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Joel Embiid’s knee sprain looms large over Eastern Conference pecking order

DraftKings odds from around the NBA Playoffs

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Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers handled business in the first round of the playoffs, securing the franchise’s first clean sweep since 1991.

They now await the Boston Celtics winner of the Celtics-Hawks series. As of today, the Sixers have the fifth-best title odds, coming in at +900.

That’s behind the Boston Celtics (+240), Milwaukee Bucks (+350), Phoenix Suns (+400) and Denver Nuggets (+850).

The Sixers championship odds had momentarily reached their season’s peak on DraftKings at +800 a couple times over the last few days, before dipping back down a bit.

With the latest update that the Sixers are (merely) optimistic that Joel Embiid could be ready to play in Game 1 of round two, without knowing at what percent health he might be returning from a knee sprain, without knowing how big or bulky of a brace he might need to wear, coupled with the increasing likelihood that Celtics-Sixers series will begin Saturday the 29th, in just five days, Philly settles back down at +900 this afternoon.

Sigh. We don’t have any lines yet on that series, but no doubt Boston will be favored. Stay tuned.

The Celtics took care of business over Trae Young and co. in Game 4, and the league has suspended Dejounte Murray (but not Jayston Tatum) for bumping into an official. The Celtics will now likely have an even easier time sending the Dirty Birds fishing for the summer, where massive changes may await them.

As of this writing, the odds on favorites to win the championship, the Celtics, are an overwhelming -12 point favorites to wrap up their series, with a whopping -740 money line. I’d expect that to grow a point-and-a-half or more.

On the flip, Atlanta is given a +540 money line, for an implied 14 percent chance to steal Game 5 in Boston. If the Hawks could somehow, someway win Game 5, that would potentially bump the beginning of the second round back to Monday, May 1. And if by some miracle Atlanta could push things to seven... never mind.

But even one more game could provide vital rest for the presumptive MVP. So go Hawks Money Line.

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne hopped on ESPN’s “NBA Today” and said Joel is dealing with a “sprained LCL” in his knee.

Shelburne would add that the 2023 MVP favorite’s availability for the start of that series will:

“...depend on what happens in his evaluation [in the middle of the week]...and I’m told he’s doing better, like he’s moving around better, the swelling has subsided. But when he gets in there with the doctors and they see how he feels, you’re not gonna push it with something like that, in terms of severity, of this it’s something he can come back from but an LCL is an LCL.”

After the Sixers swept the Nets, Doc Rivers said he felt Embiid was 50 percent at best to be ready for the start of the second-round. Maybe that’s a safe percent to accept for your emotional well-being. But, friendly reminder, he’s not a real doctor so who knows?

My gut feel is that Embiid does all he can to suit up for Game 1, but won’t be himself if he gets out there.

As we write this, the injury reports continue to pour in.


Sacramento Kings star De’Aaron Fox has a fractured finger, but he may try to play. Clippers superstar wings Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are still out. Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant hurt his hand before returning to drop 45 in a loss, and now the Grizz trail 2-1 in that series.

Let’s map out potential second-round matchups based on DraftKings series favorites odds.

DraftKings Odds for the East

Miami Heat v Milwaukee Bucks - Game One Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Based on the current odds:

  • The five seed Knicks (-550 to beat Cleveland) would square off vs. one seed Bucks (-245 to beat Miami now that we expect Giannis back).
  • The Sixers will would hypothetically travel to Boston as we explored, where they’ll be clear underdogs until we see if Embiid can go and how he and James Harden (Achilles) look.

DraftKings Odds for the West

Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
  • The seven seed Lakers are significant (-360) favorites to beat Morant’s Grizzlies, so as of now they’d travel to the four seed Golden State (now -250 favorites over the Kings). That’s your potential A-list, box office, most-eyes-celebrity-row series. Talking heads will have a field day with some “is Curry better than LeBron?” all-time hot takes.

Maybe even Jack Nicholson will have to make a court side appearance for that one.

And in the one vs. four bracket we can expect Denver (-6000 to advance over Minnesota) hosting the Devin Booker and Kevin Durant led Phoenix Suns (-20,000 mega favorites over the Clips).

Hilariously, you can already bet on the Nuggets (as +115 home underdogs) to beat the (-145 favorite) Suns in round two, even though both teams still have work to do.

What do the Sixers need? They need the dude who knocked them out of the 2021 playoffs, Trae Young to erupt and play some bow-at-halfcourt spoiler in BeanTown buying Joel more rest. Then the 76ers can at least start to eat into that Bucks and Celtics odds-share monopoly atop the East.

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