Breaking Down the Atlantic Division Winner
With the start of the NBA regular season around the corner, FanDuel has posted odds for which team will win each division. There’s been a lot of changes in the league — particularly in the Atlantic Division with head coach Doc Rivers and general manager Daryl Morey joining the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Brooklyn Nets will also have a different look with the return of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant from injury. Gordon Hayward left the Boston Celtics for the Charlotte Hornets while the Raptors lost Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka to free agency. With plenty to digest, let’s dive in and see which team offers the best value on the board.
- Brooklyn Nets +140
- Boston Celtics +250
- Philadelphia 76ers +390
- Toronto Raptors +440
- New York Knicks +22000
New York Knicks
No division is projected to be as competitive as the Atlantic. Every team is essentially offered at a plus-price, and that’s a dream scenario for value bettors. As much as I’d love to have a ticket in my pocket at +22000 with the Knicks, I don’t see them as a candidate to win the division. The Knicks team total is set at 21.5 games, which is just over the 21 games they won last season. New York didn’t add any significant players in free agency that would make them a legitimate contender to win the division. The Knicks, however, were active in the draft and grabbed Brooklyn’s own, Obi Toppin, who’ll team up alongside fellow rookie Immanuel Quickley. Knicks fans will hope their team is finally moving in the right direction with Tom Thibodeau as their new head coach and a revamped front office with president Leon Rose and general manager Scott Perry.
Just across town, the Brooklyn Nets will finally get to see what their team looks like with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant on the court together. The Nets are the rightful favorite in the division if Irving and Durant are healthy. To their credit, this team is much more than their two star players as Joe Harris (42.6 3P%) is a proven perimeter threat, and the Nets boast one of the deepest benches in the league that outscored their opponents with a positive net efficiency (2.0) throughout the season. The additions of Landry Shamet and Jeff Green bring a veteran presence to an already strong bench as both players averaged just under double digits last year. With that said, I’m not willing to run to the window and back the Nets due to a concern I have that Durant and Irving might be a bit injury-prone. Plus, playing futures can be very similar to horse racing in that you’re often trying to beat the favorite — and with Brooklyn’s odds at +140, I’ll look to find better value elsewhere.
Boston will be without Kemba Walker to start the season as he recovers from a stem cell injection to strengthen his left knee. Walker accounted for 17.9% of Boston’s scoring last season and was their second-leading scorer with 20.4 points per game. The Celtics will try to fill that void with Jeff Teague, who averaged 10.9 points per game last year with an estimated win share of 2.5 games. That might not be enough, considering that Teague’s win shares are actually 3.5 games less than Walker. Boston may need to get their rookie class involved much earlier than expected. Aaron Nesmith was the 14th overall pick, and he’s considered to be the best pure shooter in the draft, while Desmond Bane isn’t too far behind as he shot 44% from distance in his final year at TCU. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to ignore the loss of Walker to begin their season as I’d prefer not to be shorthanded with a futures ticket in my pocket.
The Toronto Raptors will face an interesting challenge this season as they’ll have to temporarily relocate to Tampa Bay due to travel restrictions put in place by the Canadian government to combat the coronavirus pandemic. I can only view this as a disadvantage for the Raptors as they’re the only team in the league facing such a unique circumstance. Toronto will still be able to put out a solid team even with the departure of Gasol and Ibaka. Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry are now the veterans of the team. Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby might be two of the best young players in the league. The biggest problem with the Raptors is that they’re fairly thin beyond their starters. Last season, Toronto’s bench was ranked 21st in the league in points off the bench (34 ppg), and while I like the addition of guards Malachi Flynn and Jalen Harris in the draft, I’m not sure they’ll be able to hit the ground running just yet. Their temporary relocation to Tampa further complicates the handicap, and that’s enough to keep off the Raptors in this spot.
Philadelphia is probably the most improved team in the Atlantic. In addition to a new head coach, the 76ers also added some three-point specialists with guards Seth Curry (42.6 3P%) and Danny Green (36.9 3P%). Dwight Howard was also brought in to the team to provide some defensive fortitude behind Joel Embiid. However, Philadelphia’s biggest acquisition might just be in the front office with Daryl Morey coming over from the Houston Rockets. Morey knows how to put a team together, and his 2020 draft is already being regarded as a masterclass after grabbing Tyrese Maxey, who some consider the steal of the draft with the 21st pick. Philadelphia has a good balance of shooters and defensive specialists capable of doing their jobs to complement the team. The steady hand of Doc Rivers could provide the calming effect for the Sixers during the regular season. I also view Daryl Morey as the wild card here because there aren’t many general managers better at engineering a trade later in the season to improve their teams. I like their value at +390 to win the Atlantic.