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NBA Playoffs 2021: Bet the 76ers to Win the East?

The No. 1 seed in the East is being underpriced in the futures market

The NBA regular season ends on May 16th. While seeding is in flux across both conferences, the Philadelphia 76ers are in firm control of the No. 1 seed in the East.

However, looking at the Eastern Conference futures market at DraftKings Sportsbook, the Sixers have the third shortest odds to make the Finals. Is there a disconnect between that price and the likelihood that Philly makes it out of the East?

I say yes.

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Three Team Race 

The No. 1 seed doesn’t have to be the favorite to go to the Finals, but I believe that +440 is underrating the Sixers given the road that lies ahead of them.

The Brooklyn Nets are the No. 2 seed and are rightfully the chalk to make it through the East with the roster composition. Brooklyn has the most talent on hand in the league with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden. 

However, the club has struggled with health all season. Brooklyn’s Big 3 has only played seven games together and it’s expected that Harden won’t be back from a hamstring strain until right around the postseason. 

Between chemistry and overall health, the Nets are going to have an interesting route through the postseason and are going to need to get reacclimated together quickly. After acquiring Harden in January, the Nets title run would be unprecedented due to the lack of playing time they have.

Not only is availability a concern for the Nets, but the team is a game behind the Sixers for the No. 1 seed and Philly owns the tiebreaker between the two. The No. 2 seed seems likely for BK, setting up a second round matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bucks are a known commodity in the league. Mike Budenholzer’s team has been a fantastic regular season team over the past three seasons, and is impressive once again. Despite having the third best record, the team has the No. 1 point differential in the East, per Cleaning the Glass.

However, Giannis Antetokounmpo and co. have been figured out in the postseason the past two years, leading to earlier than expected exits. Milwaukee has the second shortest odds to win the East, ahead of Philly, but I can’t get behind that. 

One of Milwaukee and Brooklyn is going to be bounced in round two while the Sixers would need to drop a series as a massive favorite to not reach the ECF, assuming the standings hold. Yes, Milwaukee may have better metrics than Philadelphia, but the likelihood that the Bucks are going to get knocked out earlier is not being priced in enough.

It’s tougher to project who ends up in the Sixers way, but avoiding the two other clear contenders is notable. In a seven game series, with the league’s third best defense in points allowed per possession per CtG, expect the Sixers to take care of any other opponent. 

The Sixers are a true title contender behind the talented Joel Embiid. The big man is likely going to finish second on most MVP ballots and is talented enough to take over series' by himself. Flanked by Ben Simmons and a top flight defense, the stars are aligning for the 76ers to make a postseason run.

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Right Price at the Right Time

Health is always going to be a question mark, especially in a season that has been as chaotic as this one, but if all is equal, the Sixers will get the No. 1 seed and be overwhelming favorites to be in the Eastern Conference Finals. Philadelphia has the easiest remaining schedule in the NBA, according to Tankathon.

While Brooklyn is the most talented team and if the team is healthy would be considerable favorites over the Bucks and Sixers in a series, playing both back-to-back is a grueling test.

That’s a lot of bumps and bruises for a team that is reliant on superstars that have struggled to stay on the floor this season. Durant has missed 37 games this season due to several reasons, namely a hamstring strain. Harden will miss his 16th straight game with his own hammy ailment. Kyrie Irving has been the team’s most healthy star, but has also missed 17 games this year.

Brooklyn may get through Milwaukee due to their offensive versatility and depth, but expect it to be a taxing series, only benefitting Philadelphia, who will have to beat a clear fourth contender to advance. 

The Nets may enter a small favorite despite being the lower seed against Philadelphia, but playing the Sixers at this price now gives bettors plenty of opportunities in the summer when the Eastern Conference Finals come around. 

At this number, with the path likely set for Philadelphia, this is a strong bet. 

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