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Celtics 2019 NBA Championship Odds Fading, No Longer Among Top 5 Contenders

Ryan Murphy

by Ryan Murphy in NBA Basketball

Updated Apr 2, 2020 · 4:15 PM PDT

Kyrie Irving is guarded closely by Russell Westbrook
Kyrie Irving is guarded closely by Russell Westbrook. (Photo by Torrey Purvey/Icon Sportswire)
  • The Celtics are no longer among the top five title contenders in the eyes of oddsmakers
  • Boston is 41-26 and has fallen to fifth place in the Eastern Conference
  • Kyrie Irving has cast a pall over the Celtics with his questionable attitude

Oddsmakers are finally losing faith in the Celtics.

Boston’s average odds to win the 2019 NBA Championship have gone from +1200 on February 15th to +1500 on March 11th across a number of top online sportsbooks. This marks the first time all season that the Celtics have not been among the top five title contenders in the eyes of bookmakers.

2019 NBA Championship Odds

Team 2019 NBA Championship Odds
Golden State Warriors -200
Milwaukee Bucks +800
Houston Rockets +1200
Toronto Raptors +1200
Boston Celtics +1400
Philadelphia 76ers +1400

*Odds taken on 03/11/19

Boston’s Odds Have Been Getting Longer All Season Long

Boston began the season with average odds of +570, but crept up to +980 on November 26th after losing three straight and falling to .500. The Celtics’ pedestrian 9-9 start was alarming given the team’s talent, but oddsmakers continued to give Boston the benefit of the doubt.

Boston’s current +1500 odds are the highest they’ve been all year.

They held off on raising the Celtics’ odds above +1000 until February 6th as Boston fell further behind Milwaukee and Toronto in the Eastern Conference standings. The team’s current +1500 odds are the highest they’ve been all year.

What’s Wrong in Beantown?

Boston’s struggles can be attributed to three main factors:

1. Irving’s Moodiness is Bringing the Whole Team Down

Kyrie Irving has long been known for having a prickly personality. The hot-tempered point guard reportedly didn’t speak with his teammates during the 2017 NBA Playoffs and famously forced a trade out of Cleveland despite making multiple Finals appearances.

Irving’s moodiness wasn’t an issue during his first season in Boston, but it’s been evident this year, as he’s repeatedly called-out teammates, been standoffish with journalists, and abandoned Brad Stevens’ egalitarian offense in favor of hero ball. It reached a low point on February 1st when he told reporters he “I don’t owe anybody s—” in reference to his impending free agency.

Marcus Morris confirmed many fans’ suspicions last month when he said the Celtics were no longer having fun. “Even though we’re winning, it’s still not fun,” he admitted. “I watch all these other teams around the league and guys are up on the bench and jumping on the court. They’re doing all the stuff that looks like they’re enjoying their teammates.”

Like most teams, the Celtics feed off the energy of their leader, and Irving’s malaise has cast a shadow over his entire team.

2. Hayward Isn’t Ready for Prime Time

Everyone expected Gordon Hayward would look a little tentative at the beginning of the season after a gruesome injury wiped out his entire 2017-18 campaign. However, no one thought he would still be searching for his comfort zone six months into the season. The former All-Star is posting his lowest scoring average since his rookie year and has been held to five points or less 11 times.

Hayward has looked better over his last three games, but his season-long funk put the Celtics behind the eight ball early, and hampered the development of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, two players who were ready to contribute immediately.

3. Boston Has Lost its Hustle

One of the things that made the Celtics so formidable last season was their collective hustle. Players consistently beat opponents to loose balls, got deflections, and sprinted back on defense to prevent fast breaks.

Boston still has one of the best defensive ratings in the NBA, but is now 14th in opponent second chance points and 13th in opponent fast break points after being fourth and fifth in those categories in 2017-18. That speaks to effort and desire, two qualities that have been lacking this year in Boston.

Should You Bet on Boston?

Despite their many issues, the Celtics are still 41-26 and in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. The team is healthy – perhaps for the first time all season – and has the depth, talent, and pedigree to make a deep postseason run.

At +1500 Boston’s odds are very inviting, but there’s just something about this year’s squad that feels off. The Celtics lack the cohesion of the Raptors, the momentum of the new-look 76ers, and the sense of destiny of the Bucks. Boston will win its first round series and will put up a fight in the second round as well, but the Celtics have too many issues and too little chemistry to win another championship banner in 2019.

Take a hard pass on the Celtics this season and put some bucks on Milwaukee instead. Mike Budenholzer’s team is first in defensive rating and third in offensive rating and looks poised to make the franchise’s first Finals appearance in 45 years. The Bucks are far from a sure bet against the Warriors, but their +900 average odds are a much better value and are only going to get shorter as the playoffs approach.

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