Which Team to Bet in Woeful but Competitive NBA Southeast
It’s a historically bad division but someone has to win it. The NBA changed its playoff qualifications in 2015, getting rid of the rule that division winners automatically earned a top-4 seed in their respective conference’s postseason.
And the 2019, the Southeast is proving that the league made a smart decision.
That’s because the division is about to set a record for futility from its champion. Since the league expanded in 2004, no division winner has ever finished below .500.
And unless something wild happens, that will come to an end this season.
The division champ may not even make the postseason – which would obviously be a first in NBA history – but someone will come out on top. Here how NBA betting fans should approach the division.
NBA Southeast Division Standings
Bet the NBA Southeast race here:
Miami Has Best Roster
Last season the Heat tied the NBA record for worst record from a division winner since the league expanded, finishing 44-38 on their way to a playoff berth.
It doesn’t appear they’ll get close to that number – they’re on pace for 38.5 wins – but they’re still the favorites to win the division for the third time in the last four seasons.
They simply don’t have the offensive firepower but have hung around this season thanks to the No. 7 defense and an impressive array of depth.
Josh Richardson, Hassan Whiteside and Justise Winslow make up the best trio of talent in the division and Miami also has a leg up in the coaching department with Erik Spoelstra.
With last year All-Star Goran Dragic returning from injury the Heat look like they could be returning to form. They’ve won four of their last five games, including victories over Golden State, Brooklyn and an important one over Charlotte on Wednesday.
In that mini stretch they have the No. 5 offense, so perhaps that’s turning around as well. They’ve got a difficult remaining schedule but they’re also the most talented team in the division.
Orlando Has Best Schedule
The Magic haven’t won a division title since 2010 and certainly weren’t expected to contend this season after winning 25 games a year ago and oddsmakers giving them a projected win total of 30.5 wins, a number they’ll now pass with their next victory.
On the backs of All-Star Nikola Vucevic and rising star Aaron Gordon, the Magic have put together a top-10 defense and in their latest 10-5 stretch that began on Jan. 31 they have the NBA’s best defense by nearly 2 points per 100 possessions.
They’re a game back of the Heat but have one significant factor going their way: Their remaining schedule is the third-easiest in the NBA and their next seven games are against teams with losing records.
What’s more, they’re 2-1 against the Heat this season, and even if they finish 2-2 they’ll likely own the next tiebreaker, conference record. Those two factors give them a fighting change, as crazy as it seems for the unlikeliest of division winners.
Charlotte Has Kemba
How much does Kemba Walker have left in the tank? We’ll find out in the final month of the regular season. Walker started in last month’s All-Star Game and has been nothing short of stellar in a contract year.
But he hasn’t gotten much help at all, and since Feb. 5 they’re just 3-9 and have fallen three games back of the Heat.
Their saving grace is they still have one game left against both the Heat and Magic, and would take those respective season series, 3-1, with victories. Those would be critical tiebreakers to have down the stretch, as well as picking up an entire game in the standings.
Still, with a group of below-.500 teams battling for position, a three-game lead almost feels insurmountable, especially considering how poorly they’ve played.
Washington the Dark Horse
We’re not expecting this to become a four-team race, as the Wizards have disappointed all year and are without both John Wall and Dwight Howard. But they’re worth mentioning because of just how historically bad this division is.
The Wizards have won three of their last four games and still have two games against Charlotte, one against Orlando and one against Miami. Because of that, they could make up ground in a hurry. They also have the fifth easiest schedule remaining and get 10 of their last 18 games at home.
Still, we’re not touching their +1600 odds. They won’t jump all three teams.
Bet on the Heat to Repeat
Orlando truly does have a significant advantage as far as the schedule is concerned. They’ve really hit their stride and will get to beat up on some of the teams tanking for Zion Williamson down the stretch.
Still, a healthy Heat team is still the best team in this division. Their current win streak has us feeling like they’re finally putting it together. We’ll ride with the favorite at +150 with 888Sport.
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