We’re quickly approaching the midway point of the 2021-22 NBA season, and several of the top teams in the league are vying to prove themselves as the best in the Eastern Conference. After a wild December, a few rotations have established themselves as top contenders.
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Brooklyn Nets +140
Milwaukee Bucks +300
Miami Heat +550
Philadelphia 76ers +1000
Chicago Bulls +1000
Atlanta Hawks +2600
Boston Celtics +3600
Cleveland Cavaliers +4200
New York Knicks +5000
Charlotte Hornets +5000
Current Odds +140
The Brooklyn Nets have remained the favorites to represent the Eastern Conference all season. Despite an 8-4 record in December, with most of their team eventually placed on the COVID-19 health and safety protocol, the Nets finished the month with a 2.9 Team Net Rating, scoring 111.5 points per game. With the Big Three in Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving reunited, the rotation should be solidified, posing a difficult challenge for any team. The unvaccinated Irving may remain a part-time player for road games. Nic Claxton, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Bembry, and LaMarcus Aldridge may all find themselves in starting roles at various times throughout the season. Veteran Patty Mills should remain a versatile role player moving to the bench in place of Irving.
The deep rotation benefits from an up-tempo pace, averaging 99.5 possessions per game and limiting opponents to 107.8 points per game. According to Tankathon, Brooklyn has one of the more demanding schedules in the league, with remaining matchups against the Grizzlies, Warriors, Jazz, and Bucks.
Current Odds +300
The defending NBA champions may have found their footing as of late, currently third in the Eastern Conference with a 25-15 record, posting an 11-5 record in December, averaging 113.9 points per game, tied for the highest with the Chicago Bulls, and a 3.8 Team Net Rating. With superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo missing two weeks of the month after being placed in COVID-19 protocols, the Bucks have depended on Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton to lead the offense, combining for more than 50% of the Bucks’ usage rate. Bobby Portis has also stepped into a more prominent role, averaging 28 minutes, 16 points, 10 rebounds, and one assist per game in December. Portis looks to have benefitted from the absence of Giannis and the injured Brook Lopez.
An up-tempo offense, the Bucks play at the third-fastest pace in the Eastern Conference, averaging 99.2 possessions per game, allowing 108 points to opponents per contest.
The rest of the season may prove challenging for the defending champions, with several matchups against the Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, Brooklyn Nets, and Memphis Grizzlies.
Current Odds +500
To start the season, the Miami Heat look like a top contender in the Eastern Conference, posting a 24-15 record, sitting in fourth place. In December, the Heat went 10-5 with a 4.3 Team Net Rating, only second to the Cleveland Cavaliers, averaging 106.2 points per game. Most of the team has been decimated by COVID-19, with Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler missing extended time from the floor while also suffering thumb and ankle injuries, respectively.
Despite mainly playing off the bench, Tyler Herro leads the Heat in usage at 30.6%, averaging 30 minutes, 18 points, four rebounds, and five assists per game. Kyle Lowry has led the starting rotation at the point, seeing an uptick in production in the absence of Butler, averaging 35 minutes, 16 points, four rebounds, and nine assists per game.
Playing at one of the slowest paces in the Eastern Conference, averaging 94.7 possessions per game, the Heat also allows the third-fewest points to opponents, averaging 103.9 points per game, only more than the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers.
According to Tankathon, the Heat have the ninth-hardest remaining schedule in the league, with upcoming matchups against the Suns, 76ers, and Nets.
All NBA game predictions and picks are courtesy of SportsGrid.
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