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With LeBron James moving to the West, the Eastern Conference will need a new king. The Central Division will get a new leader after four years of LeBron's Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Cavs will not be a factor this season with the odds at +2500 to retain the title. The Milwaukee Bucks are the No. 1 favorites to top the Central Division at +105 odds, while the Indiana Pacers lurk at +250, and the race between these two teams should decide who will win the division title.
The Detroit Pistons will battle for a playoff spot with the odds at -188 to make it to the post-season, and the Pistons are considered as +525 underdogs to win the Central. The Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers will try to avoid the bottom of the table, but let's take a closer look at all these teams along with all vital news, betting trends, and predictions.
The Milwaukee Bucks haven't won the Central Division since 2001, and last year, they finished third with a 44-38 record, four games behind the Pacers and six behind the Cavaliers. The Bucks clinched the 7th spot in the conference, and the first-round playoff exit certainly disappointed their fans. The wounded Boston Celtics were too much in seven games, as the Bucks just couldn't grab a win on the road, while they were blown out 112-96 in the seventh game.
In those games against the Celtics, Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged 25.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game, shooting 57.0% from the field and 69.1% from the free-throw line. During the regular season, the Greek Freak was nailing 26.9 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game, setting his career high in points and rebounds, and the two-time All-Star is improving remarkably. Giannis could be the new chief in the East while he's the third-strongest fave at +500 to win the regular season MVP award, so the bettors should take this into consideration.
This summer, the Bucks hired Mike Budenholzer who was doing a great job in Atlanta in the last five years, and the former Gregg Popovich assistant should take this Bucks team to another level. The Bucks expect from Budenholzer to upgrade the team's play on both sides of the floor, especially a defense that allowed 110.1 points per 100 possessions last year (12th-worst in the league). On the other side, the Bucks' offense worked well, setting the 9th-best offensive rating in the NBA with 109.8 points per 100 possessions, but there is still room for improvement. The Bucks should continue to share the ball and take more threes than they did last season (24.7 attempts per game, 6th-fewest in the NBA).
Milwaukee was 34-43-5 ATS in the 2017-18 season which was the 5th-worst record in the league, and if they manage to get better defensively, the Bucks should cover more frequently in this term. The over was 46-35 mostly because of their poor defending, as the Bucks allowed more points per game (106.8) than they scored (106.5). Under Budenholzer, I expect to see a more responsible play, but their pace should be faster (10th-slowest in the league last year), as the Bucks possess the talent to push the ball in transition.
Adding Brook Lopez should fortify the Bucks' frontcourt, as the 30-year-old former All-Star is still one of the best big men in the league at the offensive end. Antetokounmpo and Lopez should torture their rivals, while Khris Middleton should be a great danger from outside, and if Eric Bledsoe finds his best form at PG, the Bucks could really make some noise in the east with +1500 odds to win the conference which is a nice offer. I expect to see a great battle for the division title between the Bucks and the Indiana Pacers, and this race could be decided in the final weeks of the regular season. However, the Bucks should grab a few victories more in this term than last season, and hopefully, surpass the 47-win mark.
The Pick: Milwaukee Bucks to win Eastern Conference at +1500
Regular Season Total Wins: Over 47.5 at -115
The Indiana Pacers were the last team to win the Central Division before LeBron James established his domination with the Cavs in the 2014-15 season. The Pacers are hoping to bring the crown back to town after finishing second last year with a 48-34 record, enough for the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference and the first-round clash with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pacers fought bravely, losing in seven games, while six out of seven outings were decided by a 4-point margin or fewer, including the seventh game in Cleveland.
Victor Oladipo had a breakthrough season, earning the Most Improved Player of the Year Award and averaging 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 2.4 steals on 47.7% shooting from the field to set his career high in all these five categories. In the playoffs, Oladipo stepped up to improve his numbers, tallying 22.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 2.4 steals, while his shooting dropped to 41.7% from the field. On the other hand, Oladipo nailed 40.4% of his 3-pointers in the post-season, while hitting 37.1% from downtown during the regular season.
The Pacers played at a slow pace, averaging 96.0 possessions per 48 minutes (23rd in the league), and taking just 24.5 3-point attempts per game (5th-fewest), but the Pacers scored 47.2% of their field goals which was the sixth-best record in the NBA. They operated well on both ends of the court to record the 11th-best offensive rating (109.5) and the 13th-best defensive rating (108.1), while we saw 209.8 points in total per contest.
Thanks to a solid form during the whole season, the Pacers were 47-35-0 ATS which ranked them 4th in the NBA, and I believe they will be at the same level in the upcoming season. The under was 49-32 in the previous term, and no one finished more games in the under than the Pacers.
This summer, the Indiana Pacers strengthen their roster, signing Tyreke Evans, Doug McDermott, and Kyle O'Quinn, while Lance Stephenson left the team to join LeBron James in Los Angeles. Tyreke Evans should be a great addition, as he averaged 19.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 5.2 assists in 52 games with the Memphis Grizzlies last season. McDermott and O'Quinn both should play an important role off the bench, while Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young, Darren Collison, and Myles Turner all should remain starters.
The Pacers are +250 favorites to win the Central Division, and it should be a tricky wager, while Indiana is at +2000 to win the Eastern Conference. I think they will easily reach the playoffs at -1400, and probably pass the first round, but the best bet should be on the total win, as I think the Pacers will at least replicate the last season's record.
Regular Season Total Wins: Over 47.5 at +100
The Detroit Pistons missed the post-season for the second year in a row, finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference with a 39-43 record, so the coach Stan Van Gundy had to go. His successor will be the 2018 NBA Coach of the Year, Dwane Casey, who led the Raptors to the top spot in the east last year. Casey will have a difficult task in Detroit to bring the Pistons back on the right track, but he'll have some firepower to make it so.
After arriving from the Los Angeles Clippers last winter, Blake Griffin will lead the Pistons, and the five-time All-Star will undoubtedly be the first scoring option, In 25 games for the Pistons last season, Griffin averaged 19.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per contest, and everyone expects better numbers from Blake in this season. Along with Andre Drummond who led the NBA last year with 16.0 rebounds per game, Blake Griffin should dominate most of the rivals in the paint.
On the other side, the Pistons' backcourt could be a problem, and the playmaker Reggie Jackson will have to step up and prove his worth after playing just 45 games last season to record 14.6 points and 5.3 assists per contest. The Pistons hope Dwane Casey will improve Jackson's game, just like he did with Kyle Lowry in Toronto. Detroit didn't make any significant changes in their roster this summer, but signing Glenn Robinson III should be a nice addition to its' unreliable backcourt.
Last year, the Pistons played good defense, allowing 103.9 points per game to their opponents (8th-best in the league). On the other side, the offense was terrible, scoring just 103.8 points per game (9th-worst), but under Casey, the Pistons should be more dangerous. Detroit was 40-40-2 ATS which was the 17th-best record in the NBA, while the under was 44-34. The bettors can expect more of the same in this term, as the Pistons should continue with strong defensive work.
The Pistons are considered +525 underdogs to top the Central Division, and I don't believe they can outbid the Pacers or the Bucks. I think the Pistons will have to fight to clinch the playoff berth in the East, but they could profit on LeBron James' departure and make it to the post-season. The Pistons are +5000 underdogs to win the Eastern Conference, and +15000 minnows to win the NBA Championship, while the price on them to miss the playoff is set at +137. However, the Pistons should win at least one game more in this term than they did it last year to surpass the 39-win mark.
The Pick: Detroit Pistons to Reach the Playoffs at -188
Regular Season Total Wins: Over 39.5 at -110
Now, when LeBron has gone, the Cleveland Cavaliers will have to start the painful rebuilding process. From this point of view, four straight NBA Finals appearances and one NBA Championship sounds like a beautiful song, as the Cavs will probably have some difficult time in this term. Last year, the Cavaliers finished fourth in the conference and top of the Central Division with a 50-32 record, while this year, they are at -105 odds to outstrip the 30-win chalk.
Besides LeBron James' departure, the Cavs didn't make some significant moves this summer. However, Kevin Love signed the four-year extension worth $120 million, and he will be the new team leader in the 2018-19 season. Love had a lot of ups and downs throughout the last two seasons, while the five-time All-Star averaged 17.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game last season, shooting 45.8% from the field and 41.5% from beyond the arc.
The Cavaliers also resigned Rodney Hood on a one-year deal, hoping that the 23rd overall pick from the 2014 NBA Draft could replicate his performance from a three-year span with the Utah Jazz. In 21 games in Cavs' uniform, Hood averaged 10.8 points on 44.2% shooting from the field, while in 39 last season's games with the Jazz, he recorded 16.8 points on 42.4% shooting from the field. Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., and Tristan Thompson are still in Ohio, and Tyronn Lue is still at the helm, but the Cavaliers look like a colossal mystery ahead of the 2018-19 campaign. Cleveland selected Collin Sexton with the 8th overall pick at the 2018 NBA Draft, and the 19-year old point guard will certainly get some minutes to prove his talent.
The Cavs struggled defensively last year, allowing 109.9 points per game to their opponents (26th in the league), while their defensive rating was the second-worst in the NBA (111.9). They will have to improve at the defensive end, but it will be difficult to make progress without James around. The Cavaliers were 32-49-1 ATS which ranked them 30th in the NBA, and they should cover more frequently this year. The under was 41-39 in Cleveland's regular-season games, so I would avoid wagering on the totals, especially at the start of the season.
The Cavaliers are massive +7000 underdogs to retain the conference title, and they should miss the playoffs at -450. The wages are at +300 on Cavs to clinch the playoff berth, but I think they will finish below the 10th spot in the east. As I've already mentioned, the Cavaliers are a mystery, so betting on the win total shouldn't be a good idea, as they should be somewhere around the 30-win mark.
Regular Season Total Wins: Over 30.5 at -105
The six-time NBA champions started the rebuilding process last year, so they ended the bottom of the Central Division and 13th in the Eastern Conference with a 27-55 record. The Chicago Bulls were pretty lousy on both ends of the ball, recording the third-worst offensive rating (103.8) and the seventh-worst defensive rating in the league (110.9). Head Coach Fred Hoiberg preferred to play some rapid basketball, and the Bulls had the ninth-fastest pace in the NBA with 98.3 possessions per 48 minutes.
This summer, the Bulls resigned Zach LaVine who played just 24 games last season after returning from the ACL injury. LaVine averaged 16.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game and the Bulls expect more from their combo guard in this term. The playmaker Kris Dunn enjoyed a nice season, tallying 13.4 points and 6.0 assists per contest while shooting 42.9% from the field. The rookie Lauri Markkanen showed how talented a player he is, averaging 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds, so the bettors should keep an eye on a 21-year old Finnish international.
Likewise, the Bulls signed Jabari Parker who averaged 12.6 points and 4.9 rebounds with the Bucks last year. The 2nd overall pick from the 2014 NBA Draft is struggling with injuries during his NBA career, but he should be a solid reinforcement for the young Bulls team. The 7th overall pick from this year's NBA Draft, Wendell Carter Jr., will fortify the Bulls' frontcourt, but the talented big man has a lot to learn, particularly at the defensive end.
Last season, the Chicago Bulls were 41-40-1 ATS which ranked them 14th in the league, and it was a good record for the team that struggled on both ends of the floor. The over was 43-38, and I think we'll see more of the same in the 2018-19 season. The Bulls have some decent offensive weapons, but their defense could be the biggest issue which could easily lead to high-scoring affairs.
The Bulls are considerable underdogs in the Central Division with the odds at +2800 to win the title, while they are at +8000 to win the Eastern Conference and +30000 odds to win the NBA Championship. I highly doubt the Bulls chances at +400 to reach the playoffs, but I think they should be an exciting team to watch, so the bettors should pay attention. If they stay healthy, the Chicago Bulls could win more than 30 games in the East, but they could easily stay below the mark if something goes wrong. In that case, the Bulls could tank this season, so I would rather avoid the win total.
Regular Season Total Wins: Under 29.5 at +100