The NBA’s Eastern Conference looks as weak as it’s ever been when compared with the West, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t teams with betting value when looking at team totals.
Just what is it about the Eastern Conference that they are annually regarded as the weaker side of the country? This wasn’t always the case mind you. From the 1955 season up until Michael Jordan’s retirement in 1998, an Eastern Conference team won 31 of a possible 43 NBA championship titles. Since the Jordan era ended, however, the Eastern Conference has struggled to find Finals success against their counterparts on the opposite coast.
Starting with the San Antonio Spurs in 1999, the Eastern Conference has lost 14 of 20 championship series. Now with LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard taking their talents out West, is there a team out East that could reasonably contend for the title?
Truthfully that outcome would be surprising considering the super teams being formed across the league. But there are some bright spots, and despite not much value betting on an Eastern Conference team to win it all, we still have team win totals to keep us entertained.
So, let’s take a look at each of the 16 teams making up the Eastern Conference and break down your best and worst bets on board for the entire conference. Remember these odds, from The Westgate Superbook, will be constantly fluctuating to shop around for the best odds before laying your future bets.
Atlanta Hawks | 36 wins
In an intriguing story coming out of the NBA, and for the first time in quite some time, it’s possible the Atlanta Hawks might actually be good this season. The last time the Hawks even sniffed success was their 60-win 2015 season, which saw them fall in the Eastern Conference Finals. Trae Young is one of the major reasons for this optimism after he really opened the taps in the second half of his rookie year and looks to build upon that performance in his sophomore campaign.
Fellow second-year future star Kevin Hueter joins Young in what proves to be a fantastically talented backcourt full of scoring. With a pair of top-10 picks in this year’s NBA draft, the Hawks added a pair of highly-touted forwards in Cam Reddish & De’Andre Hunter. This quartet sets Atlanta up nicely for a breakout season should they all mesh, and gives fans something to look forward to in years to come.
I believe this youth is also the reason why the Atlanta Hawks are a good UNDER bet for the 2019-20 NBA season.
Young talent takes time to develop into everyday NBA players. The game is so much faster and more physical than it’s hard to accurately predict the immediate impact of a top-10 pick, especially a big man. That, combined with the fact that these guys will have to meet as a team, a very young team, and the doubts really start to pile up.
One thing they lack as a team is quality defense, especially Young’s swiss-cheese approach to playing D. John Collins also lacks All-Star defense and that may become even more apparent when he shifts to playing center this season. The Hawks should be an exciting team to watch, so long as they let their young stars play significant minutes, but along with that goes a lot of rookie mistakes and growing pains. Another strong consideration behind this bet is that for whatever reason The Westgate currently has the Hawks at 36, while almost every other outlet has them listed at between 32 – 33.5 wins, so jump on this line if it’s still available to you. Even at 33.5, I would be leaning under for a team that might be one year removed from their breakout season.
Best Bet: Atlanta Hawks UNDER 36 wins
Boston Celtics | 49.5 wins
The Celtics are probably the most radically different team in the NBA this year compared with their 2018-19 roster. Long gone are their two best players in Al Horford and Kyrie Irving, gone to the Sixers and Nets respectively. Kemba Walker looks to fill the shoes of Irving while Horford’s minutes will likely be divided up between Enes Kanter, Daniel Theis, and rookie Grant Williams. Both of these changes are significant downgrades, yet the Celtics are coming off a 49-win season, so why the extra half game? It seems like a pretty good lock to me for an under bet here, right?
Well maybe not. See, the Celtics were decimated by injuries last year and also suffered through a number of behind-the-scenes incidents. Making the roster moves the Celtics did was not just about on the court changes, but also to solve concerns with locker room drama. Now guys like Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart will need to step up and play some more significant minutes.
On a positive note, those three players along with Walker all got time playing together on Team USA, despite the unfavorable outcome, this will no doubt help to gel this team together sooner rather than later.
Oh, yea and there is, of course, Gordon Hayward. The former superstar who suffered a horrific leg injury two seasons ago and just hasn’t quite looked the part since. A bet on the Celtics here is almost a bet on him, because if he returns to form, I do think the Celtics see 50 wins this year. Unfortunately, I don’t see this happening for Hayward and the Celtics and I expect them to fall short of 50 wins for the first time since 2014 and the fewest wins ever under Brad Stevens.
Best Bet: Boston Celtics UNDER 49.5 wins
Brooklyn Nets | 44 wins
Much like the Celtics, the Nets have undergone a significant facelift since the end of last season. The Nets were clearly the big winners overall in the offseason free agency wars by adding Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, giving up just D’Angelo Russell. Brooklyn is coming off a 42-win season, so how much does replacing Russell with Kyrie Irving and adding in a little Durant factor into their betting preview?
Irving is the only significant factor at play with Durant on the shelf for what could be the entire 2019-20 season. He is no doubt an improvement, even with Irving coming off a fantastically successful year with the Nets. The Nets have also added Garrett Temple, DeAndre Jordan and young stud in the making Caris LeVert could make the leap to stardom this year. I like the Nets to surpass this number and if Durant does make it back during the regular season this bet becomes much more attractive.
Best Bet: Brooklyn Nets OVER 44 wins
Charlotte Hornets | 23 wins
The Hornets’ 23 projected wins are currently lowest on the board, a full game and a half below the Cleveland Cavaliers. The one major benefit that the Hornets roster has that the other basement dwellers in the East lack is experience. The Cavs and Knicks will be losing the majority of their games with young talent while a lot of veteran journeyman make up the roster in Charlotte.
The Hornets will be spreading time between Nic Batum, Cody Zeller, Marvin Williams, and Michael Kidd-Gilcrest with young players Miles Bridges and Malik Monk filling out the role player minutes. The Hornets won 39 games last year and 36 the year before with the only major loss is that of Walker with Rozier being acquired to fill in. Is Walker worth 16 wins? Absolutely not and it’s not even close. This team will have practically no pressure on them with expectations already so low that a group of relaxed veterans can really shine.
Best Bet: Charlotte Hornets OVER 23 wins
Chicago Bulls | 30.5 wins
The Chicago Bulls are coming off one of the worst seasons in franchise history with just 22 wins a year ago. At this point two things are certain with the Chicago Bulls. First, they are a team heading in the wrong direction with 27 wins two seasons. The other point to be aware of is that the Bulls have nowhere to go but up. Especially considering they are returning most of the key cogs from last season, cogs which didn’t get to see the court much last year due to injuries.
Leading the way is Zach LaVine, who missed 19 games last year, and Lauri Markkanen, who suited up for just 52 games last season, while rookie Wendell carter Jr. appeared in just 44. Perhaps their best player, Otto Porter, played just 15 games for Chicago last year. Each of those players should be primed and ready to start on the regular for Chicago this year and therefore are expected to far surpass their scant 22 wins from last year, but just how far will the go?
With additions Thaddeus Young, Tomas Satoransky and rookie Coby White, the Bulls are a much better team than a year ago and may even sneak into the playoffs considering how terrible the East is on average. I like them to go way over this total and surprise a lot of people in 2019.
Best Bet: Chicago Bull OVER 30.5 wins
Cleveland Cavaliers | 24.5 wins
When scraping the bottom of the barrel it’s hard to contemplate going any further down. Much like it is hard to feel good about betting under such a low total, but the Cavaliers might just be an exception due to the unique makeup of this team.
It’s hard to sum it up briefly but I believe the team “Legendarily Awful” should about cover it. Make no mistake about it, the Cavaliers are in a bad spot and will have to play their best ball to even just avoid having the worst record in the league.
Their backcourt will be manned by a pair of virtual nobodies in Darius Garland and Collin Sexton. They are forced into this situation following the fallout from the LeBron James departure, even after a full season. They have huge salary cap issues, with a $130M payroll heading into the season and will be luxury taxed hard while also competing for worst team in history.
I don’t even expect this roster to stick around as their best course of action will be to sell of as many resources as possible and tank their asses off. This means Kevin Love and/or Tristan Thompson at some point might be shown the door, allowing for even more young talent to get minutes. Cheap young talent to be sure. If that does happen, I don’t see any way the Cavaliers even come close to surpassing this win total. Either way they are going to struggle mightily so bet cynically and with confidence.
Best Bet: Cleveland Cavaliers UNDER 24.5 wins
Detroit Pistons 36.5
This line puts the Pistons right into the heart of the Eastern Conference playoff race, but do they deserve odds that high? They are coming off a season in which they squeaked into the playoffs as an 8-seed and they have only gotten better in the offseason. All this while the teams who won higher seeds got significantly worse. This puts the Pistons in a good spot to make a small jump in 2019-20.
Over the past three seasons, the Pistons have won 41,39 and 37 wins and I see no reason they don’t see similar results this year. With Derrick Rose and Markieff Morris being added to an offense featuring Blake Griffin, Detroit might play their way into a 6-seed and really surprise people this season. I like the over here with my only real concern being the health issues that a few players have exhibited in the past.
Detroit Pistons OVER 36.5
Indiana Pacers | 48.5
Victor Oladipo played just 36 games for the Pacers last year and still managed 48 wins on the year. With their star returning this year, why would anyone consider them sub-50 game winners? Well he won’t be around to start the season, Oladipo is expected back in December which means he is likely to start around 50 games for the Pacers this year. Other concerns arise when looking at some of their offseason roster moves, none of which have really done anything to help.
With players such as Jeremy Lamb and Malcolm Brogdon looking to fill significant holes in the roster, it’s hard to see the Pacers fielding a better team alongside Oladipo than last year. Losing guys like Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young and Darren Collison are significant, and the Pacers just didn’t do the work to fill those shoes. I don’t see it happening for the Pacers, and it’s possible that Oladipo sits into the new year.
Best Bet: Indiana Pacers UNDER 48.5 wins
Miami Heat | 44 wins
In what will be a rarity this year in the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat will be a team which should take a big leap forward. The Heat won 44 games two years ago but just 39 last year and they took two steps back after a solid 2017-18. They are returning a lot of linchpin players like Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic, both will need to step up and do a lot more for Miami then previously had been asked of them.
They get a massive upgrade with Jimmy Butler taking over for Josh Richardson and will see plenty of work with both Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside departing. But Whiteside had been a strong underperformer in seasons of late and Dwyane Wade’s health made him more of a liability than anything, so these may be subtractions which are actually positives. I like for Dragic and Butler to overcome their injury prone histories and insert the Heat firmly into the playoffs and firmly over 44 wins on the year.
Best Bet: Miami Heat OVER 44 wins
Milwaukee Bucks | 56.5 wins
The Milwaukee Bucks are coming of a franchise year, going 60-22 and leading the NBA with the best record over the regular season. Even better is they retain almost all of their core rotation with Brook Lopez, Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton returning. Most importantly, the league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo makes his return after almost leading the Bucks to a championship and signing a big-time contract extension.
The only significant losses are Nikola Mirotic and Maclcolm Brogdon, who both played diminished supporting roles last season. Their minutes can be easily filled. The only concern I have about the Bucks seeing 60 wins again is they might not have to. They are one of the best teams in the league, and by far the best in the Eastern Conference. This may create a situation where, down the stretch, the Bucks may have the luxury to let off the gas pedal and rest their starters in preparation for the playoffs. I still like the Bucks here so take the over and hope that at least a few teams can keep pace with Milwaukee to pressure them down the home stretch.
Best Bet: Milwaukee Bucks OVER 56.5 wins
New York Knicks | 27.5 wins
The New York Knicks really suffer from public perception of them being a big market team, and like all teams in this situation, find themselves overvalued within the market. Much like the Michigan Wolverines or New York Rangers, the Knicks constantly find their futures skewed based on their name, fanbase and market size.
I am sorry to say that New York Knicks fans and future backers alike are in for a rough season. The organization had high hopes of signing a huge free agent this year or making a big splash with a top pick in the NBA draft. As we now know the Knicks are going to always go full Knicks and they somehow ended up with neither of those things.
So instead of Kyrie Irving and Zion Williamson they instead will be suiting up R.J. Barrett and Elfrid Payton. Other than that, they have a few aging power forwards in Julius Randle, Taj Gibson and Marcus Morris, who are all find players but not enough to keep the Knicks on the right side of the win column.
I think about the only positive I can come up with for the Knicks is their defense will be very good. So exciting, I know. But it won’t be enough to make up for their obvious shooting issues with Ellington and Morris their only true threats from behind the arc and their paint offense should be rather tepid at best. If they find themselves getting beat handily early on in the season, they might just pull the plug and start a fire sale to start the tanking early. This feels like a likely outcome and a major reason why I’m leaning hard toward the under for the Knickerbockers.
Best Bet: New York Knicks UNDER 27.5 wins
Orlando Magic | 42.5 wins
The Orlando Magic might have the distinction of making the fewest chances to their roster from a year ago. They will more than likely be starting the same five guys as opening night a year ago with the only significant offseason acquisition being Al-Farouq Aminu. So we’re getting the same team which won 42 games a year ago after a big run at the end of the season and behind a beastly year from Nikola Vucevic.
After making the playoffs for the first time since 2011, the Magic are all on with their current roster, re-signing Vooch and Terrence Ross to long term deals. I don’t believe that Vucevic and to a lesser extent, D.J. Augustin, are coming off career years in the sense that they are skilled enough to replicate their success again this season. Combine them with young bucks Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba continuing the get better by the day and a season which sees them surpass .500 and make another playoff bracket don’t seem that farfetched.
Best Bet: Orlando Magic OVER 42.5 wins
Philadelphia 76ers | 55 wins
This might be the toughest line to predict that the Eastern Conference has to offer. Things could really go both ways for the Sixers with a chance at phenomenal success that equals the possibility of a sub-50-win season. This is a group of guys who might have issues meshing together in a timely fashion and who also suffer from sketch injuries in years past. In what has become an annual tradition in the NBA, the Sixers has completely transformed their team from last season. Jimmy Butler’s cup of coffee in Philly has come and gone and J.J. Reddick has also hit the bricks.
Josh Richardson and Al Horford are in line to fill those roles with Horford and Embiid creating a terrifying duo down low. While Embiid is MVP caliber, his years have been mired in injuries that the Sixers are hoping will not pop up again. Ben Simmons as well is a top-tier talent who has yet to show his full potential, especially if he finds his jump shot. Philly won 51 games last year, they are better this season and are a great bet on team to take a significant step forward after a full season together.
Best Bet: Philadelphia 76ers OVER 55 wins
Toronto Raptors | 46.5 wins
Congratulations Toronto, your hometown Raptors are reigning NBA Champions! Now let’s get back to the real world where despite that being true, there is little to be excited about in Toronto after the surprising departure of franchise favorite Kawhi Leonrard. Also gone is Danny Green and along with them, all hopes of a repeat performance in 2019. Heck they probably won’t even come close, a real heartbreaker for the city of Toronto.
But surely the Raptors signed some talent or drafted well enough for them to content for the Eastern Conference. Well, not quite. In fact, the Raptors acquired no players of note, either by the draft or signing. This leaves guys like OG anunoby and Fred VanVleet step up into much more significant roles, a task they are not up for by the looks of it.
Sure, they will have a full season of Marc Gasol, but at his age, it’s hardly enough. After winning 58 games a year ago the Raptors are expected to win less than 47 in 2019 and that lines up with historical stats following a superstar departure.
The Bulls lost 14 more games after Butler’s departure while the Spurs also lost 14 more games the year after Leonard’s departure. While I do expect the Raptors to make the playoffs, mostly due to lack of competition, they will make little noise while there and may also be a team looking for a winter fire sale.
Best Bet: Toronto Raptors UNDER 46.5 wins
Washington Wizards | 28.5
Last, and almost least, are the Washington Wizards. With John Wall expected to miss the entire season fresh off a contract extension, the mood in Washington is low to say the least. Ish Smith and Isaih Thomas will share time in the hopes of replacing the superstar point guard. Young up and comers Troy Brown, Thomas Bryand and Rui Hachimura will also be expected to play series minutes in this depleted roster. Long story short, not only are the Wizards bad, they also are not that interesting of a story.
They have no real star on the team and are coming off a 32-win season with a better team than we will see this season. They are a bad bet to go over this total which really just leaves one choice to be made.
Best Bet: Washington Wizards UNDER 28.5 wins