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NBA Central Divison betting preview: New-look Bucks ready for redemption

Gary Dineen / National Basketball Association / Getty

Exactly 20 days from today, the NBA regular season will grace our TVs.

After sorting through the Atlantic Division earlier this week, which included analysis of the Celtics, Sixers, and the rest of the division, we're diving into the Central Division teams.

Futures odds

Team Division Conference Championship
Bucks -310 +160 +375
Cavs +200 +1000 +3000
Bulls +3000 +7500 +17000
Pacers +3500 +13000 +30000
Pistons +20000 +30000 +60000

Bucks win total and odds to make playoffs

Win total Odds to make/miss playoffs Implied prob. to make playoffs
54.5 -5000/+1600 98.04%

Projected starting lineup:

  • Damian Lillard
  • Pat Connaughton
  • Khris Middleton
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Brook Lopez

The Bucks won 58 games last season, the most in the NBA. Despite that, Milwaukee flamed out in the opening round. It didn't help that Antetokounmpo missed part of the series with an injury. Even with their superstar, the Bucks had obvious flaws on their aging roster, which the Heat exploited.

For a team with title aspirations, it was a disappointing end to the season. As a result, the Bucks fired head coach Mike Budenholzer - just two years after they won the NBA Finals - and brought in Adrian Griffin.

Antetokoumpo spent the offseason applying pressure on the front office, publicly stating that he'll leave if he doesn't believe the Bucks are doing what's necessary to field a championship roster.

Well, the Bucks acted accordingly. Milwaukee traded for superstar Lillard last week, pairing one of the greatest shotmakers in the league with perhaps the most dominant inside presence.

Though Milwaukee lost Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen, and some other bench pieces in the deal, it immediately became co-title favorites. The depth is still a concern, but this iteration of the Bucks is dangerous.

Bet: Pass

Cavs win total and odds to make playoffs

Win total Odds to make/miss playoffs Implied prob. to make playoffs
50.5 -1200/+700 92.3%

Projected starting lineup:

  • Darius Garland
  • Donovan Mitchell
  • Max Strus
  • Evan Mobley
  • Jarrett Allen

After pulling off a mega trade to land Mitchell last offseason, the Cavs won 51 games. They looked like legit contenders in the East for much of the season with one of the NBA's best backcourt duos in Mitchell and Garland.

Cleveland also has a powerful frontcourt with Allen and Mobley, but the Knicks exposed its lack of toughness and rebounding in the first round of the playoffs. New York outrebounded the Cavs by eight per game and was more physically dominant.

Allen and Mobley were also unplayable together as non-shooting bigs. The Cavs added Strus and Georges Niang in the offseason, which should provide much-needed depth. Cleveland will be in the hunt at the end of the season, but how far the Cavs can go depends on the development - both physically and skill-wise - of their frontcourt.

Expect the Cavs to replicate their regular-season success with the same system and core pieces, along with an improved bench.

Bet: Over 50.5 wins

Bulls win total and odds to make playoffs

Win total Odds to make/miss playoffs Implied prob. to make playoffs
37.5 +150/-185 40%

Projected starting lineup:

  • Alex Caruso
  • Zach Lavine
  • DeMar DeRozan
  • Patrick Williams
  • Nikola Vucevic

Bears fans who are already done with the NFL season after just a few weeks won't be thrilled to hear the NBA campaign might not be much prettier in Chicago.

The Bulls have talent. Lavine and DeRozan are scoring machines. While the Bulls' front office overpaid and outbid itself to re-sign Vucevic, he's no scrub.

Lonzo Ball, who turned into a consistent shooter and great distributor in his brief time with the Bulls, is expected to miss his second straight full season with a knee injury. The Bulls haven't had good fortune in recent seasons. They're more likely to ship out Lavine and/or DeRozan in the near future than continue to, at the very best, compete for play-in tournaments as a mediocre group.

It'll be some time before things blow over in the Windy City to bring the Bulls back on the right track.

Bet: Pass

Pacers win total and odds to make playoffs

Win total Odds to make/miss playoffs Implied prob. to make playoffs
38.5 +130/-160 43.5%

Projected starting lineup:

  • Tyrese Haliburton
  • Bennedict Mathurin
  • Buddy Hield/Bruce Brown
  • Obi Toppin/Jarace Walker
  • Myles Turner

The Pacers are one of the more intriguing young teams in the NBA. Indiana's backcourt is crowded with potentially blossoming - and some blossomed - talent. Haliburton, Hield, and Mathurin are the centerpieces at guard.

Hield is one of the best shooters in the NBA. He had the third-best 3-point percentage in the NBA among players who attempted at least six threes per game and played over 50 games. Haliburton had the NBA's fifth-highest offensive RAPTOR rating, which is an advanced stat that calculates offensive production and efficiency. After making his first career All-Star appearance, the next step of Haliburton's evolution as a player needs to be in his playmaking.

Mathurin was an All-Rookie first-team selection last season. Turner returns at center a year after making strides as a defensive anchor. Indiana had a productive offseason, trading for Toppin and signing reigning champ Brown.

Coming off a 35-win season, this deep roster is poised to take another leap and compete for a playoff spot.

Bet: Over 38.5 wins

Pistons win total and odds to make playoffs

Win total Odds to make/miss playoffs Implied prob. to make playoffs
28.5 +950/-2000 9.5%

Projected starting lineup:

  • Cade Cunningham
  • Jaden Ivey
  • Ausar Thompson
  • Bojan Bogdanovic
  • Jalen Duren

The Pistons are a project, not a finished product. Detroit had the worst record in the league last season. This year is strictly about developing its young talent.

That's why Detroit brought in coach Monty Williams. His challenge is to focus on player development and build a culture that can translate to success in a few years. Cunningham has the most potential as a 6-foot-7 point guard. He averaged just under 20 points in his 12 games last season before injury shut down his season.

Killian Hayes, Ivey, Isaiah Stewart, Marvin Bagley, Duren, and newly drafted Thompson are all under 25. Detroit will hope they are part of its future.

The Pistons do have some veteran presence in Joe Harris and Bogdanovic. Detroit will surely finish toward the bottom of the standings once again, but oddsmakers expect it to win over 10 games more than last season.

Bet: Pass

Sam Oshtry is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, @soshtry for more betting coverage.

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