ATLANTIC DIVISION PART II
Odds c/o Bovada
The Atlantic Division features a high concentration of the East’s best teams: All three of the top teams, namely. We already dealt with the Boston Celtics, but we will wrap up the Atlantic Division by looking at its other two contenders: Philly and Toronto. Both experienced disappointment in the 2018 postseason, but Toronto has dealt with it longer than the young, surging Sixers.
Perhaps with LeBron James now out of the East, the Raptors will have its chance at long last. But one would be foolish to sleep on just how talented the young Sixers are, as well. With the league’s best young big man and most dynamic forward still just scratching the surface, Philly is an interesting team that many are going to “feel” the ‘over’ on while placing season bets. How smart is that? Let’s dive in.
Philadelphia 76ers: Over/under 53.5 wins
The Philadelphia 76ers are perhaps the East’s most exciting team. It will challenge Boston and Toronto for a No. 1 seed, and provided star center Joel Embiid stays healthy, it has a legitimate chance at taking the East both in the regular season and in the playoff bracket. The Sixers will count on improvement from Ben Simmons, who won last season’s Rookie Of the Year award while setting a rookie record for triple-doubles and doing everything well.
Well, almost everything: Simmons’ jumper is all but non-existent, so the Sixers will try to craft its unique identity around his talents as a guard, and around Markelle Fultz, its No. 1 pick from a year ago. Fultz sat the 2017-18 season except for a handful of games, but when he did return he was not quite ready for big minutes. That should hardly be the case this year, and word is that Fultz’s jump shot and overall game is better than ever before.
While Sixers fans may lament the team passing on Tatum, or even Donovan Mitchell (who was taken No. 13 and never in consideration), Fultz should have ample time to show why the Sixers made him a No. 1 overall pick this season. Expect Philly, if healthy, to exceed the 53.5 over/under, but that health is such a major question mark it takes a bold bettor to trust Embiid’s knees and feet. Even without the Kansas product, Philly is a tough team. We like the OVER based on Simmons’ improvements, Fultz’s emergence—and hopefully, a healthy 7’2” monster who goes by the nickname “JoJo.”
Toronto Raptors: Over/under 55.5 wins
The Toronto Raptors did not sit idle, even with LeBron finally getting out of its way. Kawhi Leonard became available in trade talks, and the Raptors shipped veteran All-Star DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio to obtain Leonard. This should make the team far better, given that Leonard is both a better defender and better overall player than DeRozan was. It may not make his best friend and point guard Kyle Lowry too happy, but chances are once the season gets rolling and Leonard rounds into form, Lowry will forget his friend as the team improves just a tad more.
The question on everyone’s mind is more a matter of whether the Raptors can be anything but postseason disappointments. James swept the Raptors last season, will it simply be a different foe doing it this year, or is Toronto finally on the cusp of being more than regular season pretenders? It is perhaps one of the three-most deep teams in the league, it plays defense, and it has all the makings of a legitimate Eastern Conference title team, but until we see it happen in April and May, it is tough to base much on just what this team has on paper.
But perhaps that is slightly irrelevant here: This team is a regular season juggernaut and tough to beat at home, which should put it in the high 50s for wins, and OVER the Vegas total set by Bovada. This does rely on Leonard revitalizing himself after an entire year wasted, but there are many expecting not just that, but an MVP campaign from one of the league’s most exciting two-way talents. His career is now entering a new chapter, is all.