The Brooklyn Nets (18-12) and Philadelphia 76ers (18-10) are co-favorites at +110 odds to win the Atlantic Division. With the Boston Celtics in a slump, it has become a two-horse race for the division crown.
We’re approximately 40% through the NBA season and the division title is still a coin flip. We definitely know who’s not in contention, and that’s the New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors. If the Boston Celtics (14-13) do not stop their slide before the All-Star break, the Atlantic will come down to the Sixers or Nets.
|New York Knicks||+25000||+10000||+25000|
The Raptors won the Atlantic three seasons in a row and six times in the last seven years. The Raptors (13-15) are +1800 long shots to win a fourth-straight division crown.
The Knicks (14-15) last won a division title in 2012-13, which also marked the last time they qualified for the postseason. The Knicks are currently in the playoff mix this season, but moon shots to win the Atlantic at +25000 odds.
Showdown: Sixers or Nets
Coin flip time. Pick a side. Philly or Brooklyn? Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons or Kyrie, KD, and Harden?
Both teams have 18 wins, but the Nets came into the season as the consensus favorite to win everything. The preseason money flowed heavily on the Nets to win the Atlantic division, Eastern Conference title, and the NBA championship. And that was before they added James Harden to the team in a mega-deal involving four different teams including the Houston Rockets, Indianapolis Pacers, and the Cleveland Cavs.
Before the season began, the Nets were +125 odds to win the Atlantic, but the Sixers were fourth-highest in the division at +400 odds. If you took a flier on the Sixers in the preseason, then you’re looking good right now.
The Sixers and Nets are on opposite paths right now. The Sixers dropped three in a row, while the Nets won four-straight games. The Nets defeated the Phoenix Suns last night without Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving. James Harden unleashed an old-school performance with 38 points and 11 assists in the win over a Suns’ squad that had won six in a row.
Boston ER and Sinking Celtics
The Celtics were +250 odds to win the division coming into the season. Their division odds slipped to +900 after a rough season. The Celtics took a bad beat with numerous injuries to their starters. Jayson Tatum missed five games due to COVID-19. Marcus Smart missed ten games with a calf strain, and Kemba Walker missed 14 after recovering from knee surgery.
Their lack of a bench is coming back to bite them in the butt, especially when rookie Payton Pritchard went down with a sprained ankle. There were multiple moments this season where the Celtics really missed Gordon Hayward, who signed with the Charlotte Hornets in the offseason.
Tatum contracted COVID-19 and he’s still yet to fully recover after missing five games.
“It messes with your breathing a little bit,” explained Tatum. “I have experienced some games where, where you get fatigued a lot quicker than normal. It’s easier to get out of breath or tired a lot faster. I’ve noticed that since I’ve had COVID.”
Jaylen Brown leads the Celtics with 26 ppg and he’s been the healthiest starter by missing only two games. If the Celtics can stay healthy and conjure up the luck of the Irish in the second half of the season, the Atlantic could be a three-pony race.
Atlantic Long Shots: Knicks and Raptors
The Knicks look like a real team again. So far, the team bought into Tom Thibodeau’s defensive philosophy. The Knicks are the second-best defensive team in the league allowing 103 ppg. They recently lost center Mitchell Robinson, who was the focal point of the Knicks clampdown defense.
The Knicks struggled on offense because they cannot find a consistent secondary scorer behind Julius Randle, who is having an All-Star season averaging 23.1 ppg and 11 rebounds per game. Derrick Rose joined the team in a trade from the Detroit Pistons to provide a consistent secondary option in crunch time.
|New York Knicks||14-15||1-3|
The Raptors will play the second half of the season in Tampa Bay. They hoped they could return home to Toronto, but Canadian health officials denied the Raptors and NBA entry into the country while the pandemic continues. The Raptors won over 76% of their games at home the last two seasons, but only 6-6 in Tampa this season.
After a slow start, the Raptors improved over the last two weeks. The Raptors were mentioned in various trade rumors including Andre Drummond from the slumping Cleveland Cavs. Another rumor suggested the Raptors were about to punt on the season and trade Kyle Lowry to a contender.