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NBA Playoffs Futures Betting: A Final Look at the Eastern Conference NBA Championship Race


With ten days to go in the NBA regular season, we present a final analysis of contenders and pretenders heading into the NBA Playoffs. Today, we look at the Eastern Conference. Who will you bank on to win?

March 26, 2015


This has been an NBA regular season for the ages, and we’ve hardly had a moment to catch our breath. With ten days remaining in the regular season, the NBA Championship race remains highly unpredictable in a way that we haven’t seen in decades of professional basketball.

Today, in our final look at NBA Futures betting for the NBA Championship, we take a look at this year’s Eastern Conference contenders as we gear up for a historically competitive NBA playoffs.


The Atlanta Hawks:

The Atlanta Hawks are the undisputed Cinderella of the 2015 NBA regular season. They will finish the regular season with the Eastern Conference top record, setting a franchise record for wins along the way. The Hawks have been around since 1949 when they debuted as the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, and this year’s squad has won more games than any since. They are arguably the finest squad in Hawks history.

They play an efficient, unselfish, team-first brand of basketball modelled on ball movement and the San Antonio Spurs’ championship formula. They can defend, they can score, they can shoot and they play for each other. The Atlanta Hawks are really good.

However, the discussion here concerns whether they are good enough to win the NBA Championship. Basketball purists LOVE these Hawks for good reason. In an era where the individual NBA superstar is celebrated to a ludicrous degree, Atlanta is winning with the opposite formula. They have no superstar players. Their strength comes from the collective being stronger than the sum of its individual parts. They play pure, team basketball without relying on a single star.

That’s why this Atlanta team is the darling of the NBA season. But, that is also why the Atlanta Hawks are not going to win the NBA Championship this season.

If NBA history has taught us one thing, it’s that teams without an established superstar do not win NBA titles. Going back 30 years, only the 2004 Detroit Pistons won the NBA Championship without a superstar player. Previous to that, you’d have to go back to the 1979 Seattle Supersonics to find the next team that won without an elite superstar.

That is a whole lot of history the Atlanta Hawks are up against.

The NBA Playoffs are a different animal to the regular season. Defenses tighten up and in a seven-game series, teams play each other 4-7 times in ten days. This means that teams have ample opportunity to make adjustments from game to game.

That’s where the superstar closer comes in to earn the big bucks. During playoff games, all offenses have difficult stretches when everything grinds to halt. That’s when having a great individual player to create scoring from nothing is beyond crucial to success. Atlanta has exactly zero star players who can carry the scoring load. In the NBA Playoffs, that is an alarming situation to be in.

Odds Picture: The Hawks have hovered at 7-1 odds (fourth favourites) for some time now, and that is not going to change. It is not exactly enticing because while Atlanta is very good, they should in reality be closer to 12-1 odds. But because they play in the woeful East, their odds take a beating.

Final Verdict: We love Atlanta and hope that they can shock the world. But history tells us that they’re one great player short. If you’re going to take a punt on a dark horse, we suggest picking one from the deep, deep West, where the odds are juicy all over… (stay tuned to this space for the Western Conference Playoff Preview next week)


The Cleveland Cavaliers:

They are hitting top gear, they have the best player in the league by far, they are easily the most dangerous team in the NBA right now and they are the outright favourite to win the NBA Championship. Whether they can beat whoever comes out of the West is another question, but Cleveland’s path to reach the Finals is a lock. Just book it now, the Cavs are making the Finals.

Of the contending teams, Cleveland is the one squad that hasn’t even seen its best side yet. And that is scary, because they have been the best team in the league since the February All-Star break.

It hasn’t been easy, and many questions about chemistry remain. Their new superstar forward, Kevin Love, has had well documented troubles fitting in with LeBron James on and off the court. Their rookie head coach, David Blatt, has battled scrutiny and doubt all season not just from the media, but from his own team. It’s an open secret that LeBron James coaches that team and frequently ignores his coach’s play calls from the sideline.

And yet, none of this has stopped Cleveland from becoming a true scoring juggernaut and the most dangerous team in the NBA heading into the playoffs.

Such is the luxury of having the world’s best player, LeBron James, on your squad. If they ever figure out how to use Kevin Love as he was intended to be used, there will be no stopping Cleveland. There may be no stopping them regardless.

Odds Picture: Cleveland is the bookies favourite to win it all at 2.5/1 odds. It’s actually a good bet, because their easy path to the Finals in the woeful East will be a massive advantage over their Finals opponents. Whoever comes through from the West will have endured a bloodbath to get to the same point as Cleveland.

Final Verdict: Mark it down and set it in stone: Cleveland will be in the Finals. Whether they beat the West’s finest is the real question. But whoever they play, Cleveland will give them all they can handle.


The Chicago Bulls:

I hate writing about the Chicago Bulls because you cannot discuss this team for more than ten seconds before somebody brings up Derrick Rose’s constantly broken knees. And who can blame them for doing so? Derrick Rose’s knees are always broken.

The only good thing that comes with his latest injury? At least we know not to waste our money betting on a Bulls championship. It’s not going to happen.

From April 2012 till now, Rose has torn his knees up three times in major injuries. Every positive move has been met with a setback twice as potent. At the end of February this year, he re-tore a meniscus in his knee and underwent surgery again. We have ten games to go until playoff time and instead of finalizing their playoff push, we are still reading about how the former MVP swears he’ll be ready for the postseason.

The only problem is, nobody can believe him anymore. How could we at this point? How is it possible to trust Derrick Rose’s knees when three years of evidence points to a player that may well end up as one of the NBA’s all-time cautionary tales?

Sadly, Derrick Rose is no longer in charge of his body. That means that no matter how well-intentioned he is in what he says or does, the truth is that his body has betrayed him for good.

2012 Derrick Rose is never coming back, and that is very, very sad.

The Bulls are used to playing without Rose, and they have the NBA’s most relentlessly demanding coach. They know how to play at a high level without Rose, but this drive has taken its toll. Key players such as Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler are all carrying chronic injuries into the playoffs. And with such a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the team, the Bulls are looking at a familiar scene: a spirited underdog performance in the playoffs that is ultimately not enough to win it all.

Odds Picture: The Bulls chances are dropping, and rightfully so. Currently, they stand anywhere from 12-1 odds up to 18-1 odds depending on the sportsbook. Even such a fat potential payout is not enough to entice a punt. Save your money for a real dark horse from the West.

Final Verdict: In short, the Chicago Bulls are done without a healthy Derrick Rose. They only had a puncher’s chance to win even with him in uniform. But trying to rush him back for the playoffs on a set of knees that break twice a year? The Chicago Bulls are not winning anything this year.


(Stay tuned for the Western Conference Playoff Preview next week!)


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