The NBA has reached the halfway point of its 66-game abbreviated regular season making it an excellent time to take a closer look at a few of the top contenders in the Eastern Conference along with their current odds as provided by BetOnline to make it all the way to this year’s NBA Finals.
The Miami Heat started the season as a prohibitive favorite to win the East and halfway into the 2011/2012 campaign not much has changed. With the best straight-up record in the conference at 26-7 heading into Thursday night’s game against New York, the Heat are listed as 5/7 favorites to keep rolling all the way to the NBA Finals.
It is easy to see why considering the ‘Big Three’ have this team ranked second in the NBA in scoring with 103.8 points a game while shooting 48.8 from the floor and 40.2 from three-point range. Miami also has the best scoring differential in the league at +9.21. If things keep going at this pace, the only question for the Heat is which other team in the East they will face in the conference finals.
There is little question that the second-best team in the East is the Chicago Bulls and you will get a strong argument from more than a few experts that they are actually the best. Chicago is also the second-favorite to win the East at 11/4. It is 26-8 SU with a Wednesday night home game against Milwaukee left on the schedule before the All-Star break.
The Bulls are 12-2 at home and an impressive 14-6 on the road through its first 34 games. The bench is deep with six players averaging nine or more points a game, but there are some serious concerns about the health of Derrick Rose’s back. He has already missed a fair amount of time nursing this injury and it remains to be seen how he will hold up down the stretch. If he stays healthy enough to play at a high level, Chicago does have the ability to knock-off Miami in a seven-game series.
Jeremy Lin has brought new life to the New York Knicks with his stellar, but unexpected play and if he can find a way to co-exist with Carmelo Anthony in the backcourt, this team will only get better over the second half of the season. The Lin-effect has been reflected in the odds as the Knicks are now listed at 10/1 to win the East after opening the season at 22/1.
New York recently added guard J.R. Smith to the mix which only helps to deepen the sudden depth of this squad. The trick will be getting all this talent to play as a team on a consistent basis. Lin has already demonstrated his ability to run the offense and if the rest of the egos on this roster fall in line with the team concept, the Knicks offer some tremendous value at the 10/1 odds.
The Philadelphia 76ers are a surprising 20-13 and have jumped-out to a four-game lead over Boston and New York in the Atlantic Division. However, there are some early cracks in the foundation with a current four-game losing streak heading into Wednesday night’s game at Houston. The Sixers’ current odds to win the East are 12/1.
Head coach Doug Collins already has his players buying into the team concept with eight players averaging at least eight points a game and 11 players averaging at least 11 minutes a game. This is an excellent scenario for the regular season considering the accelerated pace of play, but it may not be enough in the playoffs with Andre Igoudala being the only true All-Star on this team.
DJ is a freelance writer that concentrates on his true passion in life; the world of sports. He produces a number of articles each week for BangTheBook.com as well as a select group of other websites that specialize in providing the most up-to-date information for the sports gaming industry. His goal is to write insightful articles on a wide variety of sporting topics that can provide an edge to today's sophisticated online player.