- The overachieving Toronto Raptors are favorites in the Atlantic Division
- Philadelphia has slipped to third place on the board
- With trade deadline approaching, both front offices will be considering moves
As recently as January 15th, the Toronto Raptors’ average odds to win the Atlantic Division were +400, while the Philadelphia 76ers were +193. Atlantic Division betting has been a tricky area to navigate this season with injuries and surprising performances making it incredibly difficult to call.
The NBA Divisional odds have moved frequently in the Atlantic Division – recent results have seen the Sixers, the pre-season favorite, drop to third with the Raptors leading the way.
The most competitive division in the NBA could go right down to the wire.
2019-20 NBA Atlantic Division Odds
|New York Knicks||+250000|
Odds taken Jan. 29th
The Sixers have been banged up lately, playing the last few without Joel Embiid and Josh Richardson. Embiid returned on Tuesday night, as the Sixers made it six wins in their last seven. Meanwhile, the Raps have been one of the hottest teams around. Philly’s only loss in that run came against the reigning champions – Toronto have won their last eight on the bounce.
Toronto are in a soft part of their schedule and could well keep rolling as the trade deadline approaches. Their next three are against Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit – another three wins is very likely.
Nick Nurse has led his team to the second spot in the East, putting them 1.5 ahead of the Boston Celtics and 2.5 ahead of Philly. Masai Ujiri may have been considering a retool at the start of the season, but will probably be looking for pieces to improve their chances in 2020.
"……if it wasn't for Kobe, I wouldn't have been here."
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 29, 2020
Elton Brand has been bold in his relatively short tenure as general manager. The Sixers, who face the Hawks, Heat and Celtics before playing the Bucks on trade deadline day, are in full win-now mode.
Murmurs of a trade involving Embiid or Ben Simmons are far-fetched for now, and even an Al Horford deal is a longshot. Brand will be active, though, as the Sixers look to ride their recent good run and force their way towards the highly sought after two-seed.
Chasing Their Potential
Both teams have had issues to overcome this year. Toronto have been riddled with injuries – Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry have all played 37 or fewer of the Raps’ 47 games. Philadelphia have dealt with absences too, but their main problem has been fit.
Neither team has been able to reach their true potential yet. The Raptors have overachieved considering their modest pre-season expectations, but they have played so few games at full-strength. They have the talent, experience and depth to be a force. The Sixers are loaded, though they are yet to figure it out. Philly’s ceiling is still arguably the highest in the Eastern Conference.
Per Tankathon, they each have favorable schedules over the rest of the season. Philly’s is the sixth-easiest in the NBA and Toronto rank 13th. There are plenty of games for the two teams to find rhythm, and hit their stride before the post-season. Holding off injuries will be key for both as the Atlantic Division race hots up, however, and could end up being the decisive factor.
Raps Rightly Favored
With an advantage over the Celts and Sixers, the Raptors’ place as Atlantic Division favorites is well-deserved. They might not be the best of the three in a playoff series, but this group has shown they can grind out regular season wins even when missing key players.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 29, 2020
The Sixers are focused on a post-season run. Brett Brown’s job might depend on it. Brand is unlikely to pull off a trade before the deadline that changes their regular season drastically, and barring the offense suddenly finding a way to bring the best out of Simmons and Embiid, or Tobias Harris turning into an elite scorer, they will continue to drop games they should be winning.
Another postseason series between these two teams would be fascinating, and Philly would probably be favored. Right now, though, the Raps are the team to back for the division.
Let's have fun and keep it civil.