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Looking at how the public is betting the NBA Eastern Conference winner, picks for second half

We take a look at some splits for the Eastern Conference and give our picks for the stretch run of the season.

Denver Nuggets v Milwaukee Bucks

The second half of the 2020-21 NBA season gets going this Wednesday with two and a half months until we get to the play-in tournament at the end of May. We have the schedules for the stretch run and it should be a tight race to see who comes out of the Eastern Conference. Once we reach the postseason, things change a bit. Throw out what happened in the regular season and look at which teams feature the most stars. Maybe we’ll get a bit of parity in the NBA but that usually isn’t the case.

The reason for that is teams like the Brooklyn Nets, who feature three of the top 10 best players in the world (arguably). The Nets have looked like the best team in the NBA over the past 2-3 weeks despite not having Kevin Durant. Even without Kyrie Irving, the Nets have managed with just James Harden. When all three are clicking in the playoffs, it’ll be hard to top. For that reason, the Nets have the best odds to represent the East in the NBA Finals at +140, a number that has since jumped to +130. It’s not surprising nearly 50 percent of the bets are on Brooklyn to win the conference.

The two teams behind the Nets are the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks. Both teams have a realistic shot at advancing to the NBA Finals. Before the season, the Bucks were the top pick to represent the East behind reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The only MVP Giannis will take home this season is All-Star Game MVP. The Bucks have underperformed overall despite adding Jrue Holiday. At +300, there isn’t a ton of value in the Bucks coming out of the East but it’s certainly a scenario that can come to life. Perhaps things will click on both sides of the ball come playoff time.

The Sixers have a pretty complete team with an MVP candidate in Joel Embiid. The issue for the Sixers was seemingly coaching, which has been addressed in the form of championship coach Doc Rivers. The thing that concerns me with the Sixers is their offense can run stagnant at times if Embiid is contained and the shooting is off. Philly also lacks a go-to perimeter scorer for crunchtime. Embiid can be that guy in a pinch but he isn’t a certified “bucket-getter” so to speak.

Favorite to win the East

Pick: Nets +130

I won’t get too cute or get into this that much. I don’t think anyone can stop the Nets at full strength. As long as KD, Harden and Irving are all healthy, Brooklyn shouldn’t lose.

Long-shot to win the East

Pick: Heat +1200

The Heat really didn’t lose too much from last year’s team that reached the NBA Finals. The regular season has been tough with Covid-19 and injuries. Miami would only need a strong second half to make it into the top 4-5 in the conference before the postseason. In the playoffs, anything can happen and this team has enough to make a return trip to the Finals.

Eastern Conference betting splits

Handle Rank Team Odds % of Handle % of Bets
Handle Rank Team Odds % of Handle % of Bets
1 BKN Nets +140 54% 45%
2 PHI 76ers +550 22% 24%
3 MIL Bucks +300 7% 11%
4 BOS Celtics +1000 6% 7%
5 MIA Heat +1200 2% 3%
6 NY Knicks +15000 2% 2%
7 CHI Bulls +15000 2% 1%
8 IND Pacers +2500 2% 2%
9 TOR Raptors +1600 1% 1%
10 ATL Hawks +6000 1% 1%

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