The NBA’s Central Division hasn’t been too competitive in recent years, with the Milwaukee Bucks owning a remarkable 50-8 record against their divisional opponents since 2018. However, that could change in 2022-23 following an influx of proven veterans and young talent.
With opening night fast approaching (October 18), let’s take an in-depth look at what we might expect from these clubs during the upcoming campaign.
2021-22 Record: 51-31 (Lost in Conference Semifinals, 3-4)
Led by two-time MVPGiannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks are amongst the favorites to capture this season’s NBA title, where they currently hold the second-best odds.
Milwaukee did not make any significant offseason moves, returning essentially the same group that fell in seven games to eventual Finals runner-up the Boston Celtics in the second round last season. While the Bucks boast one of the league’s more seasoned rosters (seven players aged 31 or older), Antetokounmpo’s presence alone makes them a significant threat.
Cleveland Cavaliers (+3300)
2021-22 Record: 44-38 (Missed Playoffs)
The Cavaliers are all-in following the acquisition of star guard Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz. Mitchell joins an already impressive young core of Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen, giving Cleveland fans hope that a lengthy playoff run could be in the cards.
Chicago Bulls (+5000)
2021-22 Record: 46-36 (Lost in First Round, 1-4)
Chicago’s season is clouded mainly by the status of injured starting point guard Lonzo Ball, who recently underwent a second surgery on his troublesome left knee and could miss the majority, if not all, of the 2022-23 season.
The Bulls were 27-13 last season before Ball’s injury, only to go 19-23 the rest of the way. All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine should be enough to secure a playoff spot, but Ball’s absence concerns me.
Detroit Pistons (+50000)
2021-22 Record: 23-59 (Missed Playoffs)
The Pistons’ offseason acquisition of veteran sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic shows they’re serious about making a push for the postseason. The question, however, is if Detroit’s young talent is far enough in its development to take the next step.
I think Dwane Casey’s group falls just short of the play-in tournament, but Motown’s future is among the brightest in the Association.
Indiana Pacers (+50000)
2021-22 Record: 25-57 (Missed Playoffs)
Indiana confirmed its intention to rebuild, trading point guard Malcolm Brogdon to the Celtics during the offseason in exchange for a 2023 first-round pick.
With fellow veterans Myles Turner and Buddy Hield expected to be dealt at some point, the Pacers appear destined to finish near the bottom of the league standings. That said, winning the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes is an excellent selling point for fans.
Most Likely MVP Candidate: Giannis Antetokounmpo (+700)
The only player in NBA history to average at least 25 points, ten rebounds, and five assists in four seasons, the Greek Freak is a force of nature that has proven to be virtually unstoppable. Still just 27 years old, Antetokounmpo will continue to be a perennial MVP candidate for years to come.
Rookie to Watch: G Jaden Ivey (Pistons)
In June’s draft, basketball fans were surprised when Purdue’s Jaden Ivey fell to the Pistons at No. 5. The Detroit faithful are certainly not complaining, as Ivey carries as much upside as anyone from the 2022 class. The 20-year-old is expected to start at shooting guard and should form an exciting backcourt alongside teammate Cade Cunningham.
Favorite Futures Bet: Cavs 50+ Regular Season Wins (+125)
Despite dealing with a litany of injuries, the Cavs still won 44 games last season. With Mitchell in the fold and hopefully better luck in the health department, 50+ wins, at plus money, jumps out.
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