Each Monday we’ll take a look at a few different NBA team or player futures betting odds that have changed over the course of the week. This week I am looking at the shakeup in the Eastern Conference following the trade deadline.
Note: All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook
TORONTO RAPTORS (+200)
The big move trade by the Raptors was acquiring Marc Gasol for Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright and C.J. Miles. Gasol might be the biggest name in the trade, but I have doubts as to whether he is a massive improvement over Valanciunas. Gasol got off to a great start this year, but like the Grizzlies, he fizzled out over the past few weeks. He shot less than 30 pecent from 3 in January and February combined, and he’s slipped to 15th amongst centers in Defensive Real Plus-Minus after being ranked first after the first month of the year. At age 34, it is logical to think Gasol is declining. Raptors fans will have to hope this was a motivational issue since he was on a Memphis team in a free fall after a good start to the season.
I really like this Raptors squad, but I don’t think it should be the favorite to win the conference. It seems unlikely the Raptors will have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, and injuries are always a bit of a concern for them. Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard both have missed a handful of games this year, and an injury to either around the playoffs likely would kill their chances. The Gasol trade was a reasonable gamble, but it doesn’t really move the needle for me.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS (+225)
Through a series of trades, the Bucks basically were able to convert Thon Maker and a pair of second-round picks into Nikola Mirotic. I thought this trade was the biggest steal of the deadline. In Mirotic, Milwaukee added a talented big man to help stretch the floor around Giannis Antetokounmpo. Niko is shooting 36.8 percent from 3 after shooting a career-best 42.9 percent last season. Some people might knock him for his defense, but his defensive play was a key factor in the Pelicans’ playoff series win over the Trail Blazers last season. He’s going to be taking minutes from Ersan Ilyasova, and Mirotic is an upgrade over him on both ends of the floor.
I don’t really understand how the Bucks aren’t the favorite to win the Eastern Conference. The odds are understandably tight, but they made a nice splash at the deadline and have the best record in the NBA. This positions them to have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. With Boston, Toronto and Philadelphia all in the same division, the Bucks have the easiest schedule to finishing out the year with the best record. Defeating the Bucks in Milwaukee is a tall task, as they hold a 23-5 home record. They are my top value of any team in the East.
BOSTON CELTICS (+275)Of the big four in the Eastern Conference, I view the Celtics as the weakest team. I think they have been a bit overrated all year after last year’s playoff run. The reality is the East was an extremely weak conference last season, and the current versions of the 76ers, Raptors and Bucks are all better than the Cavs team Boston lost to last year. In fairness, the Celtics are better this year than last year with Kyrie Irving back, but I have my doubts he will be healthy through the playoffs. He left Saturday’s game against the Clippers with knee soreness, and this has to be a concern. More often than not, we have seen him suffer a significant injury around playoff time.
The Celtics have suffered a pair of brutal losses in the past week to the Clippers and the Lakers. This has the makings of a team trending downward, and unlike the other teams on this list, the Celtics didn’t make any effort to improve the roster at the trade deadline. GM Danny Ainge always appears to be accumulating assets for tomorrow. Unfortunately, tomorrow never arrives, and the championship window for the Celtics could be closing if they aren’t able to land Anthony Davis in the offseason.
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS (+275)The 76ers made the biggest splashes in the trade market by adding Tobias Harris after picking up Jimmy Butler earlier in the year. Harris should fit seamlessly into the Sixers’ offense due to his ability to catch and shoot. He is shooting an absurd 43.7 percent from 3 and should get easier looks than what he saw as the top option on the Clippers. Philly has acquired a terrific big four, but the cost was giving up almost all of its depth. If any of the Sixers’ key players gets injured, they likely are doomed unless they can add some bodies via the buyout market.
Despite some concerns about its depth, Philly is the team with the most upside in the conference. I like it as a bet along with the Bucks. We only have seen the Sixers play two games with Harris, but the offense has looked unstoppable. After scoring 117 points against a tough Nuggets defense, Philly dropped 143 points on the Lakers on Sunday. The Sixers’ offense was so hot even Ben Simmons tried his hand at a 3-point attempt! A lot his been made of his lack of ability to make 3s, but he reportedly is working on them in practice, so it’s encouraging to see him attempt a long ball during game action. If he starts knocking them down, look out.
Odds and lines subject to change. See website for actual odds.
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