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NBA Atlantic Division Futures: Can New-Look Celtics Live Up to the Hype?

The Boston Celtics have spent the better part of eight decades as one of the NBA’s model franchises, and they’re once again in that territory thanks to a monumental offseason.

A year removed from garnering the top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics are set to field a completely new group this season with only four members of the 2016-17 club returning (Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart).

Boston made a splash in free agency by luring star small forward Gordon Hayward away from Utah, but that was only the tip of the iceberg for general manager Danny Ainge. Ainge finally dipped into his highly regarded treasure chest of assets by dealing beloved point guard Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets’ unprotected 2018 first-round pick to Cleveland for Kyrie Irving.

With a starting five of Irving, Brown, Hayward, Marcus Morris and Al Horford, it’s no surprise to see the Celts as the heavy -400 favorites to win the Atlantic Division in the upcoming campaign at Bovada. The Toronto Raptors (+550), Philadelphia 76ers (+750), New York Knicks (+5000) and Brooklyn Nets (+10000) are all available at plus-money.

While many fans and pundits alike expected the Raptors to blow things up in the summer, team president Masai Ujiri decided to stay the course by re-signing face of the franchise Kyle Lowry and steady power forward Serge Ibaka. Cory Joseph was dealt to Indiana for CJ Miles in what looks like an immediate upgrade at the three spot in the wake of the departure of DeMarre Carroll to Brooklyn.

The Dinos have chemistry, a rabid fan base and plenty of talent across the board, spearheaded by the backcourt duo of Lowry and the ascending DeMar DeRozan. Don’t expect the Raps to go away quietly in the Atlantic this year.

As for the remaining three teams? The 76ers are the only other squad with a realistic chance to compete this year, but I’m not expecting them to make the leap just yet. With a dynamic young core of Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, Philly is going to be downright terrifying in the future but it won’t happen overnight.

2017-18 NBA Atlantic Division Odds
Boston Celtics-400
Toronto Raptors+550
Philadelphia 76ers+750
New York Knicks+5000
Brooklyn Nets+10000

Odds as of October 2 at Bovada

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At the halfway point of the 2016-17 NBA campaign, Canada's lone franchise is well in front of the pack when it comes to Atlantic Division odds.

The Toronto Raptors are heavy -250 favorites to win the banner for the fourth year in a row at Sports Interaction. At the start of the year, the Raps were available for plus-money at +105 and they were minus-money in late November at -140.

The Boston Celtics (+175) are the only other team with a realistic shot of challenging Toronto for the top spot, while the New York Knicks (+4000), Philadelphia 76ers (+100000) and Brooklyn Nets (+150000) were way down the list.

As of January 18, the Celtics (26-15) were only two games back of the Raptors (28-13) thanks to a string of seven wins in their last eight. Boston struggled to remain healthy in the early goings of the season but is firing on all cylinders now with Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Amir Johnson and Al Horford on the floor at the same time.

If the Celts can knock off the Raptors from the Atlantic Division throne, it will likely be due to the heroic efforts of Thomas. The diminutive point guard is posting some eye-popping numbers this year, averaging a career-high 28.4 points and 6.1 assists per game while shooting 45.9 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from deep.

2016-17 NBA Atlantic Division Odds
Toronto Raptors-250
Boston Celtics+175
New York Knicks+4000
Philadelphia 76ers+100000
Brooklyn Nets+150000

Odds as of January 18 at Sports Interaction

Archived Articles

The Atlantic Division has belonged to the Toronto Raptors over the last three years, and oddsmakers are expecting Canada’s lone NBA franchise to do it again this season.

At BetOnline, the Raptors are -140 favorites to win the Atlantic as the calendar turns to December. The Boston Celtics (+110), New York Knicks (+2000), Philadelphia 76ers (+25000) and Brooklyn Nets (+25000) are available at plus-money.

Toronto wasn’t the favorite heading into the campaign, though. Nearly every online and Vegas sportsbook tabbed the Celtics as the likeliest squad to win the division, as signing talented big man Al Horford seemed to move the needle in Boston’s favor. Seventeen games in, Toronto is in first place at 11-6 while Boston is close behind at 10-7.

Personally, I think this is the right call. While the Celtics are deep, well-coached and solid on both ends of the floor, the Raps were being overlooked. Toronto is coming off its best season in franchise history that culminated in a run to the Eastern Conference final, and the current group is only building off that experience right now.

The Raps are also better than their record indicates, as a brutal mid-November schedule saw them fall to the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers.

The Knicks are a tough team to figure out. At the time of writing, New York was in 10th in the Eastern Conference (8-9) but only had one road win on the year. Phil Jackson’s precious triangle offense has looked more like a rectangle at times, and this team is likely going to be up and down all year. They’ll be in tough to overcome the Raptors and Celtics, but stranger things have happened in the NBA.

2016-17 NBA Atlantic Division Odds
Toronto Raptors-140
Boston Celtics+110
New York Knicks+2000
Philadelphia 76ers+25000
Brooklyn Nets+25000

Odds as of November 30 at BetOnline

Archived Articles

Historically, the Boston Celtics have dominated the Atlantic Division. At one sportsbook, they’re the front-runners to do it again in the 2016-17 NBA campaign.

Bovada has tabbed the Celtics as -105 favorites, with the Toronto Raptors (+105), New York Knicks (+1000), Philadelphia 76ers (+10000) and Brooklyn Nets (+10000) behind them.

Fresh off a disappointing first-round loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Celtics have no shortage of motivation to prove themselves this year. Brad Stevens’ club made a splash in free agency by signing veteran center Al Horford to a four-year, $113-million deal, solidifying its frontcourt in the process.

The Celtics were already one of the deepest teams in the Association before the Horford signing, and he’ll join a talented supporting cast headlined by Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart.

Considering this franchise was in rebuilding mode when it traded away Rajon Rondo just two years ago, it’s amazing to see how far the Celtics have come in such a short amount of time. Needless to say, they deserve the favorite label.

Don’t tell that to the Toronto Raptors, though. The Raps are gunning for a fourth straight Atlantic Division banner to hang in the Air Canada Centre, and it could easily happen again.

Led by the dynamic backcourt combination of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, Toronto exorcised its past playoff demons last year and made it all the way to the Eastern Conference final before bowing out to Cleveland. The Dinos are returning largely the same team, so grabbing them at plus money definitely looks appealing.

For all of their faults throughout the years, the New York Knicks are never boring. The Knicks were a train wreck (again) last year, and team president Phil Jackson didn’t hold back in the offseason. New York made a blockbuster deal with Chicago by acquiring former MVP winner Derrick Rose, as the point guard will rejoin his ex-Bulls teammate Joakim Noah in the Big Apple.

Carmelo Anthony is still as dominant as ever, but at the age of 32 his prime is slipping away. Kristaps Porzingis looks like a superstar in the making, and it seems that the Knicks finally have the pieces in place to compete. I don’t see them winning the championship any time soon, but they could raise some eyebrows this year.

2016-17 NBA Atlantic Division Odds
Boston Celtics-105
Toronto Raptors+105
New York Knicks+1000
Philadelphia 76ers+10000
Brooklyn Nets+10000

Odds as of October 26 at Bovada

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