The NBA’s Eastern Conference race is wide open.

Only a few seasons ago, NBA experts were mocking the Eastern Conference because it was so weak compared to the West. As recently as the 2019-20 campaign, two teams made it to the Eastern Conference playoffs with a losing record.

The East is definitely a lot stronger now, and we’d argue much deeper overall than the West. Perhaps eight teams could win the East – maybe 3-4 in the West? — and the defending conference and NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks aren’t even the favorites.

Oddsmakers Still Believe In Nets

When is the last time a team sitting eighth in its conference was the betting favorite to win it? I can’t imagine that has happened much if ever before, but the Brooklyn Nets (31-28) remain +250 favorites in the East despite the fact they may be ticketed for the play-in tournament. In a way, though, it might benefit the team to NOT have home-court advantage in any playoff series because as of now star point guard Kyrie Irving can’t play in home games due to the New York City COVID mandate, although that could well be lifted soon.

Clearly, oddsmakers believe the Nets will be just fine once Kevin Durant returns from injury probably early next month and former All-Star Ben Simmons makes his Brooklyn debut following the big trade of James Harden to Philadelphia. It’s not yet clear when Simmons will play, but it shouldn’t be too much longer as he gets into game shape.

— Circle March 10 as the Nets visit Harden and the 76ers (35-23) that night in a possible playoff preview. I’d imagine Durant wants to get back by then, and I’m sure Simmons will have debuted before that. You know he wants to play in it. The Sixers, led by MVP favorite Joel Embiid, are +375 third favorites to win the East.

The defending champion Bucks (36-24) are +275 second favorites. They host the Nets this Saturday. Miami (+550) and Chicago (+1500) come out of the All-Star break tied atop the East at 38-21. Neither team has had its full stable of key players much this season due to injury/COVID. With the free-agent signing of Tristan Thompson and with how DeMar DeRozan is playing, the Bulls could be scary once Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and Patrick Williams return from long-term injuries next month. Getting Chicago at such a high price of +1500 is a steal.

No team entered the break playing better in the East than the Boston Celtics (34-26), who are +1100 on the NBA futures. The Cleveland Cavaliers (35-23) at +2500 and Toronto Raptors (32-25) at +4000 also could win the East if things break right for them.

James Guill

James Guill is a former professional poker player who writes fro about poker, sports, casinos, gaming legislation and the online gambling industry in general. His past experience includes working with IveyPoker, PokerNews, PokerJunkie, Bwin, and the Ongame Network. From 2006-2009 he participated in multiple tournaments including the 37th and 38th World Series of Poker (WSOP). James lives in Virginia and he has a side business where he picks and sells vintage and antique items.

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