Updated Atlantic Division Odds Favor Sixers Over Nets โ€“ Is Now the Time to Bet Brooklyn at +100?

James Harden

Why are the Nets at plus money to win the Atlantic Division? (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

  • Despite being first place in the East, the Brooklyn Nets are +100 to win the Atlantic Division
  • Philadelphia, battling numerous injuries, is slightly favored despite trailing by 1.5 games
  • Is now the proper time to wager on the Nets to win the Atlantic Division at +100? See below for analysis and betting advice

Does DraftKings Sportsbook know something that the rest of us donโ€™t know? Or are they favoring the Philadelphia 76ers over the Brooklyn Nets because they draw so much action from South Jersey and Pennsylvania?

Whatever the case, the week begins with Brooklyn leading the Atlantic Division (and the Eastern Conference) by 1.5 games after Kyrie Irving dropped 34 points and 12 assists on the Phoenix Suns on Sunday afternoon to give the Nets a second consecutive win for only the second time this month.

Odds to Win 2020-21 Atlantic Division

Team Odds at DraftKings
Philadelphia 76ers -139
Brooklyn Nets +100
Boston Celtics +25000
New York Knicks +30000
Toronto Raptors OTB

Odds as of April 26th

Why Arenโ€™t the Nets Favored Given Their Superior Record?

Their schedule may have a lot to do with it.

Brooklyn plays at home only four more times, and seven of their next eight are on the road, where they are 16-13. Included among those road games are trips to Milwaukee (for two games), Dallas and Denver. Their next home game is Friday against Portland, and they will now be in Brooklyn again until finishing the season May 12, 15 and 16 against San Antonio, Chicago and Cleveland.

Kevin Durant came off the bench again Sunday as coach Steve Nash worked him back into the lineup following a three-game absence due to a bruised thigh. James Harden remains sidelined indefinitely with a strained right hamstring, and ESPN is reporting that he will not return until the playoffs.

The Nets suffered a different type of setback when LaMarcus Aldridge was forced to retire because of a health condition, and their latest possible panacea is Mike James, who left CSKA Moscow in the Euroleague following a clash with his coach.

The Nets have used 27 different players this season, and if you knew that Noah Vonleh was one of them, you have been watching too much TV.

Strength of schedule is the only one reasonable explanation for the Nets not being favored over the Sixers. Philadelphia won the season series 2-1, so Philly wins the division if the teams finish with the same record, which is another reason.

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Can Philadelphia Catch Brooklyn?

The Sixers have 12 games remaining, seven at home and five on the road. They will play only four teams with winning records, including a pair against the Hawks and one each against San Antonio and Miami, both of whom are only a little bit above .500.

Five of Phillyโ€™s games are against horrible teams: Houston, Oklahoma City, Detroit and Orlando (twice to finish the season). The Sixers begin the week with a four-game losing streak following a pair of losses to Milwaukee which were preceded by losses to Phoenix and Golden State.

Joel Embiid didnโ€™t play in Saturdayโ€™s 38-point loss due to a sore right shoulder, and Ben Simmons missed a fourth straight game because of an unspecified illness. Tobias Harris also is managing pain from a bone bruise in his knee. The availability of those three stars is key to the Sixersโ€™ championship chances, but in the short term we are merely assessing their Atlantic Division odds.

And without any reliable assessment of when Simmons might return (one of the perils of trying to follow the NBA closely during a pandemic), the degree of difficulty in assessing this market is heightened. At full strength, the Sixers could finish 12-0. But whether or not they will be full strength is a mystery.

What is the Wager Here Given All of the Uncertainty?

The best way to approach this is to pretend you are Steve Nash and/or Doc Rivers. Ask yourself: What is to be gained by winning the Atlantic Division? Is it all that important to be a No. 1 seed rather than a No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference?

A neutral observer would expect both teams to want a No. 1 seed because it allows them to avoid the third-seeded Milwaukee Bucks until the Eastern Conference finals. But then again, the Bucks are only two games behind the Sixers in the standings and own the tiebreaker by virtue of having swept the season series 3-0.

Homecourt advantage will not mean much this postseason because the games are being played in front of extremely sparse crowds, so the Sixers finishing third would not cause all that much chagrin. But finishing first would allow Philly to play a second-round series against whoever among New York, Atlanta, Boston and Miami, survives the No. 4 vs. No. 5 first-round matchup, so one would imagine that would be a strong incentive.

Then again, with the way the Knicks have been playing lately, perhaps they are the type of opponent on the upswing that is best avoided, although it would be out of character for Nash or Rivers to think that way.

At full strength, the Sixers should catch the Nets. and since Philadelphia has the tiebreaker, it explains why they are favored in the conference. Both teams are going to be ultra-cautious with their stars, so at these short odds, and with so much injury uncertainty for both teams, probably best to watch from the sidelines as this one plays itself out.

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Chris Sheridan

Sports Journalist