- Despite failing to grab the top seed, LeBron James and the Cavs are still the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.
For the second time in three seasons, the Cleveland Cavaliers have failed to earn the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
However, that has not stopped sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com from pegging them as the favorites on the odds to win the Eastern Conference for the third year in a row since LeBron James returned to Cleveland at -275 (bet $275 to win $100).
In fact, James has entered the postseason playing for the top-seeded team in the East only once in the last four years. The one time his team did get the No. 1 seed during that stretch was also the lone time his season ended with a championship, which was last year when the Cavaliers rallied back from a 3-1 deficit to stun the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
Cleveland, the second favorite behind Golden State at +333 on the NBA championship odds, has a lot of work to do to get back to the Finals for the third consecutive year and faces a tough path in 2017.
The Boston Celtics (53-29) edged the Cavaliers for the top seed this season, taking advantage of a three-game winning streak and four-game skid by Cleveland following their final regular-season meeting on April 5. The Celtics lost 114-91 at home to the Cavaliers and followed that up by falling 123-116 to the Atlanta Hawks before winning their last three to grab the No. 1 seed.
Boston is listed at +425 (bet $100 to win $425) to win the East and will face the eighth-seeded Chicago Bulls (41-41) in the first round.
The Bulls are +6600 longshots to advance to the NBA Finals along with the seventh-seeded Indiana Pacers (42-40), and it would be a bit surprising if either team won more than a couple games between them in their respective first-round series. However, Indiana has played Cleveland tough recently, going 9-2 against the spread in the past 11 meetings, according to the OddsShark.com NBA Database.
Another team to watch in the East is the third-seeded Toronto Raptors (51-31), who had the same regular-season record as the Cavaliers and met them in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. Toronto won two games versus Cleveland in that series and will likely get a rematch in the second round this time around.
The Raptors are tied with the fourth-seeded Washington Wizards (49-33) as the +900 third choice to win the East. Toronto meets the sixth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks (42-40) in the first round while Washington battles the fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks (43-39). The Bucks and Hawks are both +5000 to win the East.