The Boston Celtics, unsurprisingly, sit atop the Atlantic Division with 4/5 odds, followed by the Toronto Raptors, with 11/4 odds, and just ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers at 14/5 odds. The fall off from there is more like a chasm, with the Brooklyn Nets at 150/1 and the New York Knicks at 200/1.
Over in the Central Division, the Milwaukee Bucks perch atop the rest with 6/5 odds, with the Indiana Pacers just below them at 7/5 odds. They don't seem to feel as good about the Detroit Pistons as some analysts, with Bovada setting 5/1 odds for that team to win their division, with a bit of a gap between that squad and the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers, both at 35/1.
The Southeast Division is looking as bad as it has in recent years, but in-division, the battle will be fairly tight save for the very bottom, at least in the opinion of the folks at Bovada. The Washington Wizards rule the roost with 5/7 odds to win the division, the Miami Heat not far behind at 7/4 odds, the Charlotte Hornets and Orlando Magic both clocking in at 14/1, and the lowly rebuilding Atlanta Hawks at 75/1 to win the Southeast.
As far as division odds go, I have no major qualms here, but since they now only affect regular-season scheduling and playoff seeding, I'd rather focus on the predictions that'll be more impactful to the playoffs and eventual playoff seeding. I know, it might be premature to prognosticate this so early many teams have not even finalized their rosters, but there's not much else going on, so why not?
Here's my own estimation of how the East will shake by conference (not division), along with a brief explanation why (this assumes everyone on the roster will be playing reasonably healthy, and only addresses the regular season):
1. Boston - This team should have had the most (seven) on SI's recent top-100 NBA players ranking, but nobody wants to look silly if they get beaten in five by the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. It's OK, we get it, but I'm not so confident the Dubs will be the juggernaut of yore this year.
2. Milwaukee - They got a real coach, a good one, and added key players who will give spacing and an interior presence they sorely lacked last season. Watch out - these guys could be sneaky good, even if Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn't take a big step forward (he will).
3. Toronto - Yes, I'm aware they added a top-five player when healthy. But he's new, and we have seen the same effect among former Celtics no longer in Brad Stevens' system as we have when players (think Jonathon Simmons) take a small dip in a new system. I think Kawhi Leonard is good enough that this won't matter too much, but with a new coach as well in Nick Nurse and some internal issues to iron out, I don't expect this team to gel until about mid-season.
4. Philadelphia - The starters are quasi-contenders. The bench is...better, but better than the tumbleweeds of has-beens they had a few weeks past, gutted after Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova departed for greener pastures. The 76ers are looking better after adding Wilson Chandler, but until they add some depth (or Markelle Fultz emerges) they are unlikely to rise higher in the standings.
Possible discord in Minnesota could give the #Sixers the chance they need to nab the star level player they've been searching for this offseason.https://t.co/T4YA9Q5PPN
5. Indiana - I expect a little more growth out of Victor Oladipo, and adding Tyreke Evans and Doug McDermott might just propel the Pacers ahead of the 76ers by season's end, as they were exactly the type of players Philly should have been signing this summer.
6. Washington - The big move was adding Dwight Howard. I actually think he'll be an upgrade over Marcin Gortat. There's not much else to say here, though.
7. Charlotte - I am higher on this team than most, but Kemba Walker is in a contract year, backed up by Tony Parker and coached by James Borrego, both formerly of the San Antonio Spurs. I don't expect too much here, but I think they squeak into one of the last two spots.
Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego on starting out in his first head coaching job, recruiting Tony Parker, Kemba Walker, what he learned under Gregg Popovich, growing up in a single-parent home in New Mexico. The Woj Pod: https://t.co/b4H563eUPf
8. Detroit - there's just too much talent on this team to miss the postseason again, though I suspect there's a big move or two to go down before the deadline, depending on record. If they don't click, maybe they blow it up - but with improved guard depth and health, I think they make it.
9. Brooklyn - this is the first respectable lineup the team has fielded since Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were suiting up in that city. Shabazz Napier was one of the better gets for the money over the summer, and recent trades have given them a competent if not excellent front court. They still aren't quite a lock for the playoffs...but they are almost there.
10. Miami - this team has a lot of okay players, and few good, save Goran Dragic. Condensing a few of those okay guys into one good one ought to be enough to get them into the postseason...but does anyone want what the Heat have got?
11. Cleveland - you all know I really want an expansion team in Mexico City for selfish reasons, but if it doesn't go down, I nominate this franchise to move to Seattle to replace the Supersonics. Ohio already has had franchises go nearly a half-century without relevance, and I suspect it'll do so again after what Dan Gilbert has done to this team. They might not be unbearable while Kevin Love can still play, though.
Bulls hope to play Jabari Parker at the Small Forward, not Power Forward if deal is complete. Bulls putting together an impressive young core👀👀:
Wendell Carter Jr.
12. Chicago - with Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn likely taking steps forward, drafting Al Horford-clone Wendell Carter and signing Jabari Parker, this team could surprise and maybe even threaten a playoff run. They should give the youngest players big minutes to see what they have - worst-case they just get a better pick.
13. New York - part of the reason I said "playing reasonably healthy" above was Kristaps Porzingis; he'll be rehabbing his ACL for the early part of the season, and possibly well into it. Without him, this team is trash.
14. Orlando - not unlike the Knicks, this team is also trash without Kristaps...and Porzingis plays for the Knicks, so...
15. Atlanta - they are here by design, so not much to say. Anyone want a Kent Bazemore contract? What do you think? Who did I rank too high? Low? What did I get wrong? Let us know in the comments below.