By Henry Monness
Now with the second half of the season officially here, it’s time to focus our attention on the NBA playoffs.
Let us start with the Eastern Conference. Wallowing in the shadows of the West for what seems like forever, the East finally features three legitimate title contenders.
Now that the Brooklyn Nets are abuzz, the playoff picture is shaping up to be a fascinating race between them, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Milwaukee Bucks.
The news of Brooklyn adding former six-time All-Star Blake Griffin to the fold didn’t move the betting market all too much, as the Nets still remain the runaway favorite at +130 (DraftKings).
The Bucks, although third in the East at 22-14, are next at +300, while the first-place Sixers are behind both at +500.
The Celtics and Heat are lurking a bit farther in the distance as well, at +1000, and +1200, respectively.
Let me preface this by saying I don’t like the prospects of taking the Bucks under any circumstance, especially as we stand today, since the number doesn’t even indicate a great buy-low spot at a pedestrian 3:1.
Giannis Antentokounmpo’s postseason woes are no fluke, and I truly believe that teams have figured him out come playoff time by simply packing the paint and daring him to shoot over the defense.
They’re simply too difficult to trust in a seven-game series, and I refuse to get burned by them yet again.
Time To Trust the Process?
It might finally be time to start trusting the process, as a front office upheaval has completely changed the culture in Philadelphia.
The first-year tandem of GM Daryl Morey and head coach Doc Rivers has brought stability and winning pedigree to a losing franchise, which has catapulted them to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Center Joel Embiid (30.2 ppg, 11.6 rpg) is playing the best basketball of his career, and the offseason additions of Seth Curry, Danny Green, and Dwight Howard have brought depth and experience to a roster formerly riddled with youth and naivety.
Their defense has been awesome, too.
Top-five in blocks, steals, and defensive rating, Simmons and Embiid have been two of the top defenders at their position.
+500 is a great price for a team atop the conference standings, and I think their newfound mental toughness under Doc Rivers will loom large in April and May.