Celtics Win Total, Title Odds in Limbo With Reported Ime Udoka Suspension Looming
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images. Pictured: Head coach Ime Udoka of the Boston Celtics.
The Boston Celtics are facing the prospect of entering the season without their head coach Ime Udoka on the sidelines.
According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Celtics are discussing whether to suspend Udoka for the season for violating organizational guidelines.
While the details are murky, Wojnarowski reported that the violation is tied to a consensual relationship the coach had with a staff member. Assistant coach Joe Mazzulla is expected to step in as interim head coach if Udoka is suspended.
Udoka was widely credited for helping turn the Celtics' season around and getting them to the NBA Finals last season after starting 18-21 through early January. The Celtics had the second-best win percentage and the top defense in the NBA over the next 43 games.
The looming suspension comes on the heels of bad injury news for the Celtics, who will be without one of the free-agent signings, Danilo Gallinari, and their starting center, Robert Williams III, who are both dealing with knee ailments.
Updated Boston Celtics Odds
*Odds as of Sept. 22
Boston Celtics Win Total
DraftKings and FanDuel have the C's listed at 54.5 wins while BetRivers has their win total sitting at 55.5. WynnBet has seen slight movement with their win total dropping from 54.5 to 53.5 in the wake of the report.
Boston Celtics NBA Title Odds
The Celtics still remain the favorites or co-favorites to win the NBA championship at nearly every book.
Here's how the Action Network's NBA analyst Brandon Anderson is approaching the Celtics in the wake of the Udoka news:
It’s time to fade the Celtics.
First, Gallinari was lost for the season. Then Robert Williams had a weirdly-late knee surgery.
It looks like he’ll miss the start of the season, an inauspicious start for a guy who never stays healthy, relies heavily on elite athleticism and just played the most minutes of his career with a deep playoff run.
Now, the Udoka news.
Remember, Udoka is the one who helped turn this team around late January from a middling .500 team to a historically elite defense, moving Williams out of the paint and reshaping Boston on both ends.
Boston led the league in both offensive and defensive rating from Jan. 29 forward, mostly built around that outlier elite defense. That’s why Boston was listed at 55.5 wins at some books, the highest on the board, and it’s a big part of why the Celtics are title favorites.
Coaching plays a huge part in defense, so that’s the most direct fallout with Udoka gone. That D was always going to regress this season because no one can stay that hot forever, but now it loses its coaching metronome and — for my money – its best and most impactful defender for awhile too.
Boston’s win total under was already a good bet. It’s really hard to win 56 games!
Teams with the highest win totals on the board almost always go under, and only two teams won 56 last year. The margin for error with expectations that high is impossibly thin. This line is starting to drop at some books, but the under is still a strong play.
I’ll stay away from anything Boston right now.
There’s no way I’m touching this team as a title favorite.
You can still believe! The Celtics are still loaded, could finish as the league’s top defense and still have plenty of depth and a strong playoff history.
But why pay peak price for Boston right now when this offseason almost certainly means you can wait and buy Celtics futures cheaper — probably much cheaper — at some point later in the year?
I’ll play the under, and I’ll invest even more in Philadelphia’s division odds as a way to directly fade Boston, which is already my favorite division play on the board.