For the last several months, we’ve all known who the top four teams in the Eastern Conference were.
There were no surprises during round 1 of the NBA playoffs, giving us the exact two matchups that basketball enthusiasts had been hoping for.
Milwaukee battles Boston in what promises to be an exciting series, while the Raptors and 76ers clash in a best-of-seven that could very easily wind up going the distance.
Let’s take a look at the current Eastern Conference odds and find out who the betting sites think will end up representing the East in the 2019 NBA Finals.
NBA Eastern Conference Betting Odds
I always stress the importance of being active on multiple betting sites so that you can shop your lines and get the best price that’s available.
That motto rings true for those of you planning on firing away at who walks away with the Eastern Conference title. Take a look at the table below, and you’ll see what I mean.
If you like the Bucks’ chances, you can head over to MyBookie.ag and squeeze out a little extra juice. Although if you want to gamble on Brett Brown leading Philly to the NBA Finals, there’s a lot more incentive to create an account at Sportsbook.ag and grab hold of a much more appetizing number.
You won’t want to wager on Boston at Sportsbook.ag, though, and Toronto is priced differently at each of the three sportsbooks listed above.
As you can see, it’s important to be aware of these types of things so you aren’t leaving any equity on the table.
Now let’s take a look at how each team can win the East before I conclude by giving you my final prediction.
Milwaukee won 60 games during the regular season and was the best team in the NBA from start to finish. If you need more proof that Milwaukee is the cream of the crop in the East, just think about how loaded the top of the Eastern Conference is.
Well, the Bucks are even money to get to the Finals, so clearly, Vegas thinks Milwaukee is unequivocally the team to beat.
If you check out my NBA Playoffs Round 2 Betting Preview, you’ll see that I don’t anticipate the Bucks having any qualms sliding past the Celtics in their series.
Despite being somewhat limited from outside, Giannis Antetokounmpo is playing like a man possessed and has been terrorizing opponents all season long. It’s not just that he scores nearly 28 points a game and pulls down 12.5 rebounds a night.
It’s the fact that he shoots 58% from the floor, makes everyone around him better, plus plays some of the most ferocious defense among any player in the league.
Keep an eye on how Malcolm Brogdon progresses through his foot injury as the Bucks combo guard is expected back at some point during the Boston series.
For those who aren’t familiar with Mike Budenholzer’s typical rotation when everyone is healthy, Brogdon averaged 15.6 PPG during the regular season and shot 42.6% from three-point land. Getting Malcolm back would certainly add another layer to this Milwaukee offense and make them virtually un-guardable.
Remember, having a seven-footer who shoots the same percentage from beyond the arc as James Harden does forces the opposing centers to come out and guard. Brook Lopez gives the Bucks that added element that most teams aren’t equipped with.
I love the energy that Nikola Mirotic and Ersan Ilyasova bring in off the bench, and Eric Bledsoe can still go out and score 30 points in a game if needed.
It won’t be easy trying to navigate past these next two rounds, but the Bucks have everything in place. They’re aided by resting plenty during the Detroit series as Milwaukee didn’t have a single player on their roster average more than 30 minutes per game during the first round.
It looks to me like this squad is ready to make some noise.
After bragging about the Bucks for so long in the last section, you probably think I’m ready to write off the Toronto Raptors and move on to assessing the Western Conference.
Think again, because you might be surprised when you get to the bottom of this page and find out who I’m picking to advance from the East.
It appears that Nick Nurse has settled in on an eight-man rotation that he plans on utilizing during the stretch run, and it might not be the most explosive group when you study it on paper. The good news for basketball fans north of the border is that the Philly series isn’t going to be played on paper; it’ll be decided on the hardwood court.
OG Anunoby is still recovering from his appendectomy and doesn’t have a timetable to return just yet, but don’t worry. The Raptors are still in great hands.
Toronto Raptors Core Eight
- Kawhi Leonard
- Pascal Siakam
- Kyle Lowry
- Marc Gasol
- Danny Green
- Serge Ibaka
- Norman Powell
- Fred VanVleet
Each of these eight men averaged more than 19 minutes of action against the Magic, and they all averaged more than seven points per contest. Having this enviable amount of balance will be extremely helpful in the instances when Kawhi Leonard faces double teams. Having multiple guys who can do different things helps alleviate the pressure of one guy needing to do too much.
It also means that if one or two guys are having an off night, others can step up and fill the void.
If you are getting a sense that the Raptors could actually be the team in the Eastern Conference most prepared to make a run at the NBA Finals, you’re starting to get warm.
If you realize that Kawhi can go toe-to-toe with Giannis and is the better closer late in games, then you’ve hit the nail on the head.
The Raptors could very well be the only team in the Eastern Conference that is playing basketball when the month of June arrives.
I really like some of the pieces that Philly has in place, but it doesn’t change the facts.
The 76ers have their work cut out for them if they plan on playing in the Eastern Conference Finals. Philadelphia is a +195 underdog in their second-round matchup against the Raptors and won’t have home-court advantage if it winds up going seven games.
But rather than focus on the negatives, like how in the world they are going to contain Kawhi Leonard, let’s talk about the positives.
Joel Embiid is a force to be reckoned with, and when healthy, he can’t be accounted for by just one defender. You can listen to Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman go back and forth on who is more unstoppable between Joel Embiid and Kawhi Leonard, but here’s the point.
Embiid is an absolute beast and without question one of the top 10 players in the NBA.
Joel was onto something last year when he averaged 22.9 points and 11.0 rebounds per game, but now he’s elevated himself into being perhaps the premier “5-man” in today’s NBA. Embiid’s gaudy season statistics of 27.5 points and 13.6 rebounds included double-doubles in 58 of the 64 games he played in.
For Philly to see how far they can go in this year’s playoffs, Coach Brown needs to feed Embiid the ball and allow his unique skill set to take over.
As far as Ben Simmons goes, forget about stressing so much on the idea that the Aussie can’t shoot from the perimeter. Ben’s ability to find the open man and create opportunities for his teammates is all he needs to concentrate on right now. This summer is when Simmons can go to work on addressing his jump shot.
Considering I know what I’m going to get from the 76er’s 1-2 punch, I’ll tell you who the X-factor is. J.J. Redick is going to knock down shots, and Tobias Harris provides another legitimate weapon who can play either forward position. And then there’s Jimmy Butler.
What the Sixers get out of Jimmy Butler could very well determine how far this team can go.
Jimmy averaged 18.2 PPG since joining Philly in November and scored just under 16 points a night during the Orlando series. If he can continue accepting his role of not being the “lead guy” and take pride in shutting down Kawhi Leonard, then maybe, just maybe, the 76ers can win the series against Toronto.
I wouldn’t count on it happening, nor do I envision that Philadelphia will be playing for a championship ring in 2019. But hey, at +700 at Sportsbook.ag, it might be worth your while.
Boston came within one game of reaching the 2018 NBA Finals, and they bring back all of the young pieces who got them there. Now they have a healthy Kyrie Irving leading the charge, and Gordon Hayward has established his role, so clearly, the Celtics must be the team to beat in the East, right?
I’ve heard plenty of educated NBA minds echo that same sentiment, but I’m not sure I agree. Quite frankly, I think Milwaukee is deeper from top to bottom and has the best player in the series in Giannis Antetokounmpo. To be truthful, I think the Greek Freak should be the hands-down winner of the 2019 NBA MVP Award, but that’s better saved for a separate conversation.
I’ll play devil’s advocate for a moment and discuss some scenarios in which the Celtics end up in the NBA Championship.
Kyrie Irving has shown he has the ability to take over a game and hit big shot after big shot, and I imagine he’ll be called upon to play hero on multiple occasions. If and when Irving does have the ball in his hands late in the game with a chance to win, there’s a very real possibility that things work out in his favor.
I also look at Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward, and I don’t necessarily need both of them to play like All-Stars every single night, although that would be fantastic. But I do need at least one of them to be productive in each game and take some of the pressure off of Kyrie.
Al Horford is going to play smart basketball and not make mistakes, and I suspect that Marcus Morris gets left open and has ample opportunities to make a difference. However, without Jalen Brown and Terry Rozier providing sparks off the bench, the C’s are simply going to be overmatched.
If all of those things can fall into place, then taking a stab on Boston to win the East at +500 isn’t a terrible idea. In fact, it might be a fantastic plan.
Who Will Win the Eastern Conference?
I think we’ll see the Bucks and the Raptors play one another in the Eastern Conference Finals in what should be an absolute dandy. After taking everything into account, it really feels like it could be a toss-up, and I have no problem with anyone who wants to back Milwaukee.
But when you consider their +110 odds and compare them to the +260 price tag attached to Toronto, it’s hard to ignore the added upside that is being presented.
If a game is going down to the wire, I want the team who has Kawhi Leonard in their corner. That’s why my recommendation is to invest in the Raptors.
Enjoy the battles in the Eastern Conference and be sure to shop your lines. Viewing the games is great, but wait until you have some money tied to the outcome.
It’s what watching NBA playoff basketball is all about!
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Eastern Conference Playoff Picture – Latest Odds and Predictions
The latest Eastern Conference betting odds with my prediction for who will progress from the playoffs to the 2019 NBA Finals.