Raptors trail 76ers, Celtics on odds to win Atlantic Division

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Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) drives into Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) during second half NBA basketball action. (Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

With the start of the NBA season less than a week away the Toronto Raptors continue to lag on the odds to claim a third straight Atlantic Division title, where they sit third at +550 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Raptors have enjoyed a summer of celebration follow their first NBA championship win in franchise history, but after failing to fill the void left by the departure of Kawhi Leonard the club faces tempered expectations as they prepare to open their schedule next Tuesday against the New Orleans Pelicans at Scotiabank Arena.

Winners of 58 games last season, the Raptors enter the new campaign listed as a +105 wager to win UNDER 46.5 games this season, and also sit off the pace with +1100 odds of repeating as Eastern Conference champions.

While the Raptors lag, the Philadelphia 76ers lead the way as strong -160 chalk to win the Atlantic Division, well ahead of the Boston Celtics, who trail as +400 second favourites on those NBA odds.

The Sixers have re-emerged as playoff contenders over the past two seasons, ending a stretch of four straight losing seasons. The team enjoyed their best divisional finish in a decade last season, posting 51 wins to finish second to the Raptors, and took steps to bolster their lineup with the offseason addition of five-time All-Star power forward Al Horford.

However, the 76ers’ success this season is likely to hinge on the continued development of point guard Ben Simmons, and centre Joel Embiid’s ability to stay healthy. Dogged by injuries since being selected third overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, Embiid has not seen action in more than 64 games in three NBA seasons. The 25-year-old, though, reportedly slimmed down over the summer, showing up at training camp 20 pounds lighter.

With Kyrie Irving leaving town for Brooklyn over the summer, the Celtics made a splash by signing point guard Kemba Walker to a rich four-year contract valued at over $140 million. Walker is coming off a career year in his final season in Charlotte, averaging 25.6 points and 5.9 assists per game, and will likely need to duplicate that effort if Boston is to claim its first Atlantic Division title in three years.

Further down the Atlantic Division odds at online sports betting sites the Nets closely follow Toronto with +650 odds, while the New York Knicks trail as distant +15000 longshots. The addition of Irving should help Brooklyn improve on last season’s 42-40 record, but Kevin Durant’s long-term absence is likely to have an impact on the club’s fortunes this season.

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