How Celtics Stack Up In Eastern Conference As Kevin Durant Stays Put

Even without Durant, Boston should still be viewed as an East favorite


August 23, 2022

The NBA landscape was granted some long-awaited clarity Tuesday as the Nets revealed Kevin Durant will remain in Brooklyn after what seemed like never-ending trade speculation.

Durant, who previously requested a trade June 30, will move forward in his relationship with the franchise. Durant had been included in trade rumors for nearly two months with reported suitors including the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks and others.

Well, with Durant appearing to be the biggest domino, we now have a better idea of how the Eastern Conference will look entering the 2022-23 campaign. And the Celtics, specifically, continue to be viewed atop the ladder despite not landing Durant in a trade. Many will argue Boston is better off not landing the superstar and instead keeping the young nucleus of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum together.

It’s why the Celtics remain the betting favorite (+550) to win the NBA Finals at DraftKings Sportsbook after coming up just two wins shy of Banner 18 earlier this summer. The Nets have the second-best odds of any Eastern Conference team to win the Larry O’Brien trophy (7-to-1). Those odds indicate the top prices to win the conference, too, as Boston (+270) and Brooklyn (+310) sit atop the DraftKings betting boards with the Milwaukee Bucks (+320), Philadelphia 76ers (+650) and Heat (7-to-1) not far behind. BetMGM Sportsbook revealed Tuesday how 8.4% of the NBA Finals futures are on the Celtics to claim the title.

The feelings of oddsmakers and the betting public are well-deserving when it comes to the Green. Boston, after all, greatly improved its depth with the additions of veterans Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari this offseason. It’s fair to think the Celtics have the deepest team in the league, and that remains the case in large part because Durant is staying in Brooklyn. The Celtics reportedly offered Jaylen Brown and Derrick White for Durant before the Nets countered with Marcus Smart and Brown. Either of those trades would have impacted Boston’s greatest strength, which is its depth.

The current starting group of Jayson Tatum, Robert Williams, Al Horford, Brown and Smart with a bench unit including Grant Williams, Brogdon, White and Gallinari, at least on paper, seems unreachable for other teams. And the fact the Celtics advanced to the NBA Finals, sweeping the Nets before eliminating both the injury-hindered Bucks and Heat in the process, firmly puts Boston atop the conference hierarchy. ESPN ranks Boston No. 2 on its latest NBA power rankings.

The Bucks, especially with a healthy Kris Middleton, will provide more of a challenge. The Sixers have improved around Joel Embiid and James Harden, too. All while the Heat and Nets seemingly will run it back with what they had previously. The fact Durant remains on an Eastern Conference rival, at least at this point given recent turmoil and playoff showing Brooklyn just put together a few months ago, really shouldn’t alter the landscape too excessively.

It’s why the Celtics, with a deeper team and welcomed NBA Finals experience, should continue to be viewed as a group capable of again finishing atop the Eastern Conference.

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Thumbnail photo via Wendell Cruz/USA TODAY Sports Images

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