The NBA Eastern Conference positions are almost set. Will King James and the Cavs rise from the ashes and claim the East yet again or is there a new power ready to assume the throne?
Eastern Conference Powers
The Favorite – Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers have had a disappointing season by their lofty standards as they struggled to reach 50 wins on the year and are most likely heading into the postseason as a No. 4 seed in the East. From a betting perspective, the Cavs have bled money for their backers, covering the number in only 39 percent of their games this season. But with all that said, the Cavs have LeBron James to lead them into battle, and when Cleveland mailed it in at the end of last year’s regular season, content to settle for the No. 2 seed, it didn’t matter much as the Cavaliers claimed the East but fell in the finals. This year feels different with their revolving roster and the absence of Kyrie Irving to bolster the Cavaliers’ attack. Nevertheless, it is still Cleveland’s conference title to lose and they remain a formidable postseason foe.
The Challenger – Toronto Raptors
The boys from the Great White North will hold court as the top seed in the Eastern Conference and may reach 60 wins before the regular season concludes. However, nobody is really taking the Raps seriously despite an offense that ranks third in the league complemented by a defense that checks in at No. 6. They should have little trouble waltzing through their eighth-seeded opponent in the opening round but ultimately Toronto will face a far superior adversary. How they acquit themselves in that pressure-cooker will determine whether this team is a true lion or just a paper tiger.
The Dark Horse – Philadelphia 76ers
First a Super Bowl, then a men’s basketball national championship and now an NBA title … or so Philadelphians think. A quick check of the best online sportsbooks will reveal that the Sixers are not such a dark horse after all. Enduring several agonizing seasons of futility, the silver lining in all of it was a bevy of No. 1 overall picks maturing at the right time. The 76ers could easily wind up as the No. 3 seed in the East and many of the sharpest handicappers over at SBR Picks believe that their path through the Eastern Conference playoffs will be paved with gold. That contention is based on a regular season that saw this group of young sharpshooters connect on a sizzling 68 percent of their games against the spread. But watch out my fellow bettors, because the oddsmakers have a way of evening the playing field after getting burned time and time again.
Gang Green – Boston Celtics
What a shame. The Celtics were locked and loaded to overthrow the King in Cleveland with Dealin’ Danny Ainge wooing Gordon Hayward away from Salt Lake and shipping a one-hit-wonder in Isaiah Thomas for a certified superstar in Kyrie Irving as his coup de grace. Sprinkle in a few top-of-the-draft talents in Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum, and just like that Boston morphed from a gritty sparring partner to a champion in the making. But before the Celtics even finished their first game, Hayward snapped his leg and everyone old enough to remember watching quarterback Joe Theismann suffer the same gruesome injury back in the 1980s endured a mild case of PTSD.
That was just the beginning as the Shamrocks’ roster has been decimated by injuries, which has forced head coach Brad Stevens to be supremely creative in integrating the pine jockeys into the game plan. But the biggest dagger of them all occurred as the season entered the homestretch when it was revealed Irving would be out until next season due to complications stemming from knee surgery. Despite it all, the Celtics are the No. 2 seed in the East, and you can click on over to SBR odds to find out just what the oddsmakers from the best online sportsbooks in the industry are offering on Boston to win the Eastern Conference title. The champion-in-waiting has now become the gritty sparring partner of seasons’ past. It was fun while it lasted.