Take your pick: it’s the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, and then the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Eastern Conference hierarchy.
Or it’s the Nets, Sixers, and then the Bucks.
Either way, from an NJ sports betting perspective, all three teams are getting serious futures money heading into the regular-season homestretch.
Heading into Monday night’s action, the Sixers and Nets share the conference lead with identical 36-17 records. And after Philadelphia visits the Dallas Mavericks and the Nets invade the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, the third quarter of the shortened 72-game season ends.
The fourth quarter starts Wednesday. That’s when the Sixers host the Nets meet in the teams’ final meeting in the regular season, which ends in mid-May.
The Bucks are third at 33-20 and battle through injuries but have two home games against the Sixers next week and the Nets in early May. If they fully recover, they stay in it.
Here’s how major NJ online sportsbooks see two major NBA betting events – the conference title and NBA championship – as the teams play for keeps. Conference championships include the playoffs, creating enough of an unknown to offer attractive prices now.
Getting Sixers value at William Hill
William Hill Betting has some bigger numbers on the Nets and Sixers, perhaps because the Clippers are taking more money.
The Clippers are +550, while the Nets go up to +250 and the Sixers stand at +1300.
If you think this is the year the Sixers win their first NBA championship since 1983, William Hill represents a substantial value over other books.
Switching to conference championship odds, the scenario is good for some, not others. At DraftKings Sportsbook, Brooklyn is -110. Close to fair betting odds, but a lot to ask for an average return.
Milwaukee +300. Shorter odds than the Sixers. Surprising. The public may support the unlikely scenario in which the Bucks can leapfrog the Sixers and Nets.
The 76ers odds are +475. A nice number, especially if one believes they will capture the Eastern Conference’s top spot. Injuries to the Bucks may drop them below the Sixers, so this could be a time to bet Philadelphia before the odds become less attractive.
Check this special: BetMGM recently put up an offer boosting the Sixers to +500 to win the Eastern Conference. There’s some value.
76ers, Nets, and Atlantic Division odds
Don’t waste the money, save for a conference championship bet. The Sixers and Nets can negate one another and all the books recognize this. The Nets odds are -138 at DraftKings and still must beat the Sixers. And the Sixers are a mere +100, with the difficult task of defeating the Nets.
Talk about very little bang for the buck on either side.
Over the next month, one of the three top teams will gain the important No. 1 playoff positioning. The top team forces a harder championship run for the other two, who would likely bang heads against each other in the second playoff round.
This provides a major incentive for all three teams, for whoever gains the No. 1 seed automatically eliminates one of the other threats.
Analyzing the 76ers variables
Julius Erving, better known as Dr. J, has caught the betting spirit.
The Sixers icon and Hall of Famer captured an NBA championship with the Sixers, two ABA titles with the Nets. His jersey is retired by both franchises.
Where is his money going? On the Sixers.
Erving recently said he prefers the Sixers’ strategy of building a champion rather than the Nets’ tactic of buying one.
The Sixers built around one star, Joel Embiid. And they have an excellent supporting cast with an improved outside shooting game that enables him to work free in the paint.
Embiid is a target for double-double wagers on any given night. He’s demonstrated the ability to carry the Sixers on his back late in games, which is what leaders must do.
Embiid has battled some injuries this year, but when he’s right, he looks ready to achieve new heights. Embiid had his first career 50-point game this year.
Nets and their big three
The Nets rose from obscurity to championship favorite by obtaining three of the NBA’s highest-paid players in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden.
This trio is in their prime and among the NBA’s elite.
The Nets have cautiously guided their injury-prone stars, spending millions of dollars for bench splinters. The trio has played sparingly and rarely together. Will they mesh in time to win a championship?
Brooklyn wants to coast to the playoffs and then peak. If the Nets obtain the conference’s top seed along the way, this will become a genius strategy.
Bettors should check the lineup before every Nets game, because the team rests some big names most nights, impacting individual contests.
Irving, for instance, has missed 15 games. And number 16 was scheduled to be Monday night for personal reasons.
Durant has played less than half Brooklyn’s games.
Without Harden and with Durant and Irving playing about half the time, the Nets were plastered at home by the Lakers, 126-101 on Saturday night. The DraftKings favorite to win it all getting blown out by 25 at home? That’s how fragile this team is.
What about those Bucks?
As for the Bucks, they were without all five starters in Friday’s 127-119 loss to the Charlotte Hornets, their third straight setback. Most players returned and played half the minutes as the Bucks routed the Orlando Magic on Sunday, 124-87.
Notice a pattern between the three teams?
The NBA is stuffing 72 games and the playoffs into a six-month stretch, meaning fewer days than normal between games.
Teams are giving players April breathers, hoping for results in May and June.
That’s an important betting variable and can represent opportunity betting against top clubs for one game.
It will change closer to playoff time.