The East seems to be getting stronger every year. Who do we
like to emerge as the conference winners this season? Once widely considered the weaker of the two conferences, all of a sudden the East is loaded at the top.
Miami, Boston, Chicago, and New
York are the heavy hitters and there are other contenders such as Orlando and
Atlanta mixed in there as well.
Over the past week, SBR has been analyzing each of the
divisions (Atlantic, Southeast and East), with the Heat, Knicks, and Bulls our NBA picks to finish on top, respectively.
Those previews all lead into this comprehensive breakdown of
who we are picking to reach the Eastern Conference finals.
Pinnacle is one of the only sportsbooks to have NBA futures
odds out right now, so if you see any lines listed you'll know where they were
found. On to the show!
Cream of the crop
Of all the competitors in the East, the favorites are the
Miami Heat. LeBron and company are priced at +219 to win the NBA title
with the Los Angeles Lakers not too far behind at +408.
The Heat had no trouble winning the Southeast Division last
season and, despite that disappointing ending to the postseason, it's pretty
much a lock that a repeat is in the cards.
Though they lost a couple bigs, Miami was able to re-sign
Mario Chalmers and James Jones and also brought in veteran Shane Battier, who
should turn out to be a perfect fit in South Beach. The acquisition of Eddy
Curry is certainly much more questionable but could turn out to be a shrewd
piece of business.
Motivation will be as high as ever for the Big Three to
bring a championship back to Miami. You have to like their chances of following
The next biggest favorites are the Chicago Bulls, listed at +733
to win it all. Derrick Rose headlines what will be essentially an identical
roster from last season's team (save for the addition of Richard Hamilton) that
scored the number one overall seed in the East.
There were rumors flying around that the Bulls were in the
market for Dwight Howard, a move that would have rivaled Chris Paul's trade to
the Los Angeles Clippers. Nothing came to fruition there.
Regardless, Chicago has a rock-solid core and is very
well-coached. If the Bulls can locate that necessary toughness come playoff
time, they have as good of a chance as any to make the Finals.
Teams in hot pursuit
At +1852 to capture the Larry O'Brien trophy, the New
York Knicks have leaped ahead of the Boston Celtics (+1950) in the NBA
We've gotten used to seeing the Celtics mentioned among the
elite, but this is the first time in a while that they're not considered one of
the top favorites in the ever-changing landscape of the East. Now, they're not
even the ones to beat in their own division.
That title now belongs to the Knicks, who bolstered their
lineup by signing Tyson Chandler from Dallas. Chandler provides New York with a
tremendous inside presence, making this team's frontcourt (alongside Amare
Stoudemire) one of the most dangerous around.
Amare and Carmelo Anthony proved they can co-exist last
season as the Knicks finally were able to finish the regular season with a
winning record, and expectations are even higher now in the Big Apple.
For Boston, this is probably the last shot for their aging
Big Three to get another title. With free agency – and potentially even
retirement – looming for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, time is quickly running
out. The Celtics tried to prepare for the future during the offseason by
entering in the discussions for Chris Paul and David West, but in the end they
couldn't pull anything off.
Not far behind we've got the Atlanta Hawks, who I personally
think are definitely worth looking at. Installed at +7191, chances of a
title are slim. But a trio of Al Horford, Josh Smith, and Joe Johnson is
nothing to sneeze at.
Orlando's fate this season rests on where Howard ends up.
The Magic are +2977 in the basketball odds as of now to capture the
championship at year's end.
The Indiana Pacers (+10271), Milwaukee Bucks (+17974),
and Philadelphia 76ers (+20540) are three under-the-radar teams that
will be fighting it out for the last couple postseason spots in the conference.
Adding David West to the fold will help Indiana's young
nucleus, while the Bucks and 76ers are both well-balanced squads that should
improve on their win totals from last year.
Considerable drop off
One of the biggest wildcards in the conference are the New
Jersey Nets. Right now, they're at +6000 as oddsmakers seem convinced
they'll be able to get Superman. If they fail to do so, expect a massive drop
in those odds.
The heavy underdogs in the Eastern Conference, and those not
even worth considering, are the Toronto Raptors, Cleveland Cavaliers, Charlotte
Bobcats, Detroit Pistons, and Washington Wizards.
Within that batch of ugly, the two that could make
considerable steps forward this season are the Pistons and Wizards.
Detroit was a complete mess last year but can finally wipe
the slate clean with Lawrence Frank at the helm. A coach who preaches defensive
intensity – something this team has been notorious for in the past – could
bring the Pistons out of irrelevance.
The Wizards have built up a nice foundation for the future,
with former number one pick John Wall in charge of the recovery. Nick Young,
Andray Blatche, Jordan Crawford, and Javale McGee are no scrubs either, but it
will all be a matter of chemistry for this inexperienced Washington crew.
Other than that, there's little hope for the bottom-feeders
in the East, especially with some marked improvements taking place higher up in
As I see it...
Top Five Seeds
1) Miami Heat
2) Chicago Bulls
3) New York Knicks
4) Boston Celtics
5) Atlanta Hawks
Eastern Conference Winner
Miami Heat (+219)
What a shock it would be if the Heat fail to make the
Finals. The talent is most definitely there and now they have a chip on their
shoulders after falling a little short last season.
Who Knows? – Worth A Small Wager
Chicago Bulls (+733)
New York Knicks (+1852)
New Jersey Nets [If they land Howard] (+6000)
Atlanta Hawks (+7191)