The Eastern Conference last year was a predicted two team race – Bucks and Celtics. Then Miami came together in the bubble and absolutely dominated their opponents before falling a bit short and succumbing to injuries. This year, will Miami make it back to the Finals? Let’s see how the Southeast Division shakes up.
Led by Jimmy Butler, the Heat culture is built on tough defense and team focused offense. They are the clear favorites to repeat as division winners at -360. Can they make it all the way to the finals again? At +650, there is a good amount of value in them repeating as conference winners. They also opened with the fourth best win total in the conference of 44.5. With largely the same team as last year this should be a good opportunity for an over. The biggest concern is the health of Bam and Dragic, but they did add Avery Bradley which is an underrated move for the defensive unit. If Herro can take a step forward by staying the player he was in the playoffs, and Nunn returns to what he was in the first half of last season, this will be an easy over and they should be closer to +300 favorites for the conference.
The Magic were the only other team from the division to make the playoffs, and they did so being 7 games under .500. I can’t see them making the playoffs again, but for the past few years the organization has gotten the most out of its talent. In my opinion they have a team of role players. Some of them could probably be starters on a championship team, but who is the number 1 option for them? Opening at 33 wins (their total from last year), I think I’d bet the under down to 31. I see them competing with Charlotte for last place.
Speaking of Charlotte, they’ve had an interesting offseason. LaMelo Ball had potential to be the first pick of the draft, but I can’t see him being a star in the league. I think he is going to be a lesser version of Ben Simmons. Adding Gordon Hayward is a risk but mostly financial. If he doesn’t work out, they didn’t really have a shot without him so who knows. Terry Rozier and Hayward were together in Boston so there could be some familiarity that might result in some early wins, but I’d avoid this team for futures betting because I want to see how much they try to rely on Ball to handle the offense. Current win total is 27.5 at betonline.
Washington made the biggest splash in the division… They added Westbrook, picked up a nice European player in Deni Avdija, and I personally like Robin Lopez as a role player for them and defensive presence. Westbrook should be familiar with much of what they do having previously played for Scott Brooks. But, will he work better with Beal than he did with Harden? Westbrook has a tendency to, um, miss a lot of shots. If he keeps shooting at the rate he has been, the trade really won’t make the Wizards better. They have an over under of 31.5 wins right now, I’d be inclined to take the over.
Finally, the Atlanta Hawks added Kris Dunn, a solid defensive player; Bogdan Bogdanovic, a really good outside shooter; Onyeka Okongwu, one of the better big men of the draft; and Rajon Rondo, a savvy veteran. Having it all come together is a different story, but they are building a competitive team. Trae Young will likely do less than he has the past few years. Cam Reddish was inconsistent in his first season, but showed flashes of being a capable scorer. They are currently at 35.5 wins with the juice towards the over. I don’t think there is much value here, if you can find this at 34, that could be a good number to jump on.
The season starts in just over a week! Next we will start breaking down the Western Conference divisions.
- David Troy
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