Let’s take an updated look at the odds in the Eastern Conference and try to come up with a decent way to approach this market and come up with a hopefully sensible longshot NBA pick.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have risen to 1/5 odds to win the NBA’s Eastern Conference in some sportsbooks, an almost impossible number for potential Cavaliers backers to get behind in this seemingly dead Futures Book marketplace. But is it? Some nights, teams like the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors play like they could possibly knock LeBron James and Cleveland off in a 7-game series.
Eastern Conference Futures Market Great If You're Willing To Take A Shot Against LeBron...
They say the cream always rises to the top and that seems to be the case now in the NBA’s Eastern Conference as the Toronto Raptors (35-17) and the Boston Celtics (32-23) have entered the All-Star Break as the 2nd- and 3rd-place teams in the East. Last season at this time, it was the Atlanta Hawks (31-24) who had the best record in the conference with the Cavaliers calmly in 2nd place and not worried about finishing first in the East. And in the end, it didn’t matter anyway as #2 seed Cleveland ended up playing the #1 seed Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals last season and the Cavaliers promptly went into Philips Arena in Atlanta and won the first game—Cleveland actually won both Games 1 and 2 in Atlanta—easily snatching the Home-court Advantage away from the host Hawks like it was no big deal. And it wasn’t. This season, it seems that the Cavaliers (+275 to win NBA championship, Unibet)—who enter the All-Star Break with a 38-14 mark, 3 games ahead of Toronto (40/1 to win NBA championship, Sky Bet)—look like they’re coasting to the #1 spot in the East and will earn the Homecourt Advantage this time around (and not have to play 60 minutes of basketball in Atlanta to snatch it away). A couple of Eastern Conference teams that seem to have regressed since last season are those aforementioned 4th-place Hawks (31-24, 8½ GB) and the 7th-place Chicago Bulls (27-25, 11 GB) who have (again) been bitten by the Injury Bug and today the Bulls (55/1 to win NBA championship, PaddyPower) sit precariously 2 games above the .500 mark and 1½ games away from not even making the Postseason. Beam me up, Scotty. Two teams who have impressed some so far in the Eastern Conference are the 5th-place Miami Heat (29-24, 9½ GB) and the 6th-place Indiana Pacers (28-25, 10½ GB), although beating the defending conference champion Cavaliers (or maybe the Raptors or Celtics) seems highly improbable looking at the Starting 5’s and benches of these two teams. Not this season. And both the Heat (60/1 to win NBA championship, Marathon) and Pacers (80/1 to win NBA championship, Marathon) odds to win the East have dropped, showing what an uphill climb it is for teams in this conference. Here are the updated NBA Futures Book odds from the Eastern Conference from Offshore sportsbook (Antigua) Sportsbook.ag:
Odds to Win Eastern Conference (L2 previous updates in parenthesis to show progression)
Raptors, Celtics May Actually Be Able To Upset LeBron, Cavaliers in Theoretical 7-Game Series
Opponents in the Eastern Conference had a small glimmer of Hope on Wednesday night when Cavaliers star F Kevin Love suffered a Shoulder stinger and had to leave Cleveland’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. But when asked by reporters after the game—won by the Cavaliers 120-111—if he will miss any time because of the shoulder injury, Love simply said, “No.” So the challenge for the other 14 teams in the Eastern Conference who do not have the luxury of having LeBron James on their Roster continues, as it does every season in this conference since this teenage phenomenon from Akron, Ohio burst onto the scene around a decade ago. And so the perennial question arises, once again: Can anyone beat the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference this year? And the answer is surprisingly yes. But it probably won’t end up being the perpetually injured Bulls and Derrick Rose nor the If-I-Only-Had-A-Heart Hawks nor Old Man Wade and the Heat, even if they get healthy and continue to grow as a team. If anyone is going to knock off the Cavaliers in the 2nd Round of the Playoffs or the Eastern Conference Finals this season, it’s going to have to be either Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and the Raptors (40/1 to win NBA Championship, Sky Bet) or Avery Bradley, Isiah Thomas and the Celtics (150/1 to win NBA Championship, Sportingbet). But it won’t be easy, will probably take perfect play and much Luck for the underdogs and would have to probably go the full 7 games to get to that surprising end. But it can happen, despite the fact that the Cavaliers swept Boston, 4-0 in Round 1 of last year’s Postseason and that the 4th-seeded Raptors were also swept in the Round 1 of the Playoffs last year, Toronto by the speedy John Wall and the 5th-seeded Washington Wizards. But using what they learned from last season, growing together—both Boston and Toronto are relatively young NBA teams—and believing they can go into Cleveland and steal Game 1 or 2 (and with it, the Home-court Advantage) makes these two teams worth consideration at these current prices in this particular market.
And if the Cavaliers are 1/5 (to win the Eastern Conference) in early February, where in the name of George Mikan will their NBA odds be in March or April? If there is any value to be found here for our NBA picks, it’s in taking a chance on a team that thinks it can beat the Cavaliers, and Boston and Toronto both fit that bill. And a big key for both—and a path both are on right now—is to avoid a Round 1 matchup with Cleveland and try to get the Cavaliers in Round 2 or the East Finals when your team has a series win under its belt and some Confidence in the players’ heads. Neither the Raptors or Celtics even won a Postseason game last year, but if either team ends up facing Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers in the Playoffs and they can get good play from the young Big Men down low in the paint, then an upset is entirely possible. When Cleveland played in Boston earlier this season at the Boston Garden (Dec. 15), James had 21 points and Love 20 as the Cavaliers charmed the Celtics, 89-77 and reminded them of that bruising Round 1 series last year where Love had his Shoulder ripped out of its socket by Boston F Kelly Olynyk and where JR Smith punched Jae Crowder. So, a little Hockey in a Basketball series. And, Toronto is 1-1 against the Cavaliers this season, losing the last meeting (Jan. 4) in Cleveland (122-100) with the Raptors defeating Cleveland in Toronto, 103-99 on Nov. 25 as playmaker and team leader Lowry had 27 points in the victory. Like the Warriors and Spurs, the Cavaliers are playing and grooming themselves for the Postseason, a psychological edge teams like the Raptors and Celtics just don’t, and may never have and earn. Trying to assemble a Roster and hang with LeBron and Cleveland seems to have doomed Atlanta and Chicago, so it seems it’s time for Toronto and Head Coach Dwane Casey and Boston and wonderful head Coach Brad Stevens to give it a go, and if anyone is going to upset the Cavs in the East this season, it will probably be one of these two games, young teams who get their most of their Mojo from their Guard play and who are both growing (and believing) a little bit every more every night they take the court.
Eastern Conference Future Pick: Boston Celtics 30/1
Best Line Offered: at William Hill