We're still a couple of months away from the 2022-23 NBA season, but it's never too early to take a look at odds. In particular, Eastern Conference futures. In 2021-22, the Miami Heat finished as the No. 1 seed but they were knocked out in the conference finals by the Boston Celtics, who ultimately lost to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. There have certainly been some changes for a lot of the contenders in the East therefore it's worth taking a look at which clubs could actually be in the mix for winning the conference when the 2023 playoffs roll around. Early on, the Celtics are the favorite at +230 followed by the Bucks with +300 odds and the Heat at +650.
2023 Eastern Conference Odds
|New York Knicks||+4500|
The C's are the reigning Eastern Conference champs, so it's not a surprise to see them with the shortest odds. Jayson Tatum and Co. were utterly dominant from January on, surging all the way into the Finals against Golden State. The roster will look essentially the same next season, with Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and DPOY Marcus Smart leading the way. However, Boston has been linked recently to Nets star Kevin Durant, who wants out of Brooklyn. Brad Stevens and the Celtics front office reportedly offered Brown, Derrick White, and picks to the Nets for KD, but it wasn't enough. They also wanted Smart. The latest rumors indicate the Celtics are still in the mix for Durant and if he did end up in Beantown, it would be scary hours. That's if they manage to keep Smart though, who is so important to this team defensively. Boston is definitely worth some early money in the Eastern Conference futures.
The Bucks finished in third in the East last season with a 51-31 record, but their playoff run ended much earlier than expected after lifting the Larry O'Brien in 2021. Following an injury to Khris Middleton in the second round against the Celtics, Giannis Antetokounmpo was basically left on his own to try and will Milwaukee to the next round, but it didn't happen versus a stout Boston defense. The Greek Freak got minimal help as the rest of the offense went cold. Nevertheless, Mike Budenholzer's squad should feel confident heading into this season. Middleton is healthy, Giannis continues to get more dominant with each passing year, and Jrue Holiday is one of the best two-way guards in the Association. The Bucks have the experience and talent to be amongst the best in this conference once again and if Middleton stayed healthy, there's a very good chance Milwaukee advances instead of Boston.
The Heat just fell short of making the NBA Finals for the second time in three years, losing a nailbiter in seven games to the Celtics. Miami was one of the best teams in the East all season long but their offense struggled in the postseason. If it wasn't for Jimmy Butler playing out of his mind, they would've been knocked out earlier. The Heat did lose defensive stalwart P.J. Tucker in free agency as he jetted for Philly, but the rest of the roster is intact...for now. Just like Boston, Miami is constantly linked to Durant. They have the assets to offer Brooklyn, but Bam Adebayo is off-limits. Plus, he technically can't be traded to the Nets anyway due to a rule which doesn't allow two players on rookie max deals to play on the same roster (Ben Simmons is on a similar contract). Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and Gabe Vincent are possible players that could be moved if Pat Riley pursues KD. However, as the roster is, this is still a solid team. If Kyle Lowry plays as he did in his Toronto days after a poor first season in South Beach, it'll make a big difference, too. The Heat is definitely in the mix in the Eastern Conference futures.
You simply can't sleep on the Sixers. Joel Embiid should've won MVP last season and will be even more motivated to show out again after getting snubbed. Yes, they lost in the second round to the Heat, but Philly made some very impressive moves this summer to bolster their roster. Bringing in Tucker is massive for their grit on both ends of the floor, never mind his experience at the highest level. Also, Daryl Morey traded for De'Anthony Melton on draft night and signed Danuel House in free agency. These are all pieces to the puzzle around Embiid and James Harden. Speaking of The Beard, he's been putting in serious work this offseason and looks to be in tremendous shape. With a full season in Doc Rivers' system, you can expect Harden to be a lot better and potentially be that co-star to Embiid. You can't forget Tyrese Maxey either who continues to improve.
This is a tough one. Of course, if KD gets traded to the Celtics or Heat, it changes things. But right now, I'm going to take the Bucks. They dealt with some unfortunate luck in the postseason a few months ago and if they stay healthy in the 2023 playoffs, anything is possible with Giannis leading the charge. He's truly unstoppable and it'll be revenge season for him after falling short of a title. Take Milwaukee at +300 in the Eastern Conference futures.
Pick: Milwaukee Bucks.
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