NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs Preview

Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017-2018 NBA Season is over. Although at the time of this writing not every playoff seed in the NBA has been set, there’s no doubt about who the favorites are. In the Eastern Conference, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are favored over the Toronto Raptors to win the NBA Championship.

After the Cavaliers and Raptors, there isn’t another team in the Eastern Conference that’s expected to challenge for the NBA Championship. The young Philadelphia 76’ers are 25 to 1. Everyone else is 50 to 1 or higher to win the NBA  Title.

Check out info on each team before a deeper dive into a few teams that NBA fans should watch for.

2018 NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs Preview

Cleveland Cavaliers                   7/1

Cleveland will either be the 3-seed, or the 4-seed in the NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs. That hasn’t detracted sports bettors from going with the Cavs to win it all. At 7 to 1 odds, Cleveland is favored to win the Eastern Conference and challenge for the NBA Finals.

Cleveland’s success starts and ends with LeBron “The King” James. LeBron is the greatest player to ever put on an NBA uniform. Although most will argue that Michael Jordan is better, the fact is that LeBron has won 3 NBA Championships without a player of Scottie Pippen on any of his teams. He single-handedly beat the Golden State Warriors in 2016 for the NBA Championship.

Toronto Raptors                         9/1

The Raptors are the only other team in the Eastern Conference going off at less than double-digit odds to win the NBA Championship. One of the reasons is because Toronto might have the best back court in the NBA. Point-guard Kyle Lowry and shooting guard DeMar DeRozan can both take over a game.

Will Lowry and DeRozan be enough for the Raptors to win the Eastern Conference, much less the NBA Championship? That’s the main question everyone’s asking themselves.

Philadelphia 76’ers                    25/1

A couple of seasons ago, the Philadelphia 76’ers were one of the worst teams in the history of the NBA. Not so anymore. It’s likely the 76’ers garner the third seed in the NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs. Philadelphia is young, hungry, and not afraid of anything. That’s what happens when your team is led by a player like Ben Simmons.

However, Simmons isn’t the only star on Philly’s squad. Center Joel Embiid is one of the best big men in the league.

Boston Celtics                              50/1

The likely 2-seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs has gone from 18 to 1 at the beginning of the NBA Season to 50 to 1 right before the playoffs. The reason? Top player Kyrie Irving, whom Boston gave up quite a bit during the off season to acquire, is out for the entire playoffs. Not only that, but Marcus Smart isn’t back until late April. From the perspective of most NBA fans, it should take a gargantuan effort from Boston head coach Brad Stevens for the Celtics to actually win the NBA Championship.

Washington Wizards                100/1

The Washington Wizards got some good news recently when John Wall, who had been hurt for most of the season, finally got back onto the court. Those who believe the Wizards play better without Wall sort of don’t understand the NBA. Teams that wish to win rings must have a player like John Wall. Wall can not only take over a game, but he’s a full time player, meaning that he can take over a game on both sides of the court, on defense and offense.

Milwaukee Bucks                       150/1

The Milwaukee Bucks start arguably the most talented player in the NBA, Giannis “The Freak” Antetonkounmpo. Even with Giannis, though, most NBA bettors agree that the Bucks are huge long shots. If the Bucks weren’t huge long shots they wouldn’t be 150 to 1 to win the NBA Championship. The Greek Freak doesn’t have much help. If Giannis didn’t play for the Bucks, there’s a good chance that Milwaukee might not have even made the playoffs.

Indiana Pacers                            200/1

Just making the playoffs is a huge deal for the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers true odds of winning the NBA Championship this season are actually much higher than 200 to 1. Indiana is a decent basketball team. Decent won’t cut it this season. One of the reasons why Indiana is such a big underdog is because there isn’t a single player on their team that most can look to as being in the Top 10 in the NBA. Because only 5 players from each team hit the court at one time, squads with the best players often end up winning NBA titles. That’s not the Indiana Pacers.

Miami Heat                                   200/1

The Miami Heat offer 200 to 1 odds because they are in the playoffs. The odds of Miami actually winning the NBA Championship are probably closer to 500 to 1. That’s how difficult it’s going to be for the Heat to win. Miami just doesn’t have the players to compete with Cleveland, Toronto, Philadelphia, Golden State, and Houston. Like Indiana, the fact that Miami has even made it to the playoffs this season is a big accomplishment.

Team that Offers the Most Value:  Philadelphia 76’ers

What a turnaround in Philadelphia, right? The 76’ers were one of the absolute worst teams in the NBA for the past few years. Finally, it all came together this season. The 76’ers’ odds of winning the NBA Championship are probably better than the 25 to 1 listed in most sportsbooks.

There are reasons why. First, as I hinted at above, Ben Simmons might be the most important player to his team other than LeBron James and James Harden to their teams. Simmons is a 6′ 10″ point-guard/shooting guard that averages 16 points, 8 boards, and 8 assists per game. He also averages close to 2 steals per match up.

When Joel Embiid is healthy, he’s one of the better centers in the NBA. Philly also goes deep like the Golden State Warriors. Four players on Philly’s bench average between 15 and 20 minutes per game:  Marco Belinelli, Amir Johnson, Ersan Ilyasova, and number 1 pick Markelle Fultz. Fultz averages over 3 assists per game. That’s not bad for a player that suited up for the first time on March 26.

What’s really exciting about Philadelphia is that they can match up with any team they play. Because of Simmons size, they can literally play small ball with T.J. McConnell at point, Fultz at shooting guard, JJ Reddick at small forward, and Robert Covington and/or Ben Simmons at power forward and center. That makes the 76’ers a nightmare of a match up.

Single-Digit Odds Throw Out:  Toronto Raptors

Garnering the top seed in the NBA Eastern Conference this season isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be. Right now, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76’ers are battling each other for the 3 and 4 seeds. No matter who ends up 4, Toronto should be in some trouble.

The Raptors should get past the Washington Wizards. After that, they must battle either Cleveland or Philly. Neither is a good match up for the Raptors. Cleveland’s got the best player to ever step onto a basketball court on their team. Re-read what I wrote above to find out why the 76’ers could win the NBA Championship.

Toronto looks like the single-digit throw out in the NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs.

With Some Luck:  Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs are favored from the East to win the NBA Championship. I get that. But, just because they should win the Eastern Conference, it doesn’t mean they’ll have an easy time winning the NBA Championship. In fact, Cleveland must get lucky to win the NBA Title this season.

The West is deep. Not only that, but there’s no guarantee Cleveland can beat a team like the Philadelphia 76’ers. Still, when LeBron plays for you, and not anybody else, the amount of luck you need isn’t nearly as much as what most other teams need to grab a set of championship rings. LeBron already proved that he can beat a team like Golden State by himself.

Now, he might have a better supporting cast in Rodney Hood, Cedi Osman, Kevin Love and Jeff Green, the other four players starting with LeBron. What I love about the Cavaliers is that LeBron is the team’s starting point-guard.

James averages 9 assists per game. That goes along with his close to 9 boards and close to 28 points per. LeBron shoots over 54% from the field. He shoots close to 37% from three. Also, the Cavaliers are deep this season.

Cleveland, like Golden State can put in a second unit that includes players at every position:  Jordan Clarkson at point, J.R. Smith at shooting guard, Larry Nance Jr. at power forward, Tristan Thompson at center, and Kyle Korver at small. LeBron can play any position on the court.  That means Cleveland could go small with LeBron at power, the 6′ 9″ Thompson at center, Korver at small forward, Hood at shooting guard, and Clarkson at the point. Heck, Korver could play shooting guard with Hood at small.

That’s how versatile the Cleveland Cavaliers are this season. With some luck, Cleveland could beat Golden State, Houston, or whomever else they face in the NBA Finals.

What do you think?

Written by D.S. Williamson

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