- The Milwaukee Bucks now are the favorites to win the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
- They’ve been in contention all year, but are now +240 favorites at the top of the odds boards.
- Many of Milwaukee’s competitors are suffering from injuries or other issues.
MILWAUKEE, Wis. - The defending NBA Champions are now the favorites to win the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
That’s not such a weird sentence in normal times, but the Milwaukee Bucks have not been the favorites to win the East nearly all season.
It’s hard to blame the online sportsbooks for that when the Brooklyn Nets - a team that started out the year with Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving - were in the same conference.
Now, however, the Bucks have supplanted the Nets in terms of odds to win the East.
Odds to Win the 2022 NBA Eastern Conference
- Milwaukee Bucks +240
- Brooklyn Nets +345
- Boston Celtics +350
- Miami Heat +500
- Philadelphia 76ers +550
An intriguing wrinkle has emerged in the Eastern Conference playoff race, as the Nets have found themselves in the eighth seed in the East.
The way the NBA’s play-in tournament works is that they could end up in multiple spots on the playoff bracket, and their spot will likely not be fully determined until the final day.
If the season ended right now, the Nets would head to the Play-In tournament against the seventh-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers.
The winner of that game would receive the seventh seed, and face off against the second seed. The loser will play the winner of the 9/10 game for the eighth seed.
One sure-fire way to avoid the Nets in the first round is to finish as the three seed, which avoids any teams from the Play-In tournament.
The Bucks currently are the three seed, but they’re tied with the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics at 49-30 - all three teams from 2-4 in the East are separated by nothing other than tiebreakers.
Why Now For The Bucks?
The major question for bettors is why the Bucks’ odds are getting so much shorter right now as opposed to during the season - especially with the bracket matchups still so unclear.
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The struggles the Nets have had are surely part of that - the Bucks’ odds spike comes on the back of news that Ben Simmons will be out for the rest of the season and at least the Play-In tournament as well.
Their efficiency metrics this year are a bit worse than last year - their defensive rating is almost the same, but their offensive rating fell from 117 points per 100 possessions to 114.
The most plausible explanation is that every other contender in the East has taken serious knocks to their contender status.
The Boston Celtics lost Rob Williams to a meniscus injury, a key starter who led the team in PER at the time of his injury. Williams could end up playing, but it’s unclear how healthy he will be.
The Philadelphia 76ers traded for James Harden and didn’t seem to appreciably get better, losing some high-profile games - including one to Milwaukee, closed out by a Giannis Antetokounmpo block.
The Brooklyn Nets lost Harden, and the guy they got in return likely isn’t playing for a while. They also had a terrible regular season, although it’s unclear how much that matters.
That leaves just the Bucks and the conference-leading Miami Heat, but the Bucks dominated the Heat last year, sweeping them 4-0 in the Playoffs.
The Heat are clearly significantly better this year, but they’ve split their season series 2-2 against both Milwaukee and Philadelphia and lost the season series 1-2 to Boston. They are up 3-1 on the Nets, but the Nets didn’t have a full team for most of those games.
The simplest explanation for why the Bucks’ odds are now the shortest in the East is that they are the last team standing that any NBA betting fan believes in.
Maxwell joined the USAOnlineSportsbooks team in 2019. He focuses on creating sports betting content that informs and educates. He focuses on the NBA, the NFL, College Football and Basketball, and whatever else comes across his desk.