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 don’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|
|New York Knicks||+30000|
Odds as of April 26th
Why Aren’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.
The Nets dynamic duo went off against the No. 2 seed Suns:
and 6 rebounds.
and 12 assists.
Scary hours. pic.twitter.com/zts6GUpR7F
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) April 25, 2021
2021 NBA MVP Award Odds Tracker
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 Philly’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 didn’t play in Saturday’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 Sixers’ 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.
Pride night ready 🏳️⚧️🏳️🌈 #NewProfilePic pic.twitter.com/fvbgkTuJ8T
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) April 26, 2021
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.
Chris Sheridan has been covering sports gambling since 2018 when PASPA was overturned. a veteran journalist with 30+ years experience covering sports for the Associated Press, ESPN, SheridanHoops and BasketballNews.com, he has been at the forefront of sports gambling coverage since it was legalized.