Bucks can stand pat … and still make the playoffs in the L-East

LAS VEGAS — The Milwaukee Bucks are virtually a lock to make the Eastern Conference playoffs next season, even if they continue to sit on their hands and do nothing the rest of the offseason.

That’s because the Eastern Conference, which has been pathetic for many years now, figures to be downright despicable next season. One only has to check out the odds the Vegas bookmakers have set for teams to win the 2018 NBA title.

At the Wynn in Vegas, the Bucks opened at 85/1 to win it all. Now, after making just a minor move – drafting D.J. Wilson in the middle of the first round –the Bucks’ odds of winning the NBA title have still improved to 75/1.

Only four Eastern Conference teams have better odds than the Bucks: Cleveland at 5/2, Boston at 10/1, Washington at 35/1 and Toronto at 50/1.

After Milwaukee, the next two Eastern Conference teams with the best odds to win the title are Miami at 85/1 and Philadelphia at 100/1.

The biggest factor for the Bucks’ improved odds is the departure of several Eastern Conference stars to the Western Conference. To wit:

  • Chicago dealt Jimmy Butler to Minnesota and the Bulls, who opened at 75/1, are now 100/1.
  • Indiana sent Paul George to Oklahoma City and the Pacers, who opened at 75/1, are now 250/1.
  • Detroit, which renounced its rights to arguably its best player Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and saw him sign with the Lakers, went from 150/1 to 200/1.
  • And Atlanta, which opened at 125/1 and saw its star Paul Millsap move on to Denver, are now 200/1.

So, even though the Bucks haven’t done anything to noticeably upgrade their roster since the end of last season and could conceivably be worse than a year ago depending on the health status of Jabari Parker, Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon, they’ll still be good enough to land a playoff spot in the L-East.

Odds and ends

  • What president of basketball operations and head coach Tom Thibodeau and general manager Scott Layden have done in Minnesota over the summer is nothing short of astounding.

They have transformed the T-Wolves from a fringe playoff team into a certifiable one, not only adding Butler but securing Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson and Justin Patton. Most teams would have been delighted to just add one of those aforementioned players.

Vegas has noticed. The T-Wolves, who opened at 150/1 to win the title, are now 50/1 – the eighth-best odds.

  • The 2017-18 Nets could be headed to one of the worst seasons in NBA history – even though they’re in the L-East. At 500/1, they easily have the worst odds of the NBA’s 30 teams.
  • Speaking of bad teams, the Magic could be in for a truly forgettable season. While Jeff Weltman and John Hammond are now running the show, they haven’t engineered any significant deal so far this summer. The Magic opened at 300/1 and are still 300/1. Phoenix and Sacramento have similar odds.

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