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Eastern Conference Down to Big Three – Rest Playing for Next Year

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Eastern Conference Down to Big Three – Rest Playing for Next Year

The 2018-2019 NBA season hasn’t even tipped, yet we already know that there are realistically only three teams vying to be Eastern Conference champs. All we have to do is take a peek at what the professional oddsmakers at the world’s top betting sites are dealing on each individual team in the East to win the conference crown.

Boston Celtics -110

Toronto Raptors +375

Philadelphia 76ers +400

Milwaukee Bucks +2350

Washington Wizards +2600

Indiana Pacers +2800

New York Knicks +7000

Miami Heat +7000

Detroit Pistons +7000

Charlotte Hornets +9000

Chicago Bulls +9000

Cleveland Cavaliers +9000

Orlando Magic +12000

Brooklyn Nets +18500

Atlanta Hawks +20000

There are no shockers here as the Celtics, 76ers, and Raptors lead the list with last season’s Eastern Conference kings, the Cleveland Cavaliers, nowhere to be found now that LeBron has taken his talents to the West Coast. Perhaps the only tinge of surprise were the rather lofty odds on the Milwaukee Bucks. After all, they enjoy the services of one who many believe to be the preeminent player in the conference in Giannis Antetokounmpo, aka The Greek Freak. But one man does not a team make and that was evident last year when the Bucks were bounced in the opening round by the Celtics. Had it not been for Antetokounmpo, who led the team in scoring in four of the seven playoff games with Boston, Milwaukee would not only have been swept but would never have even sniffed the postseason. Nevertheless, the Bucks have him as well as Khris Middleton, and to a lesser extent Eric Bledsoe, to form a talented triumvirate that would be good enough to compete with the big boys if they had a more adept group surrounding them. Who knows, maybe the kid from Villanova, Donte DiVincenzo, the No. 18 pick in the draft this year will add the oomph they need. But the fact remains that Milwaukee is just another also-ran behind the Big Three.

The Toronto Raptors won the regular season title in the East last season, notching 59 wins and the No. 1 seed. But it wasn’t exactly a stunner when, after ousting the Bucks in six games, they were swept in four by LeBron James – not the Cavaliers – just LeBron. But this year they pried a disenchanted Kawhi Leonard from the Spurs which makes them a better team right from jump street. However, the loss of DeMar DeRozan in that deal should not be overlooked. Essentially, they dealt a four-time All-Star for a younger two-time All-Star. We’re not sure Kawhi is a game changer here with DeRozen out of the picture.

What we’re really down to is the Celtics versus the Sixers – conjuring images of Larry, Kevin and the Chief against Dr. J, Sir Charles, and Moses. But this is 2018 and now it’s Kyrie, Jason, and Jalen battling Joel, Ben, and Dario. The personalities may not be nearly as big as those towering figures of the 80’s but the talent is most definitely there. The key question could be the status of Philadelphia’s Markelle Fultz, the top overall pick in the 2017 draft. Fultz was on the shelf shortly after he began his rookie campaign but returned near the end of the season with mixed results. But is he the real deal or a first-round bust? It’s too early to tell but if he provides the goods then the Green could be in for a reversal of fortune when they bounced the 76ers in last year’s postseason.

The Celtics have their own question that needs answering as Gordon Hayward is ready to roll after a gruesome leg injury in last year’s season opener that had fans wincing between closed eyes and gritted teeth. Will Hayward return to the form that made him the second prized free agent two seasons ago, along with Kyrie Irving? We will soon find out.

If you want action on the teams in the East or even teams in the West, make sure to check out the industry’s top betting sites and make an informed decision about where to trust your bankroll. Not all online sportsbooks are created equal so get educated and may all your wagers be winners.

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NBA Championship Contenders at the Quarter Pole

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The season is roughly a quarter of the way through and we’ve had more than our fair share of surprises thus far. If we would have told you before the season began that the Golden State Warriors would be ambling along in fourth place in the West would you have asked suggested that another round of cocktails might not be the wisest choice? We certainly couldn’t blame you but here the defending champions sit at 16-9, matching their loss total for the entire season back in 2015-2016.

Without further ado, let’s give a couple of quick hits as well as the corresponding NBA odds for a championship title being dealt by the best online sportsbooks found all over at Sportsbook Review.

Fab Five

  1. Golden State Warriors (-150) – Only a team like Golden State could still be considered the prohibitive favorite with three other teams above them in the Western Conference standings. Draymond Green has been on the shelf since November 15th, suffering from a sprained right toe, and the Warriors have gone 6-6 straight up without the six-year veteran in the lineup and won’t likely see him dress for another week or more. In addition, center Damian Jones is out for the season with a torn left pectoral muscle, which has left the champs thin in the post. But that hasn’t stopped the oddsmakers from making GSW the favorites to repeat as NBA champions.
  2. Toronto Raptors (+800) – The Raps were viewed as paper tigers by many before the season started after tearing through the 2017-2018 regular season with 59 wins and garnering the top seed in the East before they were swept in the second round by the Cavaliers. Toronto was not content and fired their Coach of the Year, Dwane Casey, and promoted Nick Nurse to take the helm. The Raptors are proving the pundits wrong and the NBA odds seem to back that up as they currently own the best record in the league and have won 10 of 13 in front of their rabid fans at Scotiabank Arena.
  3. Boston Celtics (+1100) – The Celtics were supposed to be a force of nature this season with a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to claim the East and make a charge at the Warriors. Well, things haven’t exactly turned out that way as Hayward has just now found his groove as a valuable sixth man off the bench as opposed to an underachieving starter. Jaylen Brown has been hindered by injuries and is not playing up to par while backup Terry Rozier, who looked silky smooth in Irving’s stead late last year, is grumbling that he’s no longer in the spotlight. However, the Green Machine has won three straight and seems to be turning the corner.
  4. Houston Rockets (+1200) – If you want to know how long the NBA season is, imagine a team that is currently under .500 being tagged as having the fourth-best chance to win the NBA championship. If the season ended today, the Rockets would not even be in the postseason but as we all know, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. But a healthy Houston team is a winning Houston team as evidenced by the fact that the Rockets have lost all five games when Chris Paul has been out of the lineup while dropping two of three when Harden was sidelined with a hamstring injury. When healthy, the Rockets are very much a team to beat.
  5. Philadelphia 76ers (+1500) – A one-hundred dollar bill will net you $1500 if you bet the Sixers to win the title six months from now. Philadelphia’s bevy of high draft picks are bearing fruit and after adding the talented Jimmy Butler to their roster, they are officially for real. Nevertheless, the Markelle Fultz experiment continues with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft being hindered by shoulder issues. It’s too early to tell whether this pick has bust written all over it but the Sixers are certainly talented enough to get by and challenge without him.

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Will LeBron James buy an NBA team when he retires?

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For all the money and fame it brings, the career of a professional sportsperson is a relatively short one, often coming to an abrupt end in their mid to late 30s. At this point, most are left searching for a new outlet for their competitive natures, as well as a way to invest their considerable fortunes.

Buying a sports team is one of the most popular options available and stars who have done this in the past include Michael Jordan who famously owns the Charlotte Hornets and Magic Johnson who is a leading shareholder in the LA Dodgers.

Now the player whose ownership future is being widely speculated over is LeBron James. At 33 he probably has a few more playing years ahead of him but his thoughts must surely be starting to turn to his eventual retirement.

One thing is for certain and that’s that his estimated $233 million fortune plus lifetime sponsorship deals with the likes of Nike, Sprite and Kia rumoured to be worth over $1 billion mean that his pockets will be more than deep enough to buy a substantial share of almost any team he chooses.

It’s also something he’s already done in the English Premier League with a $6.5 million investment and 2% stake in the Liverpool FC soccer team. With the club riding high in the league he’s already seen its value rise to around $32 million.

But basketball’s his first love so it would seem more than likely that he’ll set his sights on an NBA team when the time comes, but which one?

The logical answer would be the Lakers but, unfortunately, this wouldn’t be allowed under the terms of the cap arrangements with the team and would be in conflict with the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement. So he’ll have to set his sights elsewhere.

There’s a strong tradition of players buying into the teams that they used to play for so how about the one that James has represented the most in his career, Cleveland Cavaliers.

With stints from 2003 till 2010 and 2014 to 2018 he’s spent no less than 14 years playing with them and his heart definitely lies in his home state, Ohio.

But one thing to consider is that when he left the Cavaliers for the Lakers earlier this year one of the reasons cited was his poor relationship with the current owner, Dan Gilbert. Whether he’ll want to business with Gilbert remains to be seen.

Then there’s the possibility of the other team he’s represented, Miami Heat. This would very much be an outside option compared with the Cavaliers but in basketball, as in life, nothing’s absolutely out of the question.

But with a possible three or four more seasons left with the Lakers it’s not a decision that James is going to have to make in the immediate future. And when he does it’s more than likely that his first overtures will be made to the Cavaliers.

As to how they’ll respond to this, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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Killer Kemba & Shamrocks Sinking

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Walker En Fuego

If you asked the casual hoops fan to list the best players in the game, names like LeBron, Steph, Anthony Davis, and Kyrie Irving might be among the first to be uttered. But there is a force in Charlotte whose name should be whispered whenever the elites of the game are mentioned. Kemba Walker has been a destroyer of late, as evidenced by his most recent outings where he shredded the 76ers for 60 points in an overtime loss and then followed up that gem with 43 in a winning effort over the Celtics on Monday night.

Oddsmakers at some of the most trusted and respected online sportsbooks like Bookmaker were dealing Boston as 3 ½ point favorites in that game but clearly, they had the wrong favorite and didn’t prepare for another stellar performance from the two-time NBA All-Star. Walker has now eclipsed Steph Curry as the NBA’s scoring leader, averaging 29.6 points per game, and has contributed mightily to a Hornets season record that wouldn’t be sniffing .500 without him.

Celtics forward Gordon Hayward had this to say after Monday’s game, “He’s been unbelievable, especially when your whole game plan is to stop him and he is still going off and doing what he does. He’s an unbelievable player.”

The seven-year veteran has come into his own over the past three seasons, averaging 23.2, 22.1, and currently 29.6 points per game. Walker and the Hornets will close out the week with a game at home against the Pacers on Wednesday and then hit the highway for a date with the Thunder on Friday and then an early evening affair against the Hawks in Atlanta.

 

Green Machine Broken

The Celtics are completely out of sync and lost their following two games to Utah and Charlotte after a huge win over Eastern Conference big shot Toronto. Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and the entire lot appear to be disjointed but there is one name that keeps popping up as the one many perceive to be the culprit – Gordon Hayward.

The former member of the Utah Jazz, who was wooed to Boston as a prized free agent before last season, suffered a gruesome broken leg in the opening game and has returned this season to much fanfare. However, the euphoria of a healthy Celtics roster has dissipated into utter disappointment and head coach Brad Stevens even pulled him from the starting unit to open their game against the Hornets with Aron Baynes getting the start. It made little difference as Baynes went 1-for-4 from the field and Haywood contributed another clunker on 1-of-6 shooting.

The Celtics have an ideal opportunity to get back on track with games against the Knicks at home before they travel to Atlanta and Dallas to close out the week. If the Shamrocks continue to struggle against those teams then the reality that this team simply isn’t as good as it looks on paper will begin to set in, and for the first time since he’s been coaching the Celtics, Brad Stevens could be nearing the hot seat. But before panic ensues in Celtics Nation, the head coach had this to say about his charges, “We have to build a tougher team mindset than we have. We just don’t have that mindset yet that we need.”

Many believe that it is only a matter of time before the C’s get well but in the interim, they are now slipping down the Eastern Conference standings where they sit tied with Orlando and Charlotte for sixth through eighth place. It’s basement playoff real estate that has been unfamiliar to Boston over the past few seasons and if change is gonna come, it better start soon.

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