So we’re two weeks into the 2019-20 NBA season and the Celtics are a solid 4-1 with wins over the Knicks (twice), the Raptors, and an incredible comeback win over the Bucks. Their only loss came on opening night to the Sixers, made worse by the sight of Al Horford in a Philly jersey. The Celtics look like they’ll be a pretty good team made better possibly with addition by subtraction. Kemba Walker looks like a match made in heaven as a guy who can drop 30 a night, yet is more than happy to pass up a last shot to blossoming superstars like Jayson Tatum.
Kemba Walker gets used as a decoy in the backcourt to setup the Tatum game winner. Best part? Kemba hyping Tatum up in the post game interview. #Celtics #CelticsTwitter #Knicks #NBA pic.twitter.com/zdswBB923P
— The 300s (@The300sBoston) November 2, 2019
What made that Tatum game winner even better was that it was the exact same play that the Celtics ran in Orlando last year leading to Kyrie throwing a fit on the court for not getting the ball. Oh and Kyrie continues to be an absolute PILL in New Jersey, memorialized by Jackie MacMullan’s great piece last week. Enjoy the ride, Nets fans.
Now for the most important part: the gambling. Its a little early to overreact one way or the other and the Celtics’ unlikely come from behind double digit win over the Bucks probably skews things a little bit. But pick your spots with this C’s team and you could make some decent cash as they continue to surprise people.
- Philadelphia 76ers
- ESPN Projected Finish: 57-27, 2nd in the East
- Key Storylines: Addition of Al Horford, Finally Getting Over the Hump, Overcoming Lack of Depth
- 5-0 Against the Spread
The Sixers took their biggest weakness last year, a lack of bench depth, and doubled down on it. They lost Jimmy Butler and JJ Reddick, but picked up big man Al Horford to pair with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The Sixers have arguably the best starting 5 in the league, but the end of the bench is pretty barren yet again. With that being said they are 5-0 and the current No. 1 seed in the East so while they don’t have much margin for error, they are one of the most talented squads in the league.
- Boston Celtics
- ESPN Projected Finish: 48-34, 3rd in the East
- Key Storylines: Loss of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, Addition of Kemba Walker, Addition by Subtraction, Jayson Tatum the All-Star
- 3-2 ATS
If the Celtics are going to go anywhere this year its going to largely be due to Jayson Tatum. Sure Kemba Walker is the latest max free agent in town and Jaylen Brown just got PAID, but this team needs Tatum to become an elite wing player this season if they want to do some damage. I’ve been predicting big things for Tatum despite a less than stellar second season. So far this season he looks excellent averaging 22 PPG while shooting 40% from the field, an impressive 48% from three and an abysmal 75% from the line. Along with Pascal Siakam, Tatum was voted by ESPN as the most likely player to make their first All-Star team in the East, both earning 68.2% of the votes. With Tatum and likely Kemba making the All-Star team, an improved Brown, a finally looking like a basketball player again Gordon Hayward, and All-World defense from Marcus Smart, this team could be in business. As we seem to say every year since KG and Perk left town, the Celtics will need someone to step up as a rim protector/rebounder/big man presence. Whether thats Enes Kanter, Daniel Theis or Robert Williams evolving into the role, the C’s will need someone to step up if they want to compete with the Sixers.
- Brooklyn Nets
- ESPN Projected Finish: 45-37, 5th in the East
- Key Storylines: Addition of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, Kyrie Still a Pill
- 2-4 ATS
This will be a much safer bet next season when Kevin Durant returns to the court, assuming he’s healthy, but in the meantime they will be a fun team to watch. Despite all his bizarre antics and issues with the media, Kyrie Irving remains one of the most electric one on one players in the league. While thats not necessarily the best path to winning a title, it definitely will steal the Nets some games they have no business winning.
- Toronto Raptors
- ESPN Projected Finish: 45-37, 6th in the East
- Key Storylines: Defending Champs, Loss of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, Growth of Pascal Siakam
- 4-2 ATS
Man what a roller coaster ride 2019 has been for Drizzy Drake’s favorite squad. Sorry let me clarify, I meant Drake’s hometown team the Raptors not his other favorite squad the Golden State Warriors. Winning their first title behind a Herculean effort from Kawhi Leonard solidifying his spot as the best player in the NBA…to Kawhi walking away and now defending their title with Pascal Siakam and not much else. Siakam was voted by ESPN as the co-favorite to earn their first time All-Star bid in the East. Its hard to be mad as the defending champs, but they went from the favorites (especially with a rapidly imploding Warriors team) to a team that will be scrapping for a bottom half seed in the East this year.
- New York Knicks
- ESPN Projected Finish: 26-56, 13th in the East
- Key Storylines: ….lottery picks and 2020 Free Agency?
- 1-6 ATS
If you bet real, actual, American dollars on the New York Knicks then you are on your own. Sure Marcus Morris is great to watch when he’s on, but you are banking on the latest iteration of James Dolan’s madness here. Maybe if you get them in a parlay, but other than that I cannot advise gambling on this dumpster fire.
So to wrap it up, who has the best shot at winning the division? Lets not get ahead of ourselves and ask who’s going to take down LeBron and the Lakers or Kawhi and the Clippers in the Finals quite yet. As of late October, the Sixers had become -200 favorites to win the Atlantic, improving from -160 on opening night. The Celtics remained the second-favorite, but were well back at +420, only a shade ahead of the new-look Raptors at +490 with all odds via Sports Betting Dime. Expect those odds to be a little closer together when they’re updated next. Boston’s impressive 116-105 win over the 60-win Bucks made a statement that Brad Stevens’ team is going to be a tough out this year.
I LOVE the Celtics at +420 to win the division. Sure that means catching the Sixers and winning 50+ games, who ESPN has them finishing 9 games behind, but those are odds to bet on. The Sixers at -160 is almost even money and forget it if Embiid misses time with the annual injury or load management concerns. The Raptors feel pretty unlikely to leapfrog both Boston and Philly so I’m not sold on them, and I think this season is a holding pattern for Brooklyn and yet another rebuilding year for the Knicks. So slap down some cash on the Celtics and enjoy the ride.