Eastern Conference Odds & Betting Picks: Which Team Is the Biggest Threat to the Bucks?
Stacy Revere/Getty Images. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo defended by Al Horford and Joel Embiid
The NBA’s Eastern Conference is a gauntlet of its own this year, after the West stealing the spotlight every season. There are serious contenders throughout the conference, all hidden behind an all-time great Bucks team that looks very much on its way to 70-plus wins.
The Bucks match up with all these teams because, well, they’re the best team in the league and match up with anyone. But for every stat I can give you about how great the Bucks are, there are elements in all these teams that give me pause would give me pause on going all-in on Milwaukee to win the East.
Here’s a look at the four main challengers to Milwaukee’s presumptive throne: the Toronto Raptors (+750 odds), Boston Celtics (+750 odds), Miami Heat (+750 odds) and Philadelphia 76ers (+800 odds). I’m excluding the Pacers for a number of reasons, among them how Indy absolutely disassembled after Victor Oladipo came back from injury and its other rampant injury concerns.
- Eastern Conference odds: +750
- Biggest strengths: Defensive versatility and experience
- Biggest weaknesses: Star power, halfcourt offense
Toronto has a lot going for it. The Raptors are the reigning champs, and while everyone expected them to just roll over and accept their fate after Kawhi Leonard left, they’ve had other ideas.
Toronto’s biggest asset in all East matchups is its versatility. The Raptors can play any style. Seerat Sohi described this for Yahoo, Blake Murphy wrote a breakdown on how they give up so many 3s but remain an elite defense.
This is an underrated element; you see different teams throughout the playoffs. Toronto will need to be able to switch vs. the Celtics, play zone vs. Sixers, drop vs. the Bucks and use all those things at different points in each series. They’re undoubtedly the team best equipped for it.