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Should You Pounce on the Celtics’ Atlantic Division Odds?

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown
Jaylen Brown and the Celtics have struggled to replicate their success from a season ago. Photo by Keith Allison (flickr) [CC License]
  • The Boston Celtics are floundering despite having one of the most talented teams in the league
  • Should you buy low on Boston while the team’s odds are still long?
  • Can the Celtics overcome the Raptors and win the Atlantic Division?

Coming into the 2018-19 NBA season, few teams looked like a safer bet than the Boston Celtics, who were fresh off a promising postseason run that included series victories over the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers. The Celtics even managed to push LeBron James and the Cavaliers to a seventh game in the Eastern Conference Finals despite playing without franchise cornerstones Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.

Pundits were certain that adding the two All-Stars to last year’s nucleus would catapult Boston to the top of the standings, and yet the opposite seems to be true.  The Celtics have lost nearly as many games as they’ve won and are in danger of tumbling out of the playoff picture.

The Celtics currently have the third longest odds to win the Atlantic Division after entering the season as the prohibitive favorites. The numbers aren’t encouraging, but there are three reasons why you might want to consider betting on Boston.

2019 Atlantic Division Odds

Team Record Odds to Win the Atlantic Division at Bovada
Toronto Raptors 19-4 -170
Philadelphia 76ers 15-8 +285
Boston Celtics 11-10 +385
Brooklyn Nets 8-14 +15000
New York Knicks 7-16 +35000

1. Boston’s Defense is Sensational

The Celtics’ offense has been so bad it should come with a Parental Advisory Warming, but they’re still getting the job done on D. Boston ranks second in the NBA in defensive rating and is fifth or better in opponent field-goal percentage, three-point percentage, and points in the paint. Brad Stevens’ squad does an outstanding job of switching one-through-five and dictates the pace of play to limit possessions.

2. Gordon Hayward is Rounding into Form

One of the reasons the Celtics stumbled out of the gates in October was the lackluster player of Gordon Hayward, who looked tentative and a step slow after missing all but five minutes of the 2017-18 season. Hayward’s reluctance to go all out was understandable given the horrific nature of his injury, and the Celtics understood it was just a matter of time before he would clear his final psychological hurdle and begin trusting his body again.

That hurdle fell on November 1st when Hayward had 18 points, four rebounds, and five assists against the Bucks. He’s since scored 15 points or more against the Raptors and Knicks and has quietly emerged as one of Boston’s best rebounders and distributors. Hayward hasn’t regained his All-Star form just yet, but there’s reason to believe that his best basketball is still ahead of him.

3. The Celtics Have Assets Galore

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years it’s to never count out Trader Danny. Celtics GM and President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge has a history of pulling off blockbuster trades to give his team a leg up on the competition.

Boston has already been linked to Pelicans big man Anthony Davis and Wizards sharpshooter Bradley Beal and is uniquely qualified to pull off a deal (or two) thanks to their attractive young assets and their collection of seven first round picks over the next two NBA Drafts.

Past Atlantic Division Winners

Year Team Record
2017-18 Toronto Raptors 59-23
2016-17 Boston Celtics 53-29
2015-16 Toronto Raptors 56-26
2014-15 Toronto Raptors 49-33
2013-14 Toronto Raptors 48-34

Should you Bank on Boston?

There are plenty of reasons to like Boston, but there are even more to like Toronto. The Raptors have the best record in the NBA and are second in offensive rating and net rating, and third in points per game. They possess extraordinary depth and finally have a bona fide closer in Kawhi Leonard, who is averaging 25 points and 8.5 rebounds in his first year in Toronto.

The Raptors have only lost three times in November and are the only team in the NBA to record three separate six-game winning streaks.

Boston will snap out of its funk, but the Raptors are still the best bet to win the Atlantic Division for the fifth time in six years.

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Ryan Murphy began his love affair with sports journalism at the age of nine when he wrote his first article about his little league baseball team. He has since authored his own column for Fox Sports, and now serves as SBD’s resident NBA and MLB expert.