The last time we saw a competitive Eastern Conference playoff game, we were watching Derrick White inbound the ball for a final possession and tip in the rebound with one-tenth of a second left to give the Boston Celtics a 104-103 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.

That forced a Game 7 in which the Celtics were 7½-point favorites to become the first team in NBA history to come all the way back from an 0-3 deficit to win a postseason series.

That did not end up happening. Miami went on the road and dominated the first half of Game 7 to make it to the NBA Finals as a No. 8 seed, which should be a reminder to all sports gamblers just how meaningless the NBA regular season is.

Miami had to win a play-in game just to make the playoffs, and the odds of them being one of the last two teams standing were enormous in mid-April. By the time June arrived, anyone who had faith in Playoff Jimmy Butler and coach Erik Spoelstra was handsomely rewarded.

Repeat after me: “Seedings do not matter. Seedings do not matter. Seedings do not matter … “

If we did not all learn that last season, we will never learn it. But to review: The 82-game NBA regular season is all about sponsorships, ticket sales, national television appearances, and pretend competitiveness. For gamblers, it is an opportunity to outthink the oddsmakers and pile up the profits by waiting until 15 to 20 minutes before tipoff before placing any game wagers. Doing that allows you to know who is playing and who is taking a “load management” night. If you remember only one piece of gambling advice from our articles, let that be the one. There is no need to make an NBA game bet in the morning. Futures bets are different, however, and it behooves the savvy gambler to keep an eye on futures markets late at night/early in the morning and to place wagers before those lines are adjusted, which is usually at 9 a.m. Las Vegas time.

The NBA season returns in a matter of days, and we’re preparing for it with NBA futures bets for the entire Eastern Conference, including projected Atlantic, Central, and Southeast division champions and Eastern Conference winner for the 2023-24 NBA season.

Futures bets can be extraordinarily lucrative if your crystal ball is clear. Here’s hoping that this is one of the more clear previews you will read from a crystal ball standpoint.

Best NBA Eastern Conference Futures Bets, Odds, Predictions & Picks Season 2023-24

Odds to win NBA Eastern Conference 2023-24

Boston Celtics +150
Milwaukee Bucks +150
Miami Heat +1000
Philadelphia 76ers +1000
Cleveland Cavaliers +1100
New York Knicks +2000
Atlanta Hawks +2500
Toronto Raptors +2200
Atlanta Hawks +2500
Brooklyn Nets +5000
Chicago Bulls +8000
Charlotte Hornets +15000
Indiana Pacers +15000
Orlando Magic +15000
Detroit Pistons +20000
Washington Wizards +20000

Favorites to win NBA Eastern Conference 2023-24

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will be joined for the upcoming season by Kristaps Porzingis after he was acquired from Washington in a three-team trade that sent Marcus Smart to Memphis. Porzingis is coming off his most productive season as a pro and should make the Celtics a better offensive team, but everyone in the NBA knows that defense wins championships, and Smart was Boston’s best defender.

So, the question becomes: Will the loss of Smart hurt the Celtics’ chances of winning the East, much less the whole shebang? The answer here is yes.

And that means that it should be someone other than the favored Celtics coming out of the East when all is said and done. But the key factor will be which general manager has the best trade deadline when that day arrives in late February. And a big “if” is whether Damian Lillard is traded to Miami before the start of the season. This line suggests the oddsmakers believe that is an inevitability. The Bucks have very short odds because they are the Bucks and because they have Giannis Antetokounmpo, have re-signed Khris Middleton, and have added sharpshooter Malik Beasley. Meanwhile, the Sixers figure to get something good in return if they indeed trade James Harden to the Clippers.

The rest of the teams are not at the same elite level. Cleveland went out against the Knicks in the first round, and New York has made only one move of significance, adding Donte DiVincenzo to reunite the Villanova trio of Josh Hart, DiVincenzo, and Jalen Brunson.

The Hawks, Raptors, Nets, and Bulls are in varying stages of rebuild, and if we had to say one of them is wager-worthy, we would pick Chicago because there is a ton of talent there that has not performed up to expectations under Billy Donovan.

2023-24 NBA Eastern Conference Prediction and Best Bets

We learned never to doubt the Heat last season when they ran roughshod over the Bucks and Knicks in the playoffs before finishing off the Celtics in seven, and because the Lillard acquisition looks like a certainty and will cost them only Tyler Herro from their regulars -- that one seems like the safest bet. And the +400 payoff is not all that bad. Where we expect to make the most money this season is on the NBA futures awards market, and that will be the subject of another article.

The Pick: Miami Heat to win the Eastern Conference (+1000)

Odds are subject to change*

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