Hawks, Knicks & Wizards Receiving Significant Money to Win the Eastern Conference & Championship – Are They Worth Betting On?


Trae Young

Trae Young and the Hawks are receiving some signifcant money to come out of the East (Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire)

  • BetMGM recently took $10,000 wagers on the Atlanta Hawks to win East and the NBA Championship.
  • The New York Knicks and Washington Wizards are getting smaller, similar wagers due to their recent successes
  • Will one of these teams do what Miami did last year and be the surprise team to emerge from the NBA’s Eastern Conference?

Somebody put down $10,000 earlier this week on the Atlanta Hawks to win the Eastern Conference title, and that same gambler wagered an extra $10,000 on the Hawks to win the NBA championship.

Is that person delusional – or are they onto something? Those are questions worth pondering with the NBA season winding down and the Eastern Conference supposedly top-heavy with most folks believing Brooklyn, Philadelphia or Milwaukee will emerge.

But strange things happen in the NBA (Giannis Antetokounmpo injured his ankle last night, and James Harden is out indefinitely), and every single NBA team with a puncher’s chance is solely focused on the postseason.

One thing is for sure: the West playoffs will include most of the good teams. But 10 from each conference will be in the expanded playoffs, so let’s look at three East teams drawing action lately.

Odds to Win Eastern Conference and NBA Championship

Team Odds to Win Eastern Conference Odds to Win NBA Championship
Atlanta Hawks +4000 +10000
New York Knicks +4000 +10000
Washington Wizards +15000 +30000

Odds from DraftKings as of April 30th

Is Anybody Betting the Knicks and Wizards?

Not to the same degree that BetMGM saw with that single Hawks bettor, but yes, action is coming in.

At DraftKings, spokesman Parker Winslow reported a $250 wager on the Knicks last Saturday to win the title at +25000, which would pay out $62,750. DK also took a $19,000 wager Monday on Washington to win the East, which would pay $476,900, and a $100 wager the next day on the Wizards to win the title, which would pay $30,100.

The Hawks are 14th overall in handle, the Knicks are 15th, and the Wizards are 18th, Winslow said..

At PointsBet, spokesman Mike Korn reported  a $2,000 bet  on the Knicks to win the East at  +15000 a couple weeks ago that would pay $300,000, and a $500 bet on the Knicks to win the title that would pay $125,000.

PointsBet also took a $100 wager two weeks ago on Washington to win the East, which would pay $20,000, and a $150 bet this week on Washington winning the title, which would be worth $75,000. NBA championship odds still list the Nets and Lakers as favorites.

The Hawks account for 0.4 percent of bets and 0.5% of handle at PB; the Knicks are 1.6 percent of bets and 1 percent of handle, and the Wizards are 0.7% of bets and 0.4% of handle.

At FanDuel, spokesman Kevin Hennessy said his book had taken only one Wizards bet recently: A $100 wager from Illinois that would pay $16,000. The biggest Knicks bets in the past week were $700  to win the East at +10000 on April 18th, and an online customer in New Jersey laid $800 at +25000 to win the title.

BetMGM’s biggest Knicks bet recently was $475 to win $118,750 if New York wins the title, spokesman John Ewing said.

It would seem the safer flier bet would be on one of these outlier’s odds to win the Eastern Conference.

Do the Hawks, Knicks or Wizards Have a Realistic Chance?

Of winning the title? Or winning the East?

To the first question, any neutral observer would have to say it is extraordinarily unlikely. New York is fourth in the East (35-28), Atlanta is fifth (34-29) and Washington is 10th (28-34). But all three teams have had hot streaks, and what is ultimately important in the NBA is how you are looking when the playoffs begin, not how you looked in April, March or February.

Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks have won 10 of 11 and now will play six straight Western Conference road games before returning home to play San Antonio, Charlotte and Boston at Madison Square Garden to close the season. They are a terrific defensive team and have Julius Randle playing at an All-NBA level, and Derrick Rose will be running the offense when the postseason begins.

Much will depend on how second-year guard R.J. Barrett handles the pressure, and whether Nerlens Noel can stay on the court and out of foul trouble. Thibodeau will have them prepared, and if they hold the fourth spot and play Atlanta, they will be confident because they swept the season series 3-0.

Why Did The Hawks Draw Such Big Bets?

Their record may not show it, but the Hawks have one of the better top-to-bottom rosters in the East, a good mixture of young and old that starts with Trae Young, Clint Capela, John Collins and Bogdan Bogdanovic anchoring the offense and Lou Williams (acquired at the trade deadline for Rajon Rondo) coming off the bench.

Also, DeAndre Hunter is a 50 percent shooter who gets very little national publicity, and Danilo Gallinari and Solomon Hill are veterans also coming off the bench who allow Nate McMillan to mix and match experience and young talent as best as he sees fit. The Hawks went on an eight-game winning streak after Lloyd Pierce was fired as coach, but they have not put together anything longer than a four-game winning streak since, with injuries a major factor.

They enter the weekend having lost two in a row, and they would have to lose a bunch more times to fall to sixth if they would prefer to play Milwaukee instead of New York. If Atlanta and Boston finish with the same regular-season record, the Hawks hold the tiebreaker (won season series 2-1).

What About Washington?

Russell Westbrook still has game (13 triple-doubles this month alone), and Bradley Beal leads the NBA in scoring. Rui Hachimura is the team’s third-best player, and the Wizards are going to have to emerge from the play-in tournament in order to make top 8.

They went 0-3 vs. Philadelphia but were 2-1 vs. the Brooklyn Nets, who have a 1 1/2-game lead in the conference and presumably will finish first. If that is indeed the case, the Wizards at least know they can beat them. They’ve done it twice.