NBA Picks: Predicting the Path to the Eastern Conference Finals

Jason Lake

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 1:03 PM GMT

Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015 1:03 PM GMT

The Atlanta Hawks may have the best record in the Eastern Conference, but the NBA odds say LeBron James & the Cleveland Cavaliers will advance to the NBA Finals. It won’t be that easy.

Jason’s record as of Feb. 18: 35-29-4 ATS, 2-4 Totals
 

We hope you’ve been enjoying the extended All-Star break. It’s always nice to take a moment to smell the flowers – or the money, in this case. The NBA odds have been kind to us the last couple of weeks here at the home office. Things are becoming clearer with each passing game, and as usual, the betting market is helping us out by ignoring things like lineup changes and bench strength. Let’s see if we can keep the money train rolling all the way to the NBA Finals.

Supporters of the Atlanta Hawks (43-11 SU, 37-17 ATS) certainly hope the ride never ends. But the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference is only the second favorite to win the East at 9-4. Your top favorite: the Cleveland Cavaliers (33-22 SU, 25-30 ATS) at a chalky 11-10. Is this just a case of too much love for LeBron James? Let’s stare directly into the crystal ball and see who would win the East if the playoffs started today.

Eastern Quarterfinals

No. 1 Atlanta Hawks vs. No. 8 Miami Heat
The Heat (22-30 SU, 23-27-2 ATS) are barely clinging to the eighth seed right now, and they could easily slip away if Dwyane Wade (22.4 PER) and Chris Bosh (19.9 PER) don’t get healthy soon. Even if they do, the rest of the Miami roster is still too depleted to give the Hawks much of a fight.

NBA Picks: Atlanta

 

No. 2 Toronto Raptors vs. No. 7 Charlotte Hornets
Now that the Raptors (36-17 SU, 26-26-1 ATS) are back at 100 percent capacity, they look pretty strong, although that No. 18-ranked defense is still a concern. We can see the plucky Hornets (22-30 SU, 25-25-2 ATS) extending this series to six games.

NBA Picks: Toronto

 

No. 3 Chicago Bulls vs. No. 6 Milwaukee Bucks
Let’s hope this Great Lakes matchup happens in real life. The Bulls (34-20 SU, 25-29 ATS) would have to be favored here, but Jason Kidd has the Bucks (30-23 SU, 34-19 ATS) playing some very good basketball.

NBA Picks: Chicago

 

No. 4 Washington Wizards vs. No. 5 Cleveland Cavaliers
We doubt the Cavaliers (33-22 SU, 25-20 ATS) will still be in the bottom half of the Eastern bracket when April rolls around. They’re a much better team since those midseason trades, and there could be some more talent on the way, cough cough Ray Allen cough. Washington (33-21 SU, 23-30-1 ATS) is no pushover, though.

NBA Picks: Cleveland

Eastern Semifinals

No. 1 Atlanta Hawks vs. No. 5 Cleveland Cavaliers
My goodness. It’s almost impossible to bet against the Hawks at this point; they’re a Top-6 team at both ends of the floor, they’ve got four All-Stars, and they’ve got depth. King James did warn us it could take another year for Cleveland to be a true contender.

NBA Picks: Atlanta

 

No. 2 Toronto Raptors vs. No. 3 Chicago Bulls
The same could be said for the Raptors. They’ll have arguably the best player on the floor in Kyle Lowry (20.4 PER), but that questionable defense tells us Toronto is still not quite up to the task. This would be Chicago’s series to lose.

NBA Picks: Chicago

Eastern Finals

No. 1 Atlanta Hawks vs. No. 3 Chicago Bulls
Not quite the matchup everyone outside of Atlanta is hoping for. But if the Hawks can beat the Cavaliers, they should be able to win the East. The Bulls are listed at 5Dimes Sportsbook at +350 odds to win the East, less than half of Atlanta’s price. Derrick Rose (16.6 PER) isn’t an MVP anymore. Joakim Noah (15.1 PER) isn’t healthy. The Bulls are deeper than they were last year, but not deep enough to last this long, in our humble opinion.

NBA Picks: Atlanta

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