By Mark Strotman | | 15 mins
NBA Eastern Conference Race: Odds, Best Bet & Predictions
Since LeBron James’ decision to move to the Western Conference, different organizations have represented the East in the NBA Finals each of the last three seasons. What’s more, the Raptors (2019), Heat (2020), and Bucks (2021) all entered their respective postseasons not favored to win the conference.
The mystery has only amplified in 2022, with just a mere 4.5 games separating first and fifth place in the East. That’s the difference between home-court advantage throughout the playoffs and going on the road to begin Round 1.
The current NBA futures odds reflect the parity. In fact, the favorite to win the conference—Brooklyn—is ranked 8th and is most likely going to need a victory in the Play-In Tournament to even advance to the postseason! Beyond the Nets, the Bucks (+350), Sixers (+370), Heat (+475), and Celtics (+950) are all bunched together on betting apps and betting sites. That doesn’t even include the Bulls (+1200), who entered the All-Star break with the East’s best record and had two All-Stars.
So, where should NBA betting enthusiasts be placing their bets in the East? It’s not an easy question to answer, especially with the playoffs being a different animal each year. But with the trade deadline in the rear-view mirror and some clarity forming on key injuries, we’ll break down what each contender brings to the table—and give you our NBA picks to represent the East this June.
NBA Eastern Conference Odds
|Team||Odds To Win The East|
Odds via DraftKings and accurate as of publication.
Top Contenders To Win The East
Nets | 32-31 | 8th Place
Odds: +250 on DraftKings
When’s the last time the NBA title favorite in March was in jeopardy of missing the postseason? We’re guessing it’s been a while, but that’s where the Nets stand. After dealing James Harden for Ben Simmons, the Nets’ Big Three is Kevin Durant (coming back from a sprained MCL on Thursday), Kyrie Harden (still not allowed to play in home games), and Simmons (conditioning issues).
There’s no denying this is the East’s best team when healthy—but will they ever be healthy? Durant and Simmons should be ready to roll by the postseason, while there’s optimism New York will change its vaccine mandate that allows Irving to play in New York. Still, a bet on Brooklyn is a bet on health—because the supporting cast is barely playoff material.
Bucks | 37-25 | 4th Place
Odds: +350 on DraftKings
Remember when the Bucks started 6-8? Neither do we. COVID issues derailed their November, but beginning with a Nov. 17 win over the Lakers, the Bucks have the fifth-best net rating in the NBA. They’ve hit a few rough patches (lost six of eight in January; lost four of five in February) but this is still an elite team and the defending champs until someone dethrones them.
As long as Giannis Antetokounmpo (30.2 points, 12.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists in last year’s postseason) is healthy, Milwaukee has a chance. Khris Middleton needs to get right, and Brook Lopez’s health is still in doubt, but the core around Giannis is absolutely good enough to win the East again.
Sixers | 37-23 | 3rd Place
Odds: +370 on DraftKings
It’s a small sample size, but goodness do the Sixers look good with Joel Embiid and James Harden running the show. In wins over the Wolves and Knicks (twice), Philadelphia is averaging 127.0 points behind MVP efforts from Embiid and a rejuvenated Harden. Let’s also not forget that Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris are about as good of “third” and “fourth” options as you’ll find in the NBA.
Embiid will need to take a Giannis-like jump in the postseason, and Harden undoubtedly has some postseason demons to exercise, but this is starting to feel like a team that can reach the mountaintop. If early returns are any indication, it might be impossible for any team to keep up with a healthy and locked in Embiid/Harden combination.
Risk-Free Bet up to $1,000
Heat | 41-21 | 1st place
Odds: +475 on DraftKings
Sometimes the postseason is about getting hot at the right time. If that’s the case, the Heat are in a great position. They began the year a pedestrian 7-5 and then got to 16-12 a week before Christmas. They held serve through January before losing three straight from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1. But since then? They’ve been the East’s best, reeling off 10 wins in their last 12 tries, including W’s over the Nets and Bulls.
Jimmy Butler is leading the way, with Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry forming a formidable Big Three. Head coach Erik Spoelstra is pulling all the levers with a supporting cast that outplays its talent level each season. There’s serious value here for a team that plays together, is finally healthy, and has the inside track on the top seed in the East.
Celtics | 37-27 | 6th Place
Odds: +950 on DraftKings
For a team that hovered around .500 until the end of January, the fact that we’re even discussing them as title contenders is impressive. That’s what happens when you go 12-2 in a five-week span with the NBA’s best defense by more than 5 points per 100 possessions—the gap between Boston and No. 2 Miami is the same as Miami and No. 18 Golden State.
A great defense combined with an offense anchored by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown is a recipe for success. Boston has wins over Miami, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Denver, and Atlanta in that span. They’ve got playoff experience, two elite scorers, and a defense that is suffocating every night they take the floor. They’re absolutely a legitimate sleeper.
Risk Free Bet up to $1,500
Bulls | 39-23 | 2nd Place
Odds: +1200 on DraftKings
The Bulls were atop the Eastern Conference standings for much of the season’s first half. They’ve struggled a bit since losing Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso to injuries, with the defense ranking 25th in the NBA dating back to mid-January. Still, the thought is the defense can find its early-season successes while the offense—led by two of the best scorers in the league in DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine—will lead the charge.
The Bulls face one of the most difficult stretches in the league to finish the regular season, but a top-4 finish in the East would set them up nicely—they’re currently 24-9 at home this season.
Best Bet To Win The Eastern Conference
We love the value on the Sixers. Superstars win in today’s NBA, and Philadelphia has two of the best. They’ve quietly strung together a top-10 defense all season despite missing Simmons’ All-Defensive Team prowess, and they’re a lock to score 115 points each time they take the floor. Get their NBA odds this high while you still can at DraftKings or one of the other major sportsbooks.