Bucks or Bust? Oddsmakers at the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas updated the futures board for the NBA Eastern Conference champion, and the Milwaukee Bucks are the big favorite at 1/2 odds. The defending champion Toronto Raptors are 8/1 to win the Eastern Conference for the second season in a row.
The Bucks have been the consensus team to beat in the NBA due to everyone’s favorite “beast from the east,” otherwise known as Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo. The MVP candidate led the Milwaukee Bucks to their best season in a half-century. The Bucks were on the cusp of winning 70 games before the pandemic hit.
Only two other teams in NBA history won 70 or more games in a season (Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in 1996 and the 2016 Golden State Warriors).
2020 NBA EASTERN CONFERENCE FUTURES
Milwaukee Bucks 1/2
Boston Celtics 6/1
Philadelphia 76ers 8/1
Toronto Raptors 8/1
Miami Heat 14/1
Indiana Pacers 40/1
Brooklyn Nets 80/1
Orlando Magic 200/1
Washington Wizards 2000/1
You can call the Bucks a team of destiny. For the entire season, it really came down to which LA team that the Bucks would face in the 2020 NBA Finals. Fans, oddsmakers, and media were all pumping up a potential showdown between the Greek Freak and LeBron James for the NBA Championship.
But who really knows how the layoff will affect players? In one sense, everyone in the NBA will have a similar challenge ahead of them to get back into game shape as quickly as possible. The best-conditioned and healthiest (aka negative CV-19 tests) team will have an edge once the playoffs begin. Teams with the best chemistry pre-pandemic certainly have an edge over the rest of the pack.
East Duel: Raptors Value Play at 8/1
The Raptors offer up the best value wager to win the Eastern Conference at 8/1 odds. Nick Nurse and his team have more experience than the Bucks as reigning champions. Plus, they seemed like they easily overcame the biggest obstacle thrown at them: Kawhi Leonard leaving in free agency.
Pundits expected the Raptors to struggle for a potential playoff berth this season. Instead, no Kawhi … no problem! The Kawhi-less Raptors thrived without the 2019 NBA Finals MVP and won 46 ball games.
When the season shut down in early March, the Raptors sat pretty in the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Only the Bucks (53) and Lakers (49) had won more games than the Raptors.
Heading into the restart, the Raptors lead the Boston Celtics by three games in the loss column, and lead the Miami Heat by 5.5 games.
Celtics, Sixers, or Heat Upset?
The Boston Celtics (43-21) offer up some value at 6/1 odds to win the Eastern Conference. Head coach Brad Stevens has a knack for getting his team prepared in a very short time. When he coached at Butler, his teams thrived while playing games on neutral ground. Stevens will find a way for his Celtics to exploit any weaknesses in a matchup against the Bucks.
The Celtics are also on a mission this season to prove to Kyrie Irving (now on the Brooklyn Nets) that the team is better off without him. The Celtics are currently sitting in the #3 seed in the east.
Vegas bookies list the Philadelphia 76ers (39-26) at 8/1 odds to win the east. They came into this season as the biggest threat to the Greek Freak and the Bucks. The Sixers had the best starting five in the NBA, but they were a Jekyll and Hyde team. Unbeatable at home, the Sixers posted a 29-2 record in Philly this season. They couldn’t get their shit together on the road, though. The Sixers were a paltry 10-24 away from Philly this season. Maybe it’s the cheesesteaks?
Then again, have the Sixers fully recovered from last year’s tragic loss to the Raptors after Kawhi’s shot in Game 7?
Disney’s World of Sports will host the NBA restart. Without games played at the Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers will lack a true home-court advantage in the postseason.
Before the pandemic, Jimmy Butler relentlessly worked his team hard down in Miami. His intense, balls-to-the-wall approach on both ends of the court, but especially on defense, rubbed off on his younger teammates. The Heat rookies might lack postseason experience, but never count Butler out. If the Heat can get hot in the playoffs, look out. With a 41-26 record, the Heat currently sit in the #4 seed in the east.