2021-22 NBA Eastern Conference picks and predictions: Hawks could challenge again

Trae Young shooting Atlanta Hawks
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Ricky Dimon


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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports -- just about any and all you can think of! -- and coaching tennis in Atlanta, GA. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me. For Ricky Dimon media enquiries, please email contact@pickswise.com.
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For the second time in the last three years, an Eastern Conference representative won the NBA Finals when the Milwaukee Bucks knocked off the Phoenix Suns this summer.

Could the East reign again as we prepare for tipoff of another season next week? It’s certainly not out of the question; in fact, the outright NBA title favorites are none other than the Brooklyn Nets (+200). The defending champion Milwaukee Bucks (+900) are obviously in the mix, as well. Although the Eastern Conference is not expected to boast as much depth as its Western counterparts, the Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat, and Atlanta Hawks cannot be completely counted out.

We have already discussed the NBA title picture, however, so now it’s time to focus specifically on the Eastern Conference. Who will be the representative in the finals? Milwaukee again, or someone else this time?

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some potential betting options in the NBA Eastern Conference title futures market.

Prediction: Milwaukee Bucks +390

I like the Bucks at +900 to win it all and I’m certainly not going to shy away from +390 odds in the East. Head coach Mike Budenholzer’s squad lifted the Larry O’Brien Trophy last season and that was despite Giannis Antetokounmpo suffering a hyperextended knee in the Eastern Conference Finals against Atlanta and Donte DiVincenzo missing the entire playoffs. They now have year under their belt with Jrue Holiday running the offense, too, so there is no reason to think a decline is in the cards.

The Nets are favorites for obvious reasons (Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden), but I’m not about to touch them at +100. Irving is too much of a question mark and even at full strength Brooklyn wouldn’t steamroll Milwaukee by any means. Even if you are high on this team, you have to think it will be longer than +100 at some point during the season so there is no reason to strike now.

Best value play: Atlanta Hawks +1500

Going in on the Hawks is not an overreaction to their 2020-21 playoff run in which they ousted the New York Knicks and then the 76ers before losing to the Bucks in 6 games. Trae Young is only getting better, while John Collins and Clint Capela provide a perfect complimentary frontcourt. Keep in mind that Atlanta did almost all of its postseason damage with De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish sidelined. Hunter was arguably the team’s third-best player for much of the regular season and Reddish was red hot upon his return in the playoffs despite a long layoff. This is a franchise firmly on the rise and the future could be now.

Longshot: Boston Celtics +1800

In this NBA era dominated by backcourts, I’ll happily take a +1800 flyer on a Boston Celtics squad that features Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Dennis Schroder. Are Celtics the best team in the Eastern Conference? No. Will they be the No. 1 seed going into the playoffs? No. Some help will be required, but not necessarily +1800 worth of help. Plus, anything can happen in best-of-5 and best-of-7 situations when you have Tatum and Brown on your team.

2021-22 NBA season preview

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