rating as the Phoenix Suns.

The issue for the Celtics all season has been their performance on the road. While they are just 16-16 in those games, every other team in the East's top eight has a winning record when they travel. The Celtics actually have a better offensive and defensive rating on the road than at home, so some simple regression there will likely get them back on track.

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Miami Heat (+550) (Bet $100 to $550)

Your current Eastern Conference leaders (at least three games than anyone else on this list) look quite disrespected sitting with the fourth-best odds to make it to the Finals. Their 9-1 stretch in their last 10 games was enough to bump their odds closer to the leaders of the pack, but not enough to pass the teams most people consider the favorites to make it out of the East.

The quartet of Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Kyle Lowry, and Bam Adebayo has been almost unstoppable lately. The Heat starting lineup has the seventh-best net rating on the season, ahead of event Golden State and Phoenix.

The Heat didn't make any splashy moves at the trade deadline mainly because they are getting outstanding contributions from players like Dwayne Dedmon, Max Strus, and Gabe Vincent. Plus, their acquisition should come within the next two weeks with Victor Oladipo should finally make his way back to the court. If you are looking for a slightly longer shot to place an Eastern Conference bet, Miami is likely my choice.

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Philadelphia 76ers (+370) (Bet $100 to Win $370)

If the last three games with James Harden are any indication, the 76ers will have won that trade in a landslide. Since Harden and Embiid teamed up, Philly is first in offensive rating (122.9), sixth in defensive rating (107.5), and they won three in a row.

All three of those games were road games and they won by an average margin of 16.7 points including a win in Milwaukee. Harden averages 14 assists per game as a 76er, Embiid is over 35 points per game and they are making a climb up the standings and are now just a game out of the second seed in the East.

Their only weakness will be outside shooting since Seth Curry was shipped out, but with Danny Green, Tyrese Maxey, and Shake Milton ready to play important utility-player roles, this looks like a team moving in the right direction at the right time. My prediction here on the first day of March is that we see a Philadelphia-Milwaukee Eastern Conference Finals.

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Milwaukee Bucks (+350) (Bet $100 to Win $350)

The last six games have not been kind to Milwaukee, with wins only against Charlotte and Indiana plus losses to Portland, Phoenix, Philadelphia, and a short-handed Nets team. Perhaps that rough stretch keeps them behind the Nets in oddsmakers' minds for now, but they clearly look like the better team and now have seemingly no weaknesses.

The trade for backup center Serge Ibaka was a sneaky good one. In Ibaka, they get a battle-tested center who can protect the rim and rebound. With Brook Lopez on the shelf, they needed another big body to complement Bobby Portis. They now seem fully loaded and ready for the playoff grind, and they should find themselves with a first-round home-court advantage.

Giannis Antetokuonmpo has, of course, been playing like a man from another planet. In his last 10 games, Giannis averaged 32.1 points, 12.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.8 steals + blocks per game. There has literally been no force on earth that can stop him and he is frequently putting up lines like he did last night: 26 points, 16 rebounds, six assists, two steals, and four blocks in JUST 28 MINUTES!

Think back to Jordan, Olajuwon, LeBron, Kobe and Shaq, Magic. The team with the best player is often the ones cutting down the nets. It looks more and more like Milwaukee will head back to the Finals looking for a repeat.

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Brooklyn Nets (+300) (Bet $100 to Win $300)

Even at +300, I just can not bring myself to bet my hard-earned American dollars on the Brooklyn Nets. Maybe their new core of superstars can come together and gel in the last 15 or so games of the season, but right now they are fighting to be able to have home court in the play-in tournament.

After getting walloped by the Raptors on Monday, Brooklyn sits at 32-30 and they are 3-7 in their last 10 games. Only the Hornets and the three bottom-feeding East teams allow more points per game than the Nets. In the month of February, they were 29th in defensive rating and just 23rd in offensive rating.

Can they right the ship? I guess that's the question for bettors, but my money is on "no." There has been word that New York City will lift their vaccination mandates for entertainment venues as soon as March 7th, which would clear the way for Kyrie Irving to play all games. But Kevin Durant is still working his way back from injury and Ben Simmons has been labeled weeks away as he gets the "Return to Competition Reconditioning" tag on the injury report.

Add it all up, and it doesn't seem to me like a squad that can pull it together cohesively and quickly to be able to make a title run. Not when you have squads like the Bucks, Heat, and 76ers that are healthy and rolling.

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Proudest husband and dad you will ever find. When I'm not with my wife and two kids I split my time working in higher ed, grinding DFS and season-long, collecting silver age comics, studying behavioral economics, and drinking coffee. I once played Pat Connaughton in an actual NBA DFS lineup for money. Astros, Rockets, and Texans for life.


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