Following on from Tuesday’s Western Conference Preview, today CasinoReview weighs in on all things Eastern Conference.
The right coast came out on top last year as the Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1 in the Finals, earning the franchise its second championship and Lebron James his first.
This year, the Heat will look to repeat, something no Eastern Conference teams has done since Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls completed the three-peat in 1998. In fact, the Eastern Conference as a whole hasn’t won two straight championships since Jordan’s famous jump shot in Salt Lake City. Can Miami’s superstar team buck that trend?
The Beast of the East
It should come as no surprise that oddsmakers have made the Miami Heat, at 5/8, the favorites to win the Eastern Conference. Actually, at 9/4, Miami is favorites to win it all, ahead of the Lakers and Thunder in the west.
Miami managed to add more talent to its roster this offseason, signing free agents Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. Allen is looking for a second NBA Championship – having won one with Boston in 2008 – and apparently likes his chance more in South Beach than Bean Town. Who wouldn’t? About to enter his fifteenth year in the league, Lewis is looking to win his first.
The addition of the two former Seattle Supersonics teammates undoubtedly makes Miami a better side. Allen proved invaluable for Boston again last season, despite having to sit out a chunk of the season with injury. Lewis has always had talent, but played for some terrible sides. He follows in the footsteps of the likes of Juwan Howard, Jerry Stackhouse and Mike Bibby, journeymen who all arrived in Miami with championship hopes.
But is the East really a one horse race? Sadly, it appears so. A retooled Miami looks to have stepped up another rung on the ladder, while the rest of the conference, as we shall see, may have taken a step back. Whether Miami can win the NBA Championship is a question for another day though.
Stormy Times in the Windy City
Somehow, oddsmakers seem to believe that the Chicago Bulls (6/1) are the second best team in the East. If that’s the case, there’s no hope for those wanting to see somebody, anybody, challenge the Heat.
Chicago’s offseason has been a rough one. Derrick Rose’s ACL injury will keep him out until at least January, and if the team proceeds cautiously as it has suggested it will, that date could be pushed back much later. Will Rose miss an entire season? It’s not beyond imagining, although it I unlikely.
Without Rose, the Bulls look beatable. Carlos Boozer has not proven to be the leader he needs to be. He’ll be further thwarted by the absence of Omer Asik, who bolted for Houston. The Turk played well last season and his replacement Nazr Mohammed isn’t up to scratch. Then there’s the signing of Vlad Radmanovic, who has pretty much failed at every stop of his career. Things really aren’t looking good in the Windy City.
Rounding Out the Top Five
The thing is, it’s not just Chicago that could have problems in the East this year. The entire conference – Miami aside – looks a little worn. That shows up in the next three picks in oddsmakers rankings.
Boston (8/1) is third favorites to take the East crown. But just how good will the Celtics be?
We all know of the C’s aging roster, and we saw how it caught up to the team last season. Why would this year be any better, especially with the loss of Ray Allen?
A full training camp may get the team better prepared for the start of the season – something wildly lacking last year – and the signing of Jason Terry from Dallas is a good move, although at 35-years-old, he’s hardly a spring chicken. But can this side compete? Will we see the front office pull the trigger midseason and begin rebuilding? We’ll find out, starting in just three weeks.
After Boston, the rebooted Brooklyn Nets and the retooled New York Knicks close out the Top Five, both with odds at 12/1 to take the East.
Brooklyn is certainly the ‘hip’ team coming into the season, but having Jay Z in the owner’s meetings and a bunch of players weighed down by truckloads of cash doesn’t make a team. Only on-chemistry will do that, and that’s an uncertainty coming into the season. The addition of Joe Johnson is a good move. The resigning of Deron Williams is a very good move. Passing on Dwight Howard? That might be the best move for a team that doesn’t need off-court distractions. The Nets may well be the most interesting team in the East.
The Knicks aren’t going to shy away from water-cooler talk either. So fans are upset that Jeremy Lin will ply his trade in Houston, but the chances of Lin succeeding under the spotlight of MSG were slim at best. Veterans Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Ronnie Brewer suggest the team is looking to win now, but the only way that will happen is if somebody finds a way for Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire to play together. Raymond Felton at the point could be a disaster waiting to happen as well.
Indiana (14/1) made the moves it needed to this offseason – basically resigning Roy Hibbert, who may not be the league’s best center, but he’s the best center for the Pacers – and will be better than advertised.
Orlando (60/1) – considered better than Cleveland, Toronto, Washington (all 100/1), Detroit (125/1) and Charlotte (200/1) – are worse than advertised and will be lucky to finish above two of those sides listed.
Philadelphia (18/1) will be an interesting watch, if nothing more, as they try to woo Andrew Bynum, who arrived as part of the blockbuster Dwight Howard to the Lakers deal. Philly looked good at the tail end of last season and into the playoffs, and are potentially better this year. Bynum’s less-than-professional-at-times attitude could prove costly though.
So there you have it. Now’s the time to get your preseason bets in. Unsurprisingly, the Heat, Lakers and Thunder are currently taking the most money, but could 2012 be a season where a surprise team comes from nowhere and wins it all? It doesn’t look like it on paper, but sometimes those papers lie. That’s why we watch the NBA.
Eastern Conference Odds
Miami 5/8 | Chicago 6/1 | Boston 8/1 | Brooklyn 12/1 | New York 12/1 | Indiana 14/1 | Philadelphia 18/1 | Atlanta 35/1 | Milwaukee 60/1 | Orlando 60/1 | Cleveland 100/1 | Toronto 100/1 | Washington 100/1 | Detroit 125/1 | Charlotte 200/1
NBA Championship Odds
Miami 9/4 | L.A. Lakers 5/2 | Oklahoma City 5/1 | Chicago 12/1 | Boston 18/1 | San Antonio 18/1 | L.A. Clippers 22/1 | Brooklyn 30/1 | Dallas 30/1 | Indiana 35/1 | Memphis 35/1 | New York 40/1 | Philadelphia 40/1 | Denver 66/1 | Atlanta 75/1 | Houston 75/1 | Minnesota 90/1 | Golden State 100/1 | Orlando 100/1 | Phoenix 100/1 | Portland 100/1 | Utah 100/1 | Milwaukee 125/1 | New Orleans 150/1 | Cleveland 200/1 | Sacramento 200/1 | Toronto 200/1 | Washington 200/1 | Detroit 250/1 | Charlotte 300/1
*Odds correct as of October 9, 2012, provided by Bovada.