Folks in and around the Boston area are finally able to wager on the Celtics, as retail sports betting goes live in Massachusetts at three locations on Tuesday. (The state’s mobile launch will come in March.)
As luck would have it, the Celtics play host Wednesday evening to their Atlantic Division rival, the Brooklyn Nets, affording fans the opportunity to either cash a winning ticket or wallow in their sorrows should the men in green and white come up short.
With an NBA-best record of 36-14, however, last year’s league runner-up is the current favorite to hoist its 18th championship banner into the rafters at TD Garden. WynnBET lists Boston at odds of +350 to get the job done in the NBA Finals, while Caesars Sportsbook has the C’s priced at +360. WynnBET, which christens its sportsbook at Encore Boston Harbor Tuesday morning, also has the Celtics as -275 favorites to finish the regular season with the most wins out of any team, and considers them +170 favorites to win the Eastern Conference.
Despite the fact that red hot Philadelphia has narrowed Boston’s lead in the Atlantic Division to just three games, Caesars still has the Celtics heavily favored (-700) to finish ahead of the 76ers (+425) and Brooklyn (18/1) in the Atlantic.
“I guess it just comes down to the Celtics are obviously a better team, and the 76ers, you can see their star players missing some games at some point,” said Caesars NBA trader David Lieberman. “Just like the Nets, they got pretty close to the Celtics at one point, but it was always a question of whether [Kevin] Durant or Kyrie [Irving] can play the rest of the season. The Celtics are just deeper.”
“Everyone has the Celtics as their highest power-rated team,” WynnBET trader Kyle Shields explained. “Philly’s really turned it on now that they’ve got [Tyrese] Maxey coming off the bench. You can see the market in the Finals kind of narrowing.”
Brogdon, Tatum among faves for solo honors
As good as Maxey has been since being shuffled out of Doc Rivers’ starting lineup, his +600 odds at Caesars to be named Sixth Man of the Year are longer than both the current favorite, Russell Westbrook (-125), and Boston’s Malcolm Brogdon (+175). Brogdon has been steady as can be in his first year with the Celtics, averaging 14.5 points in 25 minutes per game. While the polarizing Westbrook continues to post gaudier statistics, Brogdon’s addition gives the Celtics an all-star caliber boost off the bench night in and night out.
“He’s had a nice past month or so, so if he keeps putting up the numbers he’s put up for the past month, he’s got to be in contention to pass Russell up,” Lieberman said of Brogdon. “I could see Westbrook taking a little bit of a step back with [Anthony] Davis back. Usually there’s a guy who’s averaging a higher number of points off the bench, whereas this season there’s a handful of guys who are in the same kind of point range as Brogdon.”
Shields, however, is less bullish on Brogdon’s chances to overtake Westbrook, who he thinks will win the award if the Lakers make the postseason, be it the play-in round or the playoffs themselves.
“It would probably have to take Russ getting hurt or moving into a starting role,” said Shields. “He’s averaging a near triple-double off the bench, which is absurd.”
Another Celtic who could be in the mix for end-of-season accolades is Most Valuable Player candidate Jayson Tatum, who’s enjoying his finest year as a pro, averaging career highs in points (31.1 per game), rebounds (8.7), and assists (4.4). Within the last week, Tatum (+950 at WynnBET) has been leapfrogged by 76ers center Joel Embiid (+250) on the MVP odds board. He trails Nikola Jokic (-110) and Luka Doncic (+400) as well.
But both Lieberman and Shields still consider Tatum to be very much in the mix.
“He’s kind of fallen down lately just because of the rise of the Sixers and Embiid and Jokic and the Nuggets dominating the West,” said Shields. “If the Celtics can make a sizable gap between the Sixers again and the Nuggets fall off a bit, you could see his odds narrow. The best player on the best team — that’s been his narrative the whole time.”
“Personally, I think he does have a good shot,” said Lieberman. “The odds have crept up lately, but that hasn’t been his doing. Tatum’s team might end up with a better record — I see no reason why he shouldn’t have a chance at getting MVP at this point. I think it’s almost a four-man race with Tatum and Embiid on the outside. I don’t think they’re that long of a shot given how their teams are playing and how they’re playing.”