NBA Eastern Conference futures: Who Will Seize the East?

Martin Green

Saturday, February 16, 2019 6:22 PM UTC

Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019 6:22 PM UTC

The Bucks, the Raptors, the Celtics and the 76ers are all gunning for glory in the Eastern Conference and there is value on all four teams in the futures betting odds.

<p>The NBA’s Eastern Conference looks wide open this year and several teams are in with a great chance of seizing glory. The Cleveland Cavaliers monopolised it for the last four years, but their demise has been nothing short of spectacular since star player LeBron James left for LA. There is a huge power vacuum in the east and four key franchises are bidding to fill it. Here we assess their chances:</p><h2>Milwaukee Bucks</h2><p>The Bucks boast the strongest record in the entire league this season, with an even better win percentage than the Golden State Warriors. The Dubs lead the west and they are all but certain to reach a fifth straight NBA Finals this year, and the Bucks will fancy their chances of meeting Kevin Durant and co there. They are 8-2 in their last 10 games and 43-14 overall, and they boast arguably the most exciting talent in the conference. Giannis Antetokounmpo is second only to Houston’s James Harden in the NBA MVP betting odds after dazzling with his brilliance throughout the campaign. However, the Bucks have the weakest overall roster, so they will need miracles from <a href="" target="_blank" title="NBA MVP The Greek Freak">The Greek Freak</a> if they are to clinch the east.</p><h2>Toronto Raptors</h2><p>The Raps took a huge gamble last summer as they offloaded key man DeMar DeRozan in order to bring in the supremely talented but injury riddled Kawhi Leonard. Yet thus far the gamble appears to be paying off, as Leonard has been on fire. Toronto finished top of the regular season standings in the east last year, only to lose 4-0 to the Cavs in the semi-finals. The arrival of Leonard, the best two-way player in the NBA, should make them tougher in crunch playoff games this time around. They have furthered bolstered the roster with the arrivals of Marc Gasol and Jeremy Lin, while Kyle Lowry is in good form, Serge Ibaka is dangerous and Pascal Siakam keeps improving, so the Raps will take some stopping in the post season.</p><h2>Philadelphia 76ers</h2><p>The Sixers’ project is starting to bear fruit and they boast two of the finest young stars in the business in the form of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. A monster trade saw them bring in the legendary Jimmy Butler earlier this season, and the first five was further enhanced with another huge trade this month. They are now blessed with the talents of Tobias Harris, who is hitting his prime at 26 years of age and can count himself unlucky not to have received an All-Star nod after enjoying his best ever season. He is averaging nearly 20 points and eight rebounds per game, so he provides a strong option alongside Embiid, Simmons and Butler. The 76ers are going all out for glory this year, also bringing in Mike Scott and Boban Marjanovic. They have been building for the future for several years, but a new win-now mentality suddenly prevails. They now have one of the most powerful starting line-ups in the NBA, and if Zhaire Smith and Markelle Fultz can provide depth they will be in with a shot.</p><h2>Boston Celtics</h2><p>The Celtics were pre-season favourites to win the east after going close last year. They lost Gordon Hayward to injury on the opening day of last season and then lost Kyrie Irving for the playoffs, but they still went all the way to the conference championship series. With a cleaner bill of health this time around they were expected to win the conference, but such proclamations were tempered by a shaky 10-10 start. Since then the Celtics have gone 27-11 to climb up to fourth in the east, with a 37-21 record, making them one of the hottest teams in the league. They have the deepest roster in the east, but the likes of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier need to discover greater consistency if they are to succeed.</p><h2>Verdict</h2><p>It is extremely tight, and the bookmakers’ odds reflect that perfectly. The Raps are the 9/4 favourites with <a href=";a=df66db4b-b019-4343-9fc7-6c4f20e2a356" target="_blank">Paddy Power</a> and Betfred and deservedly so. Leonard is a sensational player, an NBA Finals MVP, and they are in superb form. The Bucks are also 9/4 with <a href=";a=bf7f64f4-cd67-4904-9b00-6ded1d41fd18" target="_blank">Bet365</a>, <a href=";a=a710bfac-73c1-4a57-b441-2caf1b9f397b" target="_blank">William Hill</a> and various others, and you cannot argue with their consistency or Antetokounmpo’s talents. You can find a best price of 7/2 on the 76ers at <a href=";a=95095aa3-ae41-43ba-886d-99a97893c4a3" target="_blank">Boyle Sports</a>, while the Celtics are 7/2 with Paddy Power and Betfair. The Sixers now have the most formidable first five, but their record against the other big teams in the east is woeful. They are 0-3 against Boston and their only win against the teams above them came against the Raptors when Leonard was missing. The Celtics have been unable to gel as well as they did last year, and Hayward has not been the same since returning from injury. For that reason, the Raptors look like an attractive bet at 9/4.</p>
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