During the 2018 playoffs, the Celtics repeatedly proved bettors wrong, beating the 76ers in their Eastern Conference semifinals despite entering the series as heavy underdogs, then winning the first two games against the Cavs in the conference finals despite being underdogs in Game 1 and a pick ’em in Game 2.
During the 2018-19 season, the Celtics won’t be able to take bettors by surprise. After news broke Sunday that LeBron James was signing with the Lakers, the Celtics moved into position as solid favorites to win the Eastern Conference.
Sportsbooks already had the Celtics as the favorites to win the East. But Sunday’s news improved Boston’s odds at the expense of two Eastern Conference rivals: The Sixers, who had been in on the LeBron sweepstakes, and the Cavs, whose title odds plummeted from 50/1 to 500/1 after news broke of James’ departure.
Westgate has the Celtics at 7/2 to win the title, a modest bump from the 4/1 odds the Celtics had on June 18. The Sixers’ odds went from 15/2 to 14/1. The Lakers, whose odds were already on the rise because of the possibility of James’ arrival, moved from 8/1 on June 18 to 7/2. Despite James moving into the Western Conference, the Warriors’ odds at Westgate actually improved, going from even money to a slightly better 10/11.
Celtics Title Odds & Preview in 2019
Boston was always an interesting 2019 play from a betting standpoint. The Celtics won 55 games in 2017-18 despite losing Gordon Hayward six minutes into the season with a broken ankle, then losing Kyrie Irving in late March with a knee injury that required season-ending surgery.
Hayward’s absence made it possible for rookie Jayson Tatum to emerge as a superstar-in-the-making, and second-year player Jaylen Brown to make enormous strides. Despite being without Hayward and Irving, the Celtics advanced to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, fueled by the play of Tatum, Brown and Terry Rozier during the postseason.
Unless they trade for Kawhi Leonard, the Celtics are unlikely to have significant roster turnover. They’ll likely have a starting lineup of Irving, Brown, Hayward, Tatum and Al Horford.
That lineup alone should be able to move the Celtics out of the East. There hasn’t been much free agency movement in that conference, and other than DeMarcus Cousins, there aren’t any more big names on the move. The Celtics will have a very similar looking playoff bracket next year, minus LeBron carrying the Cavaliers. That means the biggest challengers will be the 76ers, Raptors, and Bucks for the East.
Boston hasn’t revealed any major plans for free agency, but one priority should be resigning Marcus Smart. Someone that plays everywhere on the court, Smart is a restricted free agent, and has been testing the waters in the opening days. Bringing him back to Boston could be costly, and could impact Boston’s decision-making regarding bigger players this summer.