The NBA season is rapidly coming to a close and the playoff race is heating up. As of March 31st, seven teams have clinched playoff berths and four teams have clinched their division title. Two more divisions are still up for grabs including the Atlantic Division where the Toronto Raptors own a commanding lead over the Boston Celtics. Boston hasn’t been mathematically eliminated from the division race, but the general consensus among NBA pundits is that Toronto has the division in the bag.
The Southeast is the tightest division race in the NBA with three teams vying to clinch the division. The Atlanta Hawks (45-31, 39-35 ATS) are at the top, leading both the Miami Heat (43-31, 39-34 ATS) and the Charlotte Hornets (43-31, 39-34 ATS) by one game.
While winning a division no longer earns you an automatic playoff bid, it is an important factor in tie-breaking scenarios. This is the first season where teams who clinched their division do not earn an automatic playoff bid, however, winning the division is the second criterion in deciding a tiebreaker after head-to-head record.
The Hawks have arguably the toughest remaining schedule. Four out of their last six games are against teams with winning records, including two against the Eastern Conference leading Cleveland Cavaliers and one against the Toronto Raptors.
Though the Hawks have the toughest schedule, it could be much easier based on the Cavaliers strategy down the stretch. Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue indicated that he would rest some of his players, so that the team can be fully healthy for the playoffs. Despite a more difficult schedule, oddsmakers are still favoring the Hawks to win the Southeast Division.
Before the start of the season, the Westgate Superbook released odds for all six division winners. Since then, the Southeast Division landscape has drastically changed. Below are the odds that 5Dimes is offering along with Westgate’s odds from the beginning of the season.
|Team||5Dimes (3/31/16)||Westgate (9/29/15)|
The biggest change has been the Hornets’ monumental jump from +4,000 to +240 to win the Southeast Division. At the time of publication, the Hornets have the third-best record since the All-Star break (16-5), trailing only the Golden State Warriors (20-3) and the San Antonio Spurs (18-4). Kemba Walker has taken the leap the Hornets have wanted him to make. The 25-year-old guard is setting several career highs this season, including points (21.0 PPG) and field goal percentage (42.8%) and three point percentage (37.8%).
Miami is also a serious threat to win the Southeast. The Heat (14-7, 13-8 ATS) have been performing well since star forward Chris Bosh went down with a blood clot in his leg. Center Hassan Whiteside has picked up the slack in Bosh’s absence. In 20 games, Whiteside is averaging 18.5 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks a game. This young Heat team is clicking at the right time and could surge to the top of the division.
As expected, the Southeast Division race is tightly contested and the division race could come down to the very last day of the regular season.
Who are you taking to win the Southeast? Leave your thoughts or comments in the section below?