Even a 16-game winning streak for the Boston Celtics that ended on Wednesday has not changed the minds of oddsmakers, who still believe the Cleveland Cavaliers are the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.
Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
The Cavaliers have been playing well lately, currently riding a six-game winning streak and sitting as -125 favorites to advance to the NBA Finals out of the East for the fourth straight year.
Cleveland’s LeBron James has made it to the championship round of the playoffs each of the previous seven years, going 3-4 between playing for the Cavs and Miami Heat. The presence of James – who many believe to be the best player in the league since Michael Jordan and arguably the greatest of all-time – has made it hard to bet against his team until at least the NBA Finals.
This season though, former teammate Kyrie Irving is doing everything he can to make sure the Celtics win the East.
Boston is listed as the +200 second choice to win it behind Irving and a talented young roster. After getting traded from Cleveland in the offseason for Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, Irving has proven his worth as a legitimate NBA MVP candidate, especially since free-agent forward Gordon Hayward went down with a leg injury in a season-opening loss to the Cavs. Hayward is not expected to return this year.
Besides the Celtics and Cavs, there is just one other team that seems to have a remote chance of winning the East, the Washington Wizards as the +1000 third choice. The Southeast Division-leading Wizards are led by point guard John Wall but are at least one All-Star player away from seriously competing with the top two in the conference.
In the Western Conference, it remains the Golden State Warriors and everyone else. The defending NBA champion Warriors are strong -250 favorites to win the West for the fourth year in a row, with the Houston Rockets (+600), San Antonio Spurs (+800) and Oklahoma City Thunder (+1000) the only teams with any real shot of unseating them.
The Thunder have struggled at times this season with their new “Big Three” of reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook plus All-Stars Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. But Oklahoma City routed Golden State 108-91 on Wednesday and showed its potential.
Meanwhile, the Rockets and Spurs are both fighting for the Southwest Division title. Houston appears to be the top threat as one of two teams to win at Oracle Arena this year. The Detroit Pistons also handed the Warriors a rare home loss, and they are a good value pick to win the East now at +3300 as early leaders of the Central Division.