The Milwaukee Bucks did everything right last year. No, they didn’t beat the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals, but Milwaukee’s approach was correct – they just needed a bit more seasoning. Giannis Antetokounmpo is already the league MVP; once he gets comfortable throwing his weight around, he might be unstoppable in the playoffs.
So here we are recommending the Philadelphia 76ers to win the East in 2019-20. Depending on where you shop, you might find the Bucks as +140 favorites on the NBA odds board, ahead of the second-place Sixers at +250. But Philly’s offseason moves thus far make them a more likely candidate to reach the NBA Finals. Why pay more?
Shadows And Tall Trees
We don’t just pull these things out of our nether regions here at the home office. FiveThirtyEight ran some projections after the first big wave of free agency struck, and they have Philadelphia winning 60.0 games next year, tops in the league. The Bucks are second in the East and fifth overall at 54.5 wins. That’s regular season, of course; as Milwaukee fans (and players) can tell you now, the playoffs are a whole other animal.
The Sixers are ready. With the addition of Al Horford and the subtraction of Jimmy Butler, Philadelphia will have a bigger lineup in 2019-20, one that should free Tobias Harris to do more of the Butler-like things he’s capable of. Back-up center Kyle O’Quinn will help down low, too, and while gunner JJ Redick has left for greener pastures, Josh Richardson is coming in from the Miami Heat in the trade for Butler. All is well.
There’s Something On The Wing
Milwaukee, meanwhile, have lost guard Malcolm Brogdon in free agency. It’s not a disaster by any means, given how deep this team is at every position, but it’s a downgrade nonetheless from Brogdon to what’s left of newly-arrived Wes Matthews. The Bucks will still be incredibly competitive in the East, and they’re also beefing up with center Robin Lopez joining his brother Brook, yet the Sixers pay out nearly twice as much at +250, so again, our NBA pick here isn’t too difficult.
If you’re looking for a third option at a bargain price, well, the Raptors are available at around +1200 after losing Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Clippers. It’s possible that Pascal Siakam will take the next step in his development and cover some of what Toronto loses with Leonard’s departure. And they did replace some of Kawhi’s wing defense with the cheap signings of Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, even if neither gentleman can shoot for beans. However, there’s every chance Masai Ujiri blows this team up midseason and trades away both Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol by the deadline. We’ll pick Philly instead, thank you kindly – and may the sphere be with you this summer.