Will Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks fulfill their status as top dogs to win the Eastern Conference championship? Could Kawhi Leonard and a Toronto Raptors team that looked like the best in the east for major stretches this season be able to overcome the Greek Freak and everyone else to claim conference supremacy?
How about the preseason conference favorite Boston Celtics? Could the C’s get their act together after largely underachieving on what was some legitimate championship hopes coming into the 2018-19 season?
Last but not least, could Joel Embiid and a Philadelphia 76ers team that now includes four all-star caliber starters beat out all three aforementioned rivals to win the east or could it be another conference contender like the Indiana Pacers?
While the Golden State Warriors are once again prohibitive favorites to win the NBA championship, the fact of the matter is that the Dubs are facing their most trying season in recent memory as they get set for the quickly-approaching playoffs. With Steph Curry and company clearly not looking like decisive locks to win the Western Conference, now is a great time to offer up some expert NBA betting insight and predictions on the handful of teams that could challenge Golden State for conference supremacy this postseason.
Let’s find out what the most likely scenario is in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference come playoff time, along with the latest NBA odds to win their respective conference.
Hottest Betting Picks to Win the 2019 NBA Conference Championship
The Clippers are in the top 10 in this week’s NBA power rankings after winning 10 of their past 11 games 😳 pic.twitter.com/FlagUZt9dI— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) 25 de marzo de 2019
Odds to win the 2018-19 Eastern Conference
- Milwaukee Bucks 9/5
- Toronto Raptors 12/5
- Boston Celtics 11/4
- Philadelphia 76ers 9/2
- Detroit Pistons 75/1
- Indiana Pacers 75/1
- Brooklyn Nets 125/1
- Miami Heat 250/1
- Charlotte Hornets 1000/1
- Orlando Magic 1000/1
- Washington Wizards 5000/1
Analysis: The Milwaukee Bucks (55-19) has the best record in all of basketball and the Bucks look like they’re going to be a tough out for anyone once the playoffs start. Milwaukee leads the league in scoring (117.5 ppg) while also ranking an encouraging ninth in points allowed. More importantly, Milwaukee’s roster is filled with some outstanding talent that compliments superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo perfectly. And speaking of the Greek Freak…many NBA observers believe he is now the best player on the face of the planet and it’s kind of hard to argue against it seeing as how he averages 27.4 points, 6.0 assists and 12.6 rebounds per game. The Bucks recently lost starting guard Malcolm Brogdon until the end of the regular season and start of the playoffs, but the Bucks look well-equipped to handle his absence.
With 51 wins, the Toronto Raptors are definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with come playoff time. The Raptors have a true superstar in two-way superstar Kawhi Leonard (27.2 ppg), a blossoming star in forward Pascal Siakim (16.8 ppg), experience in veteran point guard Kyle Lowry (14.8 ppg), power forward Serge Ibaka (14.7 ppg), shooting guard Danny Green (10.0 ppg) and center Marc Gasol (9.6 ppg), not to mention as much depth as any team in the league with an insane 12 players that all average double digits in minutes played. Toronto has lost five of its last 10 heading into the new week while losing to the Cavs, Pistons, Thunder and Hornets along the way, so they’re clearly not playing their best basketball at the moment, but again, Toronto looks like it will have as much of a chance of winning the east as anyone.
In the case of my beloved Boston Celtics (43-31), I can’t begin to say how disappointed I am that the C’s have not been able to duplicate or build on the success we saw out of them a year ago. Boston ranks an encouraging seventh in points allowed (108.0 ppg), but just a modest 13th in scoring. Boston has talent with six players all averaging double figures in scoring and the C’s definitely have a great head coach in Brad Stevens. Unfortunately, Boston hasn’t shown the same amount of fortitude they did a year ago and they haven’t played well together for more than a few games at a time. The C’s have dropped four straight heading into the new week and I’m going to say that Boston doesn’t even advance to the conference finals this year.
The Philadelphia 76ers (47-26) are looking good despite having their six-game winning streak snapped on Trae Young’s game-winner on Saturday night. Philadelphia beat Boston and Milwaukee over their previous three games and they rank a stellar fourth in scoring (115.3 ppg), not to mention the fact that they have four all-star caliber performers on their roster including the game’s best big man in center Joel Embiid (27.5 points, 13.8 rebounds per game). Philly’s defense could stand to be a bit better and they don’t have the depth I think they’ll need to win the conference, but the Sixers might not need it.
While the Detroit Pistons have overachieved to likely reach the postseason, I have no idea why the Pistons (37-36) are bigger favorites than the Indiana Pacers (45-29) as we get set for the upcoming playoffs. Nevertheless but I don’t see Blake Griffin and company winning a series, particularly seeing as how they’d face Toronto if the season ended today. As far as Indiana is concerned, I love the Pacers and I believe they could beat Boston if they meet in the first round like they are currently set to do so. Indiana leads the league in fewest points allowed and the Pacers have some good veteran talent, not to mention a eight seven double-digit scorers. Unfortunately, Indy won’t have team leader Victor Oladipo, but I’ve been so impressed by this team’s fight I can definitely see them winning at least one series.
The Brooklyn Nets (38-36) have been one of, if not the, most pleasantly surprising team in the league this season. I’m wondering if the Los Angeles Lakers are now kicking themselves in the ass for trading point guard D’Angelo Russell who has transformed himself into the star that he was drafted to be with the No. 2 pick a few years ago. The Nets won’t just roll over, but they’re going to be a one-and-done p[layoff participant this postseason.
I’m thinking the Eastern Conference is a four-team race that really, Milwaukee, Toronto, Philly or Boston could all win. However, for me, I’m going with the Milwaukee Bucks to get it done because they’re going to have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs and they’re a top 10 team at both ends of the floor. I’m going with Toronto as my second pick to win the east because they’re mature and experienced and have depth, while I’m going with Philly as my third pick because of their ‘Big Four’ and Boston as my fourth and final pick because of their lack of team unity.
2019 Eastern Conference Winning Picks
- Milwaukee Bucks
Odds to win the 2018-19 Western Conference
- Golden State Warriors 2/7
- Houston Rockets 5/1
- Denver Nuggets 15/1
- Oklahoma City Thunder 15/1
- Portland Trail Blazers 40/1
- Utah Jazz 40/1
- San Antonio Spurs 60/1
- LA Clippers 200/1
Analysis: The Golden State Warriors (50-23) have reached the 50-win mark for the sixth consecutive season over the weekend, but the Dubs aren’t exactly firing on all cylinders as they’ve gone a modest 6-4 over their last 10 games while suffering head-scratching losses to Dallas (126-91), Phoenix (115-111) and Boston (128-95) along the way. Of course, the Warriors still have four all-star players and that alone means they’re going to be tough to dispatch even if they have looked shakier this season that any in recent memory.
The Houston Rockets (47-27) look like they’re going to be Golden State’s biggest challenge out west just like they were a year ago when they took the Dubs the distance in the Western Conference Finals. Still, Golden State’s 106-104 road win over the Rockets two weeks ago sent a message to James Harden and company and you can take out of that what you want, but it doesn’t bode well for the Rockets if you ask me.
The Denver Nuggets (49-23) have the second-most wins in the west, but the Nuggets were blown out by the Pacers on Sunday night 124-88 and they suffered a 122-105 road loss to the Warriors two weeks ago. While Denver has managed to beat Indy and Boston over their last 10 games, I don’t see them beating either the warriors, Rockets – or Spurs if they meet in the playoffs.
The Oklahoma City Thunder (43-30) might have two true superstars in Paul George and Russell Westbrook, but the Thunder play little to no defense in allowing 111.1 points per game and they don’t have much of a bench, so they won’t be around for more than a round or two at best.
It’s the same old song where the Portland Trail Blazers (45-27) pretty much rely on superstar point guard Damian Lillard and backcourt mate C.J. McCollum to do a bit of everything. Unfortunately, Portland also plays some mediocre defense and that’s just not going to cut it come playoff time.
The Utah Jazz (43-30) have a true superstar in second-year swingman Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz play some hellacious defense. Unfortunately, Utah is seriously offensively challenged and just can;t score the ball well enough to keep up with the ‘big boys’ in the West.
While the Los Angeles Clippers (44-30) have overachieved nicely and will likely reach the playoffs this season, the one team that should scare the hell out of everyone in the Western Conference right now is the San Antonio Spurs (43-31). While San Antonio dropped two straight after winning their previous nine, the Spurs managed to smack Boston around 115-96 on Sunday to improve to 10-2 over their last dozen games. More importantly, the Spurs beat the Warriors by 10, the Thunder by 14 and the Bucks by seven while also taking out Denver and Oklahoma City.
Outside of the rock-solid Houston Rockets, every other team in the Western Conference has some sort of shortcoming that the Warriors can and will exploit if they face them in the playoffs. In the case of the Rockets, I’m thinking Golden State gets it done again in the conference finals, likely in another seven-game thriller like last season.
In the end, I’ve got to believe Golden State is going to get their act together and take their collective play to another level once the postseason begins. While the Dubs have struggled with inconsistency and lethargy this season, the fact of the matter is that, outside of Philadelphia, they Warriors are the only team in the league with four all-star caliber starters on their roster and that doesn’t even include gifted big man DeMarcus Cousins, who basically give the Warriors five all-stars.
2019 Western Conference Winning Picks
- Golden State
- San Antonio