2020 NBA Eastern Conference Predictions & Odds

  • The Milwaukee Bucks look like they’re on the fast track to win the Eastern Conference, but there are a number of teams still biting at their heels.
  • Despite a roster overhaul, the reigning champion Toronto Raptors look like the Bucks’ main threat in the Eastern Conference.
  • Battered by injuries and sometimes limited by youth, the Boston Celtics is a real dark horse to win the East!

With the NBA season just over a week away, sportsbooks have been lining up the odds for who will win the Eastern Conference. With an accelerated playoff schedule and eight pre-playoff games per team, this is the most difficult season to predict yet!

With a dominant record, the Milwaukee Bucks look like the clear favorites to win the Eastern Conference. A balanced team led by reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks have been on a mission to make up for their failure in the 2019 post season. They haven’t made many changes between last season and now, have they improved enough internally to take the conference crown this time?

There is no such thing as a sure bet in the world of sports. Every soccer game has a decisive goal, every boxer has a puncher’s chance, and every basketball team can play beyond their expected capabilities. Nine teams are competing for the Eastern Conference crown.

2020 NBA Eastern Conference Odds

All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook (September 21, 2020).

Team Odds
Miami Heat -150
Boston Celtics +120


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Favorites to Win the Eastern Conference

Milwaukee Bucks (53-12) (1st in Eastern Conference, 1st Overall)

Off Rtg Def Rtg Pace
112.6 (7th of 30) 101.9 (1st of 30) 105.0 (1st of 30)

Key Players

(F) Giannis Antetokounmpo 25 57 30.9 29.6 13.7 5.8 1.0 1.0 3.7 .547 .306 31.6
(F) Khris Middleton 28 55 30.1 21.1 6.2 4.1 0.9 0.1 2.1 .499 .418 21.4
(G) Eric Bledsoe 30 56 27.2 15.4 3.9 5.4 0.9 0.4 2.5 .482 .348 18.1

The Milwaukee Bucks enter the NBA season restart as the frontrunners to win the Eastern Conference crown. As the leaders in not only the Eastern Conference table, but in the NBA as a whole, Milwaukee’s team is obviously deep and capable of competing with the best of the league. They’ve particularly excelled on the defensive side of the ball. With a very switchable starting lineup from Bledsoe to Antetokounmpo, and a bench that won’t allow breaks, led by George Hill and Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee suffocates teams trying to score on them in the paint.

The offensive side of the floor opens up for the Milwaukee Bucks due to their ability in transition and the attraction Giannis creates in the halfcourt. Ranked third in the league in fastbreak points per game (18.6), the Bucks don’t waste necessary possessions. With four players who can rebound and push the break on the floor at all times, they’ve been one of the most efficient offences in the league.

It falls to the production of the supporting cast when it comes to the success of the Milwaukee Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo has taken it to another level this season, but where they failed in 2019 was in the support provided by their reserves. During their six-game series loss to the Toronto Raptors in 2019, it was only Giannis to put up a fight against the eventual champions. If they want to find their way to the NBA Finals by winning the Eastern Conference title, they’ll need to overcome their demons and produce the team effort they’ve been famous for all season.

X-Factor: (F) Khris Middleton

During the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals, Khris Middleton found his production plummeting. Averaging around 19.0 points per game in the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Bucks’ second All-Star was only able to produce a meager 13.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game on 41.1% from the field and 37.5% from deep. If the Bucks want to take the Eastern Conference crown this season, it is down to Middleton to support Antetokounmpo consistently and throughout the playoffs.

Toronto Raptors (46-18) (2nd in Eastern Conference, 3rd Overall)

Off Rtg Def Rtg Pace
111.6 (14th of 30) 105.2 (2nd of 30) 100.6 (13th of 30)

Key Players

(F) Pascal Siakam 25 53 35.5 23.6 7.5 3.6 1.0 0.9 2.5 .459 .359 18.7
(G) Kyle Lowry 33 52 36.6 19.7 4.8 7.7 1.3 0.4 3.0 .417 .354 17.9
(G) Fred Vanvleet 25 48 35.8 17.6 3.8 6.6 1.9 0.3 2.3 .409 .388 16.0

Not many would have bet on the Toronto Raptors to find their way to second place in the Eastern Conference again this season. After losing Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green during the offseason, then retooling with a number of unknown role players and rookies, the 2019 NBA Champions haven’t missed a step this season. After pundits thought they’d miss the playoffs, they’ve matched their 2018-2019 Championship season record over 64 games.

The emergence of Pascal Siakam has been the most impactful factor in the success of the Toronto Raptors this season. The Cameroonian forward has defied all odds, shifting his ceiling from energy bench player to an All-Star first option on one of the top three teams in the league. Leading his team in usage and ranking first overall in efficiency amongst Toronto Raptors who have played more than 1000 minutes this season, Siakam’s stock has grown exponentially.

To win the East the Toronto Raptors will have to strike a unique team balance. The Raptors love to move the ball, notching an average of .626 assists per field-goal made in 2019. With excellent playmakers and passers in Vanvleet, Lowry, Gasol, and Siakam, capable shooters in Terence Davis, Matt Thomas, and Chris Boucher, and excellent finishers in Ibaka and Hollis-Jefferson, the Raptors’ attack will have to stay consistent to be successful. Siakam has been great, but his individual ability offensively will be put to the test during pressure situations.

X-Factor: (C) Serge Ibaka

When it comes to the Toronto Raptors bench, you’d be forgiven if you couldn’t recognize half the names of their reserve lineup. While effective, their most valuable bench piece is certainly Congolese center Serge Ibaka. Ibaka is having one of his best statistical seasons to date, averaging a career high in points (16.0) and ranking fourth overall in pick and roll conversion. Ibaka, usually with the assistance of Lowry, produces 1.01 points per pick and roll play on an average of 4.8 possessions per game. Considering his impressive versatility both rolling and popping on the screen, Ibaka will be relied upon heavily on the offensive side of the court.

Boston Celtics (43-21) (3rd in Eastern Conference, 5th Overall)

Off Rtg Def Rtg Pace
112.9 (6th of 30) 106.8 (4th of 30) 99.3 (17th of 30)

Key Players:

(F) Jayson Tatum 21 59 34.6 23.6 7.1 2.9 1.4 0.9 2.2 .448 .398 20.3
(G) Kemba Walker 29 50 31.8 21.2 4.1 4.9 0.9 0.5 2.1 .421 .377 20.2
(F) Jaylen Brown 23 50 34.0 20.4 6.4 2.2 1.1 0.3 2.3 .490 .381 17.1

The Boston Celtics continue to be a team on the rise. This year, the Celtics entered the season without Kyrie Irving in the fold and leaned on the talents of young stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. After agreeing to a contract extension, Brown has played his way into the upper echelon of guards/forwards in the league today. Tatum also took another step, filling into Irving’s role as the leading man for a storied franchise. Tatum’s efforts were rewarded with his first NBA All-Star berth.

The addition of Kemba Walker has buoyed the Celtics’ play this season as well. Walker has offered a better playmaking and scoring balance for Tatum and Brown, versus what they saw with Irving. With so many talented scorers, the Celtics have plummeted in their assist rate as they rank 25th in the league on team assists per field goal made. Ranking in the top five when Brad Stevens took over, they’ve grown into much more of an isolation-based team.

This Celtics team is a high risk, high reward team. They have excellent odds to win the East, despite not having any real weight to their successes. They’ve been able to secure the top three in the East, despite ranking second overall in man games lost due to injury. If this team can return to play at full health, they could very easily challenge for the Eastern Conference crown.

X-Factor: (G) Kemba Walker

Over the course of his nine year NBA career, Kemba Walker has been to the NBA Playoffs just twice. The last time he saw the post-season was in 2016, where he was eliminated in seven games as a member of the Charlotte Hornets. Walker will be in the spotlight. As a perennial NBA All-Star, but a career underachiever, Walker’s veteran leadership will be crucial on a team inundated with burgeoning young stars. His individual scoring ability could change any series for the Boston Celtics.

Close, But No Cigar

Miami Heat (41-24) (4th in Eastern Conference, 8th Overall)

Off Rtg Def Rtg Pace
112.7 (6th of 30) 109.4 (12th of 30) 98.1 (27th of 30)

Key Players

(F) Jimmy Butler 30 54 34.3 20.2 6.6 6.1 1.7 0.5 2.2 .454 .248 23.4
(C) Bam Adebayo 22 65 34.4 16.2 10.5 5.1 1.2 1.3 2.1 .567 .077 20.6
(G) Goran Dragic 33 54 28.4 16.1 3.1 5.1 0.6 0.1 2.3 .437 .377 15.9

The Miami Heat surprised a lot of people this season. Not expected to be in the playoff race, they’ve overcome the odds and put themselves into dark horse contention for the Eastern Conference crown. The acquisition of Jimmy Butler has proven to be another brilliant move by the Miami front office. Not only is he the team’s best player, he’s proven himself a leader unlike many could imagine him becoming.

The growth of their young players throughout the season is the main reason for the Heat’s success. While the team-oriented game plan of the Heat certainly benefits them, the likes of Bam Adebayo, Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson, and Tyler Herro are all outperforming their perceived level of worth. Their success will be dependent on that team effort being consistent.

X-Factor: (G) Tyler Herro

Rookie sensation Tyler Herro fears absolutely nothing. In 47 games played, Herro has scored between 10-19 points in 20 games and 20-29 points in nine games. He is likely one of the Heat’s top individual scorers, but to rely on a rookie in the playoffs is a dangerous game. After missing 15 consecutive games before the season was suspended, his form upon his return is up in the air.

Philadelphia 76ers (39-26) (6th in Eastern Conference, 12th Overall)

Off Rtg Def Rtg Pace
110.4 (17th of 30) 108.2 (6th of 30) 98.8 (19th of 30)

Key Players

(C) Joel Embiid 25 54 30.2 23.4 11.8 6.1 0.9 1.3 3.1 .474 .348 26.0
(F) Tobias Harris 27 65 34.5 19.4 6.8 5.1 0.8 0.5 1.5 .472 .362 16.8
(G) Ben Simmons 23 54 35.7 16.7 7.8 5.1 2.1 0.6 3.6 .585 .333 20.8

Is there a more polarizing team in the NBA than the Philadelphia 76ers? Stacked with talent but much too inconsistent in their play, the Sixers continue to puzzle fans. Their individual talent is notable, sporting some true stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and quality role players in Al Horford and Tobias Harris.

The Sixers have been a middling team all season, but where they can really shine is on the defensive end. Sixth overall on the defensive end, and top ten in steals, blocks, field goals allowed, and field goal attempts allowed, the Sixers have been known to shut down teams. However with their notable struggles on offence, the Sixers haven’t shown the savvy to perform in clutch situations.

X-Factor: (F-C) Al Horford

The acquisition of Al Horford was one of a singular purpose for the Sixers during this past offseason. With pressure easily applied to Joel Embiid by teams deep at the pivot position, Al Horford will be key in relieving him on the offensive and defensive side of the court. Frankly he hasn’t been his spectacular self this season, but Sixers GM Elton Brand will hope that his star acquisition will shine when the post-season begins.

Indiana Pacers (39-26) (5th in Eastern Conference, 11th Overall)

Off Rtg Def Rtg Pace
110.3 (18th of 30) 108.3 (7th of 30) 98.5 (23rd of 30)

Key Players

(F) Domantas Sabonis 23 62 34.8 18.5 12.4 5.0 0.8 0.5 2.7 .540 .254 20.7
(G) Malcolm Brogdon 27 48 30.7 16.3 4.7 7.1 0.7 0.2 2.3 .439 .313 17.8
(F) T.J. Warren 26 61 32.5 18.7 4.0 1.4 1.1 0.4 1.3 .529 .375 17.2

Indiana has overcome a difficult season so far. All credit goes to head coach Nate McMillan and some bright new stars. Despite Victor Oladipo not returning until the 48th game of the season, and being rather average during that time, the Pacers have worked their way into a respectable position in the table.

The Pacers’ success lies in the ability of first-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis. While they have some decent depth as a team, there’s not one notable star that they can rely on. Indiana’s defensive ability is not in doubt, but their 18th ranked offence and last place three-point rate suggest they’ll have a difficult time scoring with the big boys.

X-Factor: (C) Myles Turner

Myles Turner hasn’t produced at the rate that many Indiana Pacers fans had hoped to see at this point in his career. A solid but not spectacular offensive and defensive player, Turner hasn’t committed fully to either end of the court. If he can reign in his shooting, currently ranking fourth on the team in three-point attempt rate (44.3% of shots), Turner could be a game changer against any team.

Just Happy to Be Here

Brooklyn Nets (30-34) (7th in Eastern Conference, 15th Overall)

Off Rtg Def Rtg Pace
108.1 (23rd of 30) 108.7 (8th of 30) 101.2 (10th of 30)

Key Players

(G) Kyrie Irving 27 20 32.9 27.4 5.2 6.4 1.4 0.5 2.6 .478 .394 26.3
(G) Spencer Dinwiddie 26 64 31.2 20.6 3.5 6.8 0.6 0.3 2.7 .415 .308 17.9
(F) Caris LeVert 25 39 29.0 17.7 4.1 4.1 1.1 0.2 2.5 .414 .381 15.1

It was always going to be a bit of a gap year for the Brooklyn Nets. With Kyrie Irving only playing 20 games and Kevin Durant out until next year, the goal for the 2019-2020 season was just to tread water. They did quite well, led by Spencer Dinwiddie, but with seven players out of the restart there isn’t much hope for even getting out of the first round.

X-Factor: (F) Caris LeVert

The Brooklyn Nets will be without Taurean Prince, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, Wilson Chandler, Nic Claxton, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant upon the NBA’s resumption. With almost half of their roster unavailable, and more than half of their production, Caris LeVert gets his chance to lead a team. A talented scorer with some injury problems, he’ll be the first choice for the Nets.

Orlando Magic (30-35) (7th in Eastern Conference, 16th Overall)

Off Rtg Def Rtg Pace
108.0 (24th of 30) 109.0 (9th of 30) 107.3 (4th of 30)

Key Players

(C) Nikola Vucevic 29 54 32.6 19.5 11.0 3.7 0.9 0.9 1.4 .470 .329 21.6
(G) Evan Fournier 27 61 31.7 18.8 2.6 3.2 1.1 0.2 2.0 .470 .406 16.7
(F) Aaron Gordon 24 58 33.0 14.4 7.6 3.7 0.9 0.6 1.6 .433 .301 14.8

The Orlando Magic seem to have stagnated as a team. Nikola Vucevic continues his production as a fringe All-Star, but Aaron Gordon hasn’t increased his production as the team has expected. An early season injury to Jonathan Isaac, one of the league’s best defenders, has hurt their chances. They are still excellent as a defensive unit, but they seem to lack the personnel to meet the same standards on the offensive end.

X-Factor: (G) DJ Augustin

Veteran guard DJ Augustin is in a contract year. He was one of the Magic’s most productive players last season and at 32 years old will be looking to secure one last contract before he is written off by the league. With career averages of about 10 points and four assists per game, Augustin is the steadying force in Orlando’s offence.

Washington Wizards (30-35) (7th in Eastern Conference, 16th Overall)

Off Rtg Def Rtg Pace
111.9 (12th of 30) 115.8 (30th of 30) 102.8 (6th of 30)

Key Players

(G) Bradley Beal 26 57 36.0 30.5 4.2 6.1 1.2 0.4 3.4 .455 .353 23.1
(F) Davis Bertans 27 54 29.3 15.4 4.5 1.7 0.7 0.6 1.1 .434 .424 15.5
(F) Rui Hachimura 21 41 29.7 13.4 6.0 1.7 0.8 0.2 1.0 .478 .274 13.9

Let’s be completely honest here, the Washington Wizards have no place anywhere near the playoffs or winning the Eastern Conference crown. They are a very fun team to watch, having scored over 120 points 24 times this season – of those 24 games, they’ve lost 11 times. Unfortunately, their complete lack of regard for the defensive end of the ball compromises any efforts on the attacking side.

X-Factor: (F) Rui Hachimura

Japanese rookie sensation Rui Hachimura has had an impressive season to this point. Third on the Wizards in scoring, Hachimura has shown an impressive ability to score in just his first season in the league. With Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans out of the restart, Hachimura will get to show his qualifications as a first option.

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Christian Jope

Expert on NBA

Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.

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